Apistogramma cacatuoides

by Francine Bethea

The cacatuoides, in my opinion, are the easiest of the Apistogramma group to breed. This particular fish has been known to spawn in alkaline, moderately hard water. It has been found that the water parameters play more in the terms of the fry sex ratios than in successful spawning.

The pair that I had consisted of a wild male and a double-red female. When I initially bought the male he was an inch and a half. He was the same size as the female. However, since then, he has grown to three inches. He is a splendid specimen of the wild type.

Apistogramma cacatuoides

Apistogramma cacatuoides "orange"

Of all the Apistogrammas, the cacatuoides is the one fish that I would not recommend using dithers with. I have found that cacatuoides will relentlessly hunt other fish in the tank, forcing the dithers to escape by any means necessary. I lost a couple of tetras and a SAE through the cutout around the heater. The only fish able to withstand the abuse was the Dwarf Butterfly Pleco still in that tank.

This pair was housed in a heavily planted 20-gallon tank. The pH was 5.0 and the water hardness was at less than 4°. The temperature was 76° F. Feedings were once a day of frozen and live shrimp, frozen bloodworms and the occasional white worm.

When I first introduced the male to this tank, the female immediately began to flash and curve her body in front of him. She took on a brilliant yellow hue. Her display was initially ignored. He seemed to be more interested in what scraps could be found in the gravel. Eventually, he began to respond with the flaring of his fins and the body shake typical of this species.

The female began to spend more time in her coconut cave. The only time that she came out was to feed and to harass the male whenever he came close to the den. About a week passed and there she was amongst a cloud of fry. She led them around small areas of the tank, never too far from the java moss or the cave. In the meantime, the male was diligent at his duty of keeping the other fish at bay, so much so that they had to be removed from the tank.

These fish proved to be excellent parents. As the female would not allow the male near the fry, she eventually let her guard down. At times the pair would chomp on the food I offered them and expel it into the group of fry.

As the fry began to grow and go their separate ways, I began to drop a quarter of a cube of the frozen baby brine shrimp in an area close to the front glass of the tank. The female appeared to gather the fry to this area to feed. Full pink bellies of the fry gave good indication that they were eating well.

The fry grew rapidly. I did notice that the fry grew at different rates. There was one that seemed to grow faster than the others. During this period of their development it is easy to foul a tank by trying to compensate for growth rates with various food types. This is my signal to remove the fry to their own ten-gallon. This is also the time the breeding tank gets thoroughly cleaned and rearranged.

Now that the fry have grown out some I can see the results of the pairing of the wild type with the double red type. Many of the fry have some display of red in their caudal fin. However, there is one male that is three times the size of the others who has a lyretail with a great deal of red. His body is yellow with hints of blue. His dorsal fin has the two orange extended spines while the rest of the dorsal is a pale orange with a spot of red. The ventral and anal fins are pale orange and outlined with the blue color of his lips. At this time, I am unsure of whether I will pair him with an orange flash type cacatuoides or maybe with another red type.

What I do know is that I don’t have room for more fry. The original pair of cacatuoides has spawned twice since the first. I now have the first and second spawns in a 30-gallon tank for grow-out. As soon as I realized the female was keeping the male away from the area around her coconut shell, I removed her and the shell to a 2.5-gallon bare-bottomed tank. A few days later there were forty to fifty free-swimming fry.

If there is a fish to try your hand at breeding, the Apistogramma cacatuoides is the one for you.

This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 31, # 1