Tends to inhabit slower-moving tributaries, backwaters and creeks in areas where fallen leaf litter collects and these may contain black, white or clear water depending on locality or in some cases, time of year.



The male cockatoo dwarf cichlid reaches a body length of 8 centimetres. The female is considerably smaller, reaching only 5 centimetres. The body shape is long and of middle height and the mouth is rather big with thick lips. The male is more colorful than the female, usually with red/orange dorsal and caudal fins. The leading 3 or 4 hard rays are elongated, and the ventral fins are clear. In color, the female is quite dull but with a clear black line running along her flanks. Her background color is a pale yellow, but this will become vibrant when mating or brood protecting. In addition, she lacks the elongated dorsal rays of the male and her ventral fins show a black leading edge. There are several color forms which naturally occur in the wild; these include blues, yellows and some reds. Because of selective breeding the colors are now much more pronounced. Both sexes have a dark line leading from the eye to the bottom of the gill flap.

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