||This article needs attention from an expert in Fishes. (April 2011)|
|An adult butterfly peacock bass|
|A juvenile peacock bass|
Peacock bass is the common name in English for a group of closely related species of tropical, freshwater fish of the genus Cichla, native to the Amazon River basin of South America. They also inhabit the waters of Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Venezuela and some tropical regions the United States; these being Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and the US Virgin Islands. Despite their name, these fish are cichlids, not basses.
Taxonomic and common names
There are 15 known species of peacock bass and two more ichthyologists have yet to name. Their common names vary greatly depending on the country, region, stage of development and local anglers. Below is a complete list of the taxonomic, binomial names for these cichlids, along with available English common names.
- Cichla intermedia (royal peacock bass)
- Cichla jariina
- Cichla kelberi (kelberi peacock bass)
- Cichla monoculus (monoculus peacock bass)
- Cichla melaniae
- Cichla mirianae
- Cichla nigromaculata
- Cichla ocellaris (butterfly peacock bass or butterly peacock cichlid)
- Cichla orinocensis (orino or orinocensis peacock bass)
- Cichla pinima
- Cichla piquiti (azul peacock bass)
- Cichla pleiozona
- Cichla temensis (speckled peacock bass, but three-barred peacock bass while spawning)
- Cichla thyrorus
- Cichla vazzoleri
The two species without taxonomic names are the Rio Travessao peacock bass and Rio Paru peacock bass.
There are many common names for these fish in Brazil, the country of their largest native region. The most popular of these is tucunaré (too-coo-nah-REH). In Spanish, the generic common name for these cichlids is pavόn (pah-VON).
The speckled peacock bass is the largest species and can grow up to 100 centimeters in length. The royal peacock bass is the smallest and grows to a maximum length of 55 centimeters. Also, most display three wide vertical stripes on their bodies and a spot on their tail fins that resembles the eyes on a peacock's tail feathers—a feature which resulted in their English and Spanish common names. In addition, all adult males have a pronounced hump on their foreheads. Other physical traits can vary greatly, depending on the species, individual and stage of development. These include, but are not limited to: dark rosettes instead of stripes, light speckles and impressive shades of bright green, orange, blue and gold. The stripes, however, tend to fade in late adulthood.
The IUCN has never investigated the conservation status of any peacock bass species. Therefore, they do not appear on its red list. Currently, there are no reports of any peacock bass species being endangered.
Panama's Gatun Lake introduction
Cichla pleiozona was introduced into Panama via a freshwater creek in the Rio Chagres drainage region unintentionally in the late 1950s (experts are not certain of the exact date). A well-known aquarist and medical doctor began raising peacock bass in a small pond in his back yard for sale as aquarium fish. Within a year, heavy rains flooded the pond, causing some fry to escape into a nearby creek which drained into Gatun Lake. By 1964, the lake and nearby rivers and creeks were overrun with the cichlids, providing sport fishing opportunities that had not existed previously. Since then, C. pleiozona has become the dominant sport fish species in the area.
In 1984, after 10 years of study, Florida officials deliberately introduced butterfly peacock bass and speckled peacock bass to the southern region of that state to prey on other non-native species, including the oscar (Astronotus ocellatus), Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), and the spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae). Their introduction also provided additional sport fishing opportunities for anglers. While the butterfly peacock bass has flourished in Florida, the speckled peacock bass has not. Therefore, it is now illegal to kill or possess speckled peacock bass in Florida. The butterfly peacock bass tend to flourish in the canals and fresh waterways throughout south Florida.
Because of their tropical origins, peacock bass cannot tolerate low water temperatures. This has prevented them from becoming abundant in Florida outside of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.
Valued as gamefish
|more fly fish...|
|other sport fish...|
|I N D E X|
Sport fishermen have made these cichlids prized game fish for their fighting qualities, so much so that many travel agencies now arrange fishing trips to Brazil and Florida specifically to catch peacock bass.
Renowned American peacock bass fisherman and fishing author, Larry Larsen, refers to them as "freshwater bullies" due to their ferocious nature when hunting and their tendency to damage and sometimes destroy fishing gear when striking.
The most common techniques for catching these cichlids are similar to those for catching largemouth bass, with the notable exception that peacock bass usually will not strike artificial worms, a widely used lure among largemouth bass fisherman. In addition, fly fishing techniques, including lures such as poppers and large streamers, are becoming increasingly popular for catching them.
Despite their popularity among anglers, some naturalists have identified peacock bass as potential pests for causing ecological imbalances in some of their introduced areas.
Peacock bass introduction in the Rosana Reservoir and upper Paraná River, both in Brazil, resulted in a 95 percent decline in native fish density and 80 percent decline in richness in only two years.
