Impulse Bought A Super Red Cockatoo Cichlid, Need Advice


Fish Fanatic
May 4, 2009
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I know I shouldn't have, but I impulse bought a fish. I was at a pet store and I saw a single Super Red Cockatoo Cichlid mixed with a bunch of Yellow Flash Cockatoo Cichlids. I'd never even seen any type of Cockatoo Cichlids locally before, let alone a Super Red, and since he was literally the only Super Red in the tank I snatched him up right away and put him in my 40 gallon community. I just fell in love with him on the spot.
I'd already been thinking of getting a Dwarf Cichlid for this tank, been researching Cockatoos some, and couldn't resist. So now I have an adorable cutie that I've researched a bit, but haven't prepared for nearly as thoroughly as I usually do before getting a new type of fish. So I have lots of questions.

First off, do I have a male or a female? I'm thinking I might be seeing the first development of extensions in the caudal fin, so I'm guessing male, but I'm not sure. S/he is still so young.
New Cockatoo Cichlid.JPG

I already have 7 Harlequin Rasboras, 7 Longfin Cherry Barbs, 6 Corydoras Catfish, 1 Longfin Albino Bristlenose Pleco, and 3 Honey Gourami in tank, which is a 40 gallon breeder (36 by 18 by 16 inches). Will he get along with everyone? I did have a Nerite Snail in the tank originally, but I switched the Nerite to another tank just in case because I heard Cockatoos can be a bit iffy with snails.

Also, how social are Cockatoos? I'm hoping I can keep just one. I'm hesitant to add any more because I don't want aggression in this community. If he is a boy, that means I likely wouldn't be able to add another male without territorial aggression between the two, and if I added more females the females would be aggressive to the rest of the fish while breeding, right? In which case if he's a boy it sounds like it will be hard to add another and keep the tank peaceful. If it turns out I've got a girl, should I add more female Cockatoos for company, or will females be aggressive toward each other as well? How can I avoid accidentally getting a "sneaker male" instead of an actual female if I end up getting more females?

Also, I want to make sure he can tolerate the current water conditions. The pH is 7.4, the temperature is 75, and the hardness is 10 dGH. The tank's been cycled since 2018 and I usually do weekly water changes. Are those parameters acceptable for Cockatoos?

The tank already has smooth sand substrate, a variety of sinking foods, lots of driftwood, sandstone, and 1 large cave. There's also a fair number of plants, including floating plants.
I'm thinking I'd like to add more caves so the Cockatoo has his choice of hiding spots, and so he's not competing with my Bristlenose for the large cave. Will the Cockatoo still appreciate caves even if he's male? Can anyone share what the favorite caves of their Cockatoos are? How big should the cave and opening be for him, and does that vary by sex? Do they like more enclosed caves with one opening or can I get ones that are a bit more open with multiple ways in and out? I'd like to make sure he's comfortable, so far he's been pretty shy so I want to make sure he has a good place to retreat to.
Also, since Cockatoo Cichlids are carnivores what would be a good sinking carnivore pellet for him? I occasionally offer frozen inverts already but I'd like to make sure he has food geared especially to him since most of my prepared foods are for omnivores or herbivores.

Finally, any ideas for a name?
It’s looks like a male to me because like you said the extensions of the caudal fin, and I don’t believe the females have that much color in their tail fin. He should be ok in that tank because they are fairly non aggressive fish and do well with most community fish. He would be fine alone it is not necessary to get anymore of his kind and then you wouldn’t have to worry about aggression just as long as he does well with the other fish.
It's a boy. They are beautiful peaceful fish that do best in pairs (1 male and 1 female). They are easy to keep and breed. They do best in soft acidic water but do well in water with a GH below 150ppm and a pH below 7.6. They eat a variety of frozen and live foods and some will take dry foods. Temperature between 22-30C (ideally around 26C).

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