Menu ▼
Log In
Greater Seattle Aquarium Society

Apistogramma cacatuoides

by Erik Olson
Greater Seattle Aquarium Society Newsletter, June 1996

I got a small pair of Apistogramma cacatuoides (aka the Cockatoo Cichlid) as a gift from another GSAS member (let’s call him Dave) several months back. The first thing I’ve always had to worry about any pair of fish is if they’re not really a pair, and though most Apistos are sexually dimorphic (the male is usually flashier), it can still be tough to distinguish between young enough fish. Well, no exception here... I ended up with a pair of males, one of whom was just not showing his colors yet. It was very obvious after another month of growth, so I separated them and eventually coaxed Dave out of a female.

Apistogramma cacatuoides, male.

Of all the Apistogramma species, cacatuoides are probably the most easily bred. This is because they will tolerate waters of neutral to hard pH (7.0 -- 7.6), are fairly tolerant of temperature changes, and not particularly skittish in a tank by themselves. Nonetheless, I decided to use my pair as a practice run for future attempts to breed more unusual cichlids: I put the two in a 20-gallon long tank with a lot of bogwood (as in $35 worth from one of the popular stores in the area). From a suggestion (and donation) by GSAS member Anne Pace, I boiled some dried oak leaves until they sunk to the bottom of the tank. The combination of these not only creates a pleasing display in the tank, but also leaches tannic acids into the water just like a tea bag, turning the water brownish and lowering the pH to the 6’s. Yeah, I know. Overkill for these fish. They just don’t need it! I also used about a dozen baby Kribs I had lying around as impromptu dither fish. (Dithers are fish who have no problem swimming out in the open all the time, and by doing so convince the more skittish ones that it’s OK to come out from their hiding places.) Again, overkill. Cauc’s are not shy in a tank by themselves.

What makes the best breeding cave for these guys? The suggestion I’ve seen is overturned 3 to 4 inch clay pots. Great. I stuck in about four of them, each with holes about big enough for the female. She dutifully ignored them, and instead took up residence in one of the nooks in the bogwood. In late April, I came home to find her guarding a clutch of bright pink-red eggs there. Such luck, and in plain view! I spent the next two days watching them develop and eventually hatch. For about a week after that, she led the extremely tiny fry around the tank, while Dad chased away the dithers. During this time, I began injecting brine shrimp naplii with a small siphon, aiming at the fry. It was suggested to me that I remove all the other fish except for mother and fry, but I’d also heard that disruptions from chasing the other fish might cause the mother to eat her kids in panic, so I let everything be. A week passed, and three other people confirmed I should remove the others, so {\bf I} panicked and tried (unsuccessfully) to get them out, failed, and all but four fry were gone almost immediately. I think more damage was done in moving everything around in the tank. Next time, I’m not using dithers and it should be fairly easy to remove just the male.

It’s now been about a month since the first spawn. The remaining four fry have vanished one by one, but last week the female was enticing the male to come over and see what was so interesting in her clay cave, and this morning we found her leading about fifty extremely tiny fry about. Neat.