Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid 101: The Ultimate Care Guide

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid is famous for its “cockatoo” fin, which is a long, pointed dorsal fin that resembles the crest of a cockatoo bird. 

In addition to its cockatoo fin, it has bright orange and red markings, which can be quite striking under the right lighting. 

In this guide, I’ll explore everything you need to know about keeping and caring for Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids, from their habitat and feeding requirements to their breeding habits and common diseases. 

Whether you’re a seasoned fish keeper or a beginner, you’ll find plenty of useful information and tips to help you provide the best possible care for these fascinating fish.

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Summary

Common NamesOrange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid
Scientific NameApistogramma cacatuoides
SpeciesA. cacatuoides
OriginSouth America (Amazon River Basin)
HabitatSlow-moving rivers, streams, and pools with lots of vegetation and hiding spots
ColorMales are brightly colored with orange and blue while females are drabber with brown and gray
SizeMales grow up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) and females up to 2.5 inches (6.5 cm)
Lifespan3-5 years
pH Level6.0-7.5
Water Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C)
Water HardnessSoft to medium-hard between 4 and 8 degrees of hardness (dH)
Water TypeFreshwater
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons (75 liters)
Community TankCan be kept with other peaceful fish of similar size and water requirements
Care LevelModerate
CompatibilityCan live in pairs or small groups, but males can be territorial towards each other during breeding. They should not live with aggressive or large fish that could harm them.

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid History

The Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides) is a freshwater fish species that originates from the Amazon River Basin in South America. 

In the mid-19th century, aquarists first discovered these fish and since then have become a popular species among aquarium hobbyists due to their striking colors and interesting behavior.

In the aquarium hobby, breeders have been selectively breeding these guys to produce various color morphs, including the popular “super red” variety. 

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlidrigin & Habitat

As we said, the Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid comes from the Amazon River Basin in South America. 

Specifically, you can find them dwelling in slow-moving rivers, streams, and pools throughout the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon.

In their natural habitat, these Cichlids inhabit areas with lots of vegetation and hiding spots, such as among roots, rocks, and submerged branches. 

These waters also have soft, acidic water with a pH range between 6.0 and 7.5 and temperatures ranging from 72-82°F (22-28°C).

The water in their natural habitat also tends to be clear and well-oxygenated, with a low to medium level of dissolved minerals.

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Behavior

Apistogramma cacatuoides is a social and active fish that love to dwell in small groups or pairs in the aquarium.

However, the males can be territorial towards each other, especially during breeding.

They also have a complex breeding behavior which includes building nests and displaying intricate courtship rituals to attract females.

And like many other cichlids, this fish is not strictly a bottom dweller. 

While they do spend some time foraging on the substrate, they are active swimmers and often occupy the middle to upper levels of the aquarium as well.

That being said, these buddies do appreciate a soft substrate, as they like to sift through the sand in search of food. 

You can also find them digging small pits in the substrate, which is a natural behavior associated with breeding.

What Are the Features of the Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid?

1. Appearance

The male Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid has a bright orange and blue coloration that you can see from a distance. 

The dorsal fin is particularly impressive, with long, flowing rays that give the fish a regal appearance. 

The anal fin also has elongated rays, giving it a “feathery” appearance that is reminiscent of a cockatoo, hence the name “cockatoo cichlid”.

In contrast, the female is drabber in coloration, with brown and gray tones that help to camouflage her in the wild. 

But actually one of the things that I find appealing about the Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid is the intricate patterning on their bodies. 

Both males and females have a series of black stripes and spots that give them a distinctive and unique appearance. 

The combination of bright colors, flowing fins, and intricate patterning make these fish truly stand out in any aquarium.

2. Body Size

These guys are small to medium-sized fish, with males growing up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length and females reaching up to 2.5 inches (6.5 cm).

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Lifespan

The Apistogramma cacatuoides have a relatively short lifespan in comparison to some other fish species. On average, they live for about 3-5 years in captivity.

However, I had a pair once who made it for up to 7 years or more. All I had to do is to provide extra care for these buddies from maintaining good water quality and providing a varied and nutritious diet to choosing the right tank mates.

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Life Cycle

1. Egg Stage

During the egg stage, the female lays eggs in a suitable breeding site, such as a cave or crevice. 

These eggs are usually small and round, with a gelatinous outer layer that helps to protect them from damage and predators. 