The presence of peacock bass in Panama has caused significant damage to the native fish assemblage, by eliminating seven out of 11 previously common fish species, and significantly reducing three others. Local extinctions and decrease in abundance of many species led to cascading second-order effects on zooplankton and tertiary consumer communities.
Few measures can protect native fish once peacock bass have been introduced. Reduction in native species richness in lakes with introduced peacock bass was observed in all of the Gatun-area lakes, regardless of the presence of macrophyte refugia. After initial increase in abundance, introduced peacock bass often deplete local prey and resort to cannibalism.
Peacock bass make for great aquarium fish if you were to have a large enough aquarium. The minimum tank size for an adult of one of the smaller species (e.g., C. kelberi, C. intermedia) would be 180 gallons, the minimum for a larger variety (C. orinocensis, C. ocellaris) would be 240 gallons, and nothing less than a 300 gallon tank should be reserved for 'C. temensis and C. pinima'. They are usually seen in pet stores at a size of 2 to 4 inches, labeled as just plain "bass". Most likely they are hybrids. More reputable dealers who specialize in peacock bass will have the fish identified, and have more rare varieties in stock, or at least pure bass. Tankmates should be other fish that are too large to swallow, such as arowanas, other large cichlids, and larger members of the Loricariidae family. The peacock bass produces more waste and uses more energy than a typical tropical fish, therefore significant biological filtration and aeration are necessary. Water changes of up to 25% weekly are required with such messy fish. Feeding should be 2 to 3 times a day for young peacock bass(under 4"), decreasing to once a day as they get older, then as an adult they should be fed every other day just enough to round off their stomachs. Peacock bass can be trained to take pellets, though occasionally this is a challenge. Avoid feeding them live goldfish, unless that is the only thing they eat. Even if they do not accept pellets, they will still eat other foods such as krill, bloodworms, and silversides. The temperature of the aquarium should range from 78 to 84°F. Temperature plays a big role on the looks, behavior, and feeding habits of the fish. Lower temperatures make peacock bass darker because of their slowed blood flow. Lower temperatures also cause the bass to eat less. It has been confirmed that higher temperatures also affect aggression, making bass more aggressive.
Tilapia farmers sometimes keep peacock bass to eat any spawn that occur among their fish, in addition to eating any invasive fish that pose a threat to the tilapia(i.e. sunfish, piranha, cichlids). Spawning and brood-raising reduce the growth rate of the tilapia.
They are also raised commercially for the aquarium trade. Asia is one of the main sources for aquacultured peacock bass.
Their eating quality is very good. Their flesh is white and sweet when cooked, and has very little oil, making it similar in taste to snapper or grouper. Also, they are not excessively bony. However, most professional American anglers recommend practicing catch and release for these species to protect their numbers in the United States. To help ensure this, Florida Wildlife and Game Commission officers strictly enforce bag limits for these fish.
- Info on peacock bass species
- Info on peacock bass on Fishbase.org
- Shafland, Paul (May/June 2008). "Butterfly peacock bass: A new Florida tradition". Florida Wildlife 61 (3): 27–29. [dead link]
- Pelicice, Fernando M.; Agostinho, Angelo A. (14 October 2008). "Fish fauna destruction after the introduction of a non-native predator (Cichla kelberi) in a Neotropical reservoir". Biological Invasions 11 (8): 1789–1801. doi:10.1007/s10530-008-9358-3.
- Zaret, T.M.; Paine, R.T. (1973). "Species Introduction in a Tropical Lake". Science 182 (2): 449–455.
- Latini, A. O.; Petrere, M. (1 April 2004). "Reduction of a native fish fauna by alien species: an example from Brazilian freshwater tropical lakes". Fisheries Management and Ecology 11 (2): 71–79. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2400.2003.00372.x.
- Santos, G.B.; Maia-Barbosa, P.; Vieira, F.; Lopez, C.M. (1994). "Fish and zooplankton community structure in reservoirs of Southeastern Brazil: effects of the introduction of exotic fish". In Pinto-Coelho, R.M.; Giani, A.; and von Sperling, E. Ecology and human impact on lakes and reservoirs in Minas Gerais, with special reference to future development and management strategies. SEGRAC, Belo Horizonte. pp. 115–132.
- Gomiero, L. M.; Braga, F. M. S. (1 August 2004). "Cannibalism as the main feeding behaviour of tucunares introduced in Southeast Brazil". Brazilian Journal of Biology 64 (3b). doi:10.1590/S1519-69842004000400009.
- Fugi, Rosemara; Luz-Agostinho, Karla D. G.; Agostinho, Angelo A. (2008). "Trophic interaction between an introduced (peacock bass) and a native (dogfish) piscivorous fish in a Neotropical impounded river". Hydrobiologia 607 (1): 143–150. doi:10.1007/s10750-008-9384-2.