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Apistogramma Cacatuoides Hoedeman, 1951
A Beginner's Dwarf

by Don 'Z-Man' Zilliox

There are many beautiful dwarf's available at many local fish stores, but for their colors alone many people are attracted to those of the Apistogramma genus. Many of those offered for sale will live very nicely in most municipal water but breeding them is usually a different story. Many require very soft acidic water which most of us do not have access to. Then there is the Apistogramma cacatuoides- Hoedeman, 1951. Since it's discovery a little over forty years ago, the Cacatuoides has been very popular in the aquarium hobby because of its availability and ease of breeding. As I look back on my records there are at least 8 Apisto's which I bred without Reverse Osmosis water. Of those, the four that are available today are A. cacatuoides, A. macmasteri, A. commbrae & A. caetei. There are others that will breed in harsher conditions that I will list later.

For first time breeding, try to acquire about 6 juvenile Apistogramma cacatuoides and place them in at least a 20-gallon "long" tank. Whatever your pH or Hardness, I would leave it alone. No gravel and 1 or 2 more clay flowerpots than fish. I use the small 3" clay flowerpots available at any garden nursery. With a round 8" carbide Apistogramma cacatuoides ''Orange Flash'' maleblade in a hacksaw handle, cut a ½" wide by ¾" high hole in the top edge. Invert it in the tank and it will be large enough for just one fish to fit in at a time. Now each fish has a place of their own in which to hide with a few extras ones for an emergency getaway. Lots of Java moss and a large "bubble-up filter" will be sufficient. I almost always feed newly hatched baby brine shrimp to all my Apisto's along with small amounts of frozen brine every third day or so. Never, that's NEVER feed them live black worms form your local store or from anywhere as they will cause more problems than you will be able to cope with. After a while you will be able to tell the males from the females. The males will begin to color up and have small extensions on the top and bottom of their tail. You will also notice and extension of the first few rays of the dorsal fin which somewhat resemble the crest of a cockatoo and hence comes the common name, "Cockatoo Dwarf". The female will have a yellow coloration and the front of the ventral fins will become solid black. They are not normally aggressive so there should not be much fighting.

If you happen to see a pair that seems to be keeping constant company, you could remove all the other fish but I don't believe it's always necessary if you don't have another tank available. Once you see the female turned a very bright yellow color with very definite black markings, it's a sure sign that she has laid her eggs. Some people argue with me but I go right in and lift the pot slowly to see if there are in fact any eggs. Bright fire engine red eggs are always a good sign. At a temperature of about 78 degrees, the eggs should hatch in about 4 or 5 days but will Apistogramma cacatuoides ''Orange Flash'' femaleonly be little wigglers at this time and the male will not be tolerated anywhere near the flowerpot. At this time I make sure I have Java moss very close to the pot opening for fry food and a good place for them to hide. In about another 4 or 5 days, if you are lucky, you will see the proud mother leading her young fry outside in search of food. This is when she will become very nasty and allow no one anywhere near her children. Now live baby brine shrimp should be fed about 3 times daily in very small amounts. But also make sure you supply the others in the tank with their share before a real fight breaks out. This is the time when the female is the most dangerous and most deaths occur to the other occupants. You could possibly insert a tank divider between them but I have found that sooner or later the fry find a way to cross over to the other side and are eaten. The female most likely will watch over the fry for about a month but in the meantime it is possible that the male will have bred with another female and the process will begin all over again.

A little trick I have used often is when I notice eggs in one of the "caves" I take a 1# cottage cheese container and lift the pot with eggs and female inside and set it in the plastic container. Carefully I lift it Apistogramma cacatuoides ''Orange Flash'' malesall together and place it in a waiting 5-gallon tank with water from the main tank and slowly lift again and remove the plastic "transfer" container. Now I have just the female and her eggs all alone in their own tank. This way I'm sure there will be no problems. I have also just slid a net under the pot and transferred them that way but the female sometimes gets too excited and eats her eggs. With the plastic container, neither the eggs nor the female are out of the water at all. When the fry are able to take care of themselves, I return her to the main tank for her to spawn again. I have always stated that there is no greater site in our hobby than a mother herding her children around the tank in search of food and each night she will then return them to their home. Don't be concerned when you see her "eating" them as she is just taking them in her mouth and moving them to where she wants them.

Apistogramma cacatuoides is one of the Apisto's that can be found in many different color forms. With today's selective breeding you can find Double Red, Triple Red and Orange Flash varieties. Double reds have red dorsal and tail fins with some black markings. Triple Reds also have red anal fins with the markings and Orange Flash has solid orange in all three fins. Because if inbreeding, an Orange Flash pair will most likely produce fry in all three varieties.

Some others I have spawned recently without using RO water are A. borellii, A. cruzi, A resticulosa and A. steindachneri. So whichever species you can find in your local store or at a local fish club auction I would suggest you just maintain them in your normal water and see what happens. Hey, you never know.

 

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