But notice that the number of eggs can vary depending on the size and age of the female, with larger females producing more eggs.

Then the male will fertilize the eggs either by direct contact or by the male releasing sperm over the eggs.

At this point, the eggs will remain in the breeding site until they hatch. 

The incubation period can vary depending on the temperature of the water as the warmer water results in faster hatching times.

2. Larval Stage

Now, the young fish hatch from the eggs and remain in the breeding site for a few days until they are able to swim and feed on their own.

Initially, the young fish will feed on their egg yolk sacs.

Once they’re big enough, you’ll need to feed them small, frequent feedings of appropriate foods such as newly hatched brine shrimp or other small, protein-rich foods.

These babies are also very vulnerable at this stage and require protection from their parents or other adult fish in the aquarium. 

The parents will often guard the breeding site and aggressively defend the young against potential predators until they’re able to defend themselves.

3. Juvenile Stage

The young fish continue to grow and develop and t this stage, they are more active and independent than during the larval stage.

Juvenile Orange Flash Cockatoo typically exhibit less vibrant coloration than adult fish, but will gradually develop their adult coloration as they mature. 

4. Adult Stage

At this stage, the fish have reached their full size and have developed their adult coloration and patterns. 

Males will exhibit more vibrant coloration than females, with bright orange and blue markings and long, flowing fin rays.

These guys are also now sexually mature and able to breed. 

Males will establish territories and build nests, while females will select a suitable mate based on the quality of the nest and the male’s courtship display.

And since they are more active and engaging than the juveniles, they exhibit interesting behaviors, such as digging small pits in the substrate or exploring the aquarium for food. 

5. Breeding Stage

The breeding stage is a critical part of the Orange Flash Cockatoo’’s life cycle, as it is during this time that the fish are able to reproduce and continue the next generation.

During the breeding stage, males will establish territories and build nests, while females will select a suitable mate based on the quality of the nest and the male’s courtship display. 

Males will display bright colors and long, flowing fin rays to attract females, while also performing intricate courtship displays.

Once a female has selected a suitable mate, the pair will begin to spawn. 

The male will fertilize the eggs by either direct contact or releasing sperm over the eggs, and the female will deposit the eggs in a suitable breeding site, such as a cave or crevice.

After they lay and fertilize the eggs, the male will guard the breeding site and the developing young. 

The female may also assist with guarding the nest or may leave to find another mate and repeat the breeding process.

6. Senescence Stage

The senescence stage is the final phase in the Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid’s life cycle and is characterized by a decline in health and vigor as the fish age.

During this stage, the fish may exhibit a reduction in activity level, slower growth, and increased susceptibility to disease. 

They may also become less interested in food and exhibit a loss of appetite.

This is why you should monitor the health of aging fish closely, and provide appropriate care to help minimize stress factors and promote their well-being.

This includes maintaining good water quality, providing a varied and nutritious diet, and minimizing stress factors such as overcrowding or aggressive tankmates.

Is Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Hardy?

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid is a hardy fish as they are able to tolerate a range of water conditions, but do have specific requirements for optimal health and well-being.

You’ll still have to provide suitable conditions including appropriate water parameters, good water quality, and a varied and nutritious diet. 

They also require ample hiding spots and territories to reduce aggression and promote their overall well-being.

How to Care for Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid?

a.Water Requirements

1. Water Quality

Although these species are hardy and can handle a lot of challenges in their habitat, they still need clean water to thrive.

To maintain high water quality you need to do regular water changes of 20-25% of the aquarium volume every 1-2 weeks.

But make sure to do these changes gently to avoid disturbing these cuties and stressing them out which might cause them a shock.

When performing water changes, you should also use a high-quality dechlorinator to neutralize any chlorine or chloramine in the tap water that can be toxic to the fish.

2. Water Temperature

Since these fish are native to warm tropical waters, they need water temperatures between 75-82°F (24-28°C)

Any fluctuations or extremes can weaken their immune system, making them more vulnerable to bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections.

For example, the low water temperature can make the fish less interested in food and eat less than usual, which can affect their growth and overall health.

Also, high temperatures can affect the oxygen levels in the aquarium. 

As the temperature changes, the solubility of oxygen in the water can decrease, making it more difficult for the fish to breathe.

To maintain a suitable water temperature, you can use an appropriate aquarium heater with a built-in thermometer to monitor the temperature of the water. 

But ensure to check the heater regularly as it can sometimes malfunction and cause fluctuations in water temperature.

3. pH Level

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids come from waters with a pH level of between 6.0-7.5

You should maintain a stable pH within this range, as fluctuations or extremes can cause stress and harm to the fish.

For example, sudden changes in pH can make the fish more vulnerable to bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections. 

This is because changes in pH can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in the aquarium.

Sudden changes in pH can also affect the ability of these guys to breathe properly.

This is because it can cause their gills to inflame or irritate, which can make it more difficult for the fish to extract oxygen from the water.

To avoid this, you can use a high-quality pH test kit to monitor the pH of the water on a regular basis.

I actually prefer the API pH Test Kit as it’s very easy to use and provides accurate results.

It includes liquid reagents and a color chart that allows you to easily determine the pH level of their aquarium water. 

To use the test kit, just add a small amount of aquarium water to a test tube, along with a few drops of the liquid reagent. 

Then shake the solution and allow it to sit for a few minutes, after which you can compare the color of the solution to the color chart to determine the pH level.

If the pH is outside of the desired range, you can adjust it by using a pH buffer or another appropriate method such as using reverse osmosis or distilled water.

4. Water Hardness

Water hardness is the measure of the amount of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, present in aquarium water. 

Typically, the hardness of water is measured in degrees of hardness, or dH. 

A general hardness (GH) test measures the total amount of dissolved minerals in the water, while a carbonate hardness (KH) test measures the amount of bicarbonate and carbonate ions in the water.

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids prefer soft to moderately hard water, with a GH level between 4-10 dGH and a KH level between 4-8 dKH

To maintain appropriate water hardness levels, you should test the GH and KH of the aquarium water regularly using a reliable water test kit. 

If you find GH or KH levels outside of the desired range, you’ve to adjust them using a water softener resin or reverse osmosis or distilled water.

b.Tank Requirements

1. Tank Size

These fish may be small in size, typically growing to no more than 3-4 inches in length, but they are active and need plenty of swimming space in their aquarium to feel comfortable.

So, you should provide at least 20 gallons of water per pair of these fish, with additional space for any other tank mates you may have.

I prefer to use a 30-gallon tank for each pair to give me more space to add plenty of hiding spots and live plants to stimulate their natural habitat.

2. Decorations

Moving to a new neighborhood that you don’t know can be a daunting experience. Everything is unfamiliar, and it can take time to get your bearings and feel comfortable in your new surroundings.

The same is true for Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids when you first introduce them to a new aquarium. 

They may initially feel stressed and disoriented in their new environment, especially if they are not used to living with other fish.

And one way to help ease the transition is by bringing familiar decorations from the old aquarium into the new one. 

This can help create a sense of continuity and familiarity for the fish, which can reduce stress and anxiety.

There are many different types of decorations to choose from, including:

  • Live or artificial plants
  • Rocks
  • Driftwood
  • Caves
  • Tubes
  • Sand or gravel substrate
  • Floating decorations

For live or artificial plants, they can provide hiding spots and a natural environment for the fish to explore. 

Rocks and driftwood can also create hiding spots and territorial boundaries, as well as provide a natural look to the aquarium. 

As for sand or gravel substrate, they can create a natural look and provide a place for the fish to dig and explore. 

But ensure when selecting decorations for your Orange Flash Cockatoos that they’re safe and won’t harm the fish or alter the water chemistry. 

3. Lighting

Just like humans,  these Cichlids need a regular day/night cycle to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. 

And without appropriate aquarium lighting, these fish may experience disruptions to their sleep patterns and other important biological processes.

That’s why you should provide around 8-12 hours of light per day to ensure that your fish can thrive in the aquarium. 

I recommend using LED lights for aquarium lighting, as they provide bright, energy-efficient lighting that you can easily adjust to different levels.

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Compatibility

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids can be somewhat territorial and aggressive, so it’s important to choose tank mates carefully to avoid conflicts in the aquarium.

For instance, when you’re selecting tank mates, consider the size and temperament of other fish in the aquarium. It’s best to be the same as your Cichlids.

You should also avoid larger or more aggressive fish, as they intimidate or stress your fish out. 

In such cases, your Cockatoos may exhibit aggressive behavior and even harm or kill other fish in the aquarium.

And here’s a table outlining some good and bad tank mates for Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids:

Good Tank MatesBad Tank Mates
Small peaceful fish, such as tetras, rasboras, and small catfishLarger or more aggressive fish, such as cichlids, larger catfish, or aggressive barbs
Non-aggressive dwarf cichlid species, such as Apistogramma or RamsNippy or fin-nipping fish, such as some types of tetras or barbs
Bottom-dwelling fish that may compete for territory, such as some types of catfish

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Feeding & Diet

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter in the wild.

Thus, a good diet for these bad boys should include the following:

  • High-quality fish flakes 
  • Pellets
  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia

You should also consider the size of the food you offer to them. 

These fish have small mouths, so you should give them appropriately sized-foods that they can easily swallow and digest. 

For example, you can break up larger food items or soak pellets in water before feeding to help make them easier for the fish to eat.

As for feeding frequency, you should feed these fish once or twice a day, with only as much food as the fish can consume in a few minutes to avoid overfeeding.

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Breeding

Breeding Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids are monogamous, meaning they pair up and form long-lasting bonds with a mate.

To encourage breeding, you need to create an appropriate breeding environment in the aquarium by following these steps:

  • Provide a flat rock or a spawning cone as a breeding site. These fish prefer a smooth surface on which to lay their eggs on
  • Add plenty of hiding spots and decorations to provide territorial boundaries and hiding places for the fish. This can include plants, driftwood, and other aquarium decorations
  • Maintain good water quality by performing regular water changes and monitoring water parameters such as pH, temperature, and hardness.
  • Keep the aquarium at a temperature of around 77-82°F
  • Feed the fish high-quality fish flakes or pellets, as well as frozen or live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

After you set up an appropriate breeding environment, the new couple will start the spawning process.

When the fish are ready to breed, you will notice the male and female engaging in courtship behavior, such as swimming in circles, displaying their fins, and chasing each other around the aquarium.

Then they will establish a territory and begin preparing a spawning site. 

At this point, the female will lay around 50-100 eggs on the chosen breeding site, and the male will fertilize them. 

After that, both parents will take turns guarding and tending to the eggs, which usually hatch within 2-3 days

Once the eggs have hatched, the fry will remain attached to the breeding surface for several days while they absorb their yolk sacs. 

After that, they will become free-swimming and you can start feeding them with baby brine shrimp or crushed flake food.

But notice that you should provide a separate rearing tank for the fry, as they may be at risk of other large fish in the main aquarium. 

To set up the rearing tank, keep the temperature around 77-82°F, and monitor the water quality closely monitored to ensure that it remains stable for your baby fish.

As the fry grow and develop, you should adjust their feeding schedule and gradually introduce larger and more varied foods to their diet. 

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Common Diseases

Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids are generally hardy fish, but they can still be susceptible to a variety of diseases if their aquarium conditions are not stable.

Some common diseases that Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids may experience include:

IchWhite spots on fins and bodyIncrease temperature, use medication as directed
VelvetGold or rust-colored film on the body and finsIncrease temperature, use medication as directed
Fin rotTorn, ragged finsImprove water quality, use medication as directed
BloatSwollen abdomenFast fish for 24 hours, improve water quality
DropsySwollen body and raised scalesIsolate fish, improve water quality, use medication
Mouth fungusWhite, fuzzy growth around the mouthImprove water quality, use medication as directed
Swim bladder disorderDifficulty swimming, floatingIsolate fish, improve water quality, adjust feeding

To decide on the proper medication for your angelfish, you should consult with a veterinarian who can look at the fish and recommend the best treatment.


What Is the Size of Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid?

The size of the Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid is around 3 inches (7.5 cm) for males and slightly smaller for females.

Is Apistogramma Aggressive?

Apistogramma is territorial and aggressive towards other fish during breeding, especially males towards other males. 

However, they can coexist peacefully with other non-aggressive fish species in a community tank.

What Is Cacatuoides Yellow Flash?

Cacatuoides Yellow Flash is a color variant of the Apistogramma cacatuoides with a bright yellow coloration on its dorsal and anal fins.

What Fish Can I Keep with Apistogramma?

You can keep small tetras, rasboras, dwarf gouramis, and small catfish such as Corydoras.


As promised, we’ve covered a wide range of topics related to Orange Flash Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids, from their appearance and behavior to their care requirements and common diseases.

Just remember to keep them in a well-maintained aquarium with plenty of swimming space, hiding spots, and appropriate water conditions.

Do you still have questions about Marble Veiltail Angelfish? If so, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them.

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