Cichla ocellaris, sometimes known as the butterfly peacock bass ("peacock bass" is also used for some of its relatives), is a very large species of cichlid from South America, and a prized game fish. It reaches 74 cm (29 in) in length. It is native to the Marowijne and Essequibo drainages in the Guianas, and the Branco River in Brazil. It has also been introduced to regions outside its natural range (e.g., Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico), but some uncertainty exists over the exact identity, and at least some of the introductions may involve another Cichla species or hybrids. It is frequently confused with C. monoculus. Studies conclude that the introduction of Cichla ocellaris does not negatively impact fish communities in Florida, making it an effective fisheries management tool.
Appearance and identification
Similarly shaped in body size compared to the largemouth bass, the butterfly peacock bass can reach lengths of up to 29 in (740 mm), but averages 12–14 in (300–360 mm) in length. Body and fin colors range from yellows, greens, and light red to orange. While color is extremely variable, the most prominent physical characteristics are the three vertical black lines along the sides of the body. With having the tendency to fade, these lines may not be found on some older fish. The common name of the fish originates from the black spot with a yellow halo surrounding. This spot is located on the caudal fin and resembles the feathers of a peacock.
Spawning habits and locations
Spawning season for the fish is between April to September, with a height in May and June. Like other bass, adult fish create large flat surfaces that are hardened down near the shore in order to serve as a spawn location. Once the eggs are laid, both adults are responsible for protecting them from prey.
Growth and age
The growth from spawn to the average length of 12–14 inches progresses rapidly throughout the first 16–18 months of life. Upon additional growth beyond the average, a fish can potentially add up to 1.5 pounds of weight with every extra inch grown. Average lifespan for the Butterfly Peacock Bass is 6–10 years.
Origins and habitat
Native to the tropical Americas, the true Cichla ocellaris is restricted to the Guianas. The species thrives in warm, slow-moving bodies of water including lakes, ponds, canals, and rock pits. Like other species of bass, they tend to inhabit shaded areas under trees, bridges, and culverts. Butterfly peacock bass cannot survive in salinities exceeding 18 ppt, nor can they live in temperatures less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
In 1984, the Florida Fish and Game Commission introduced the species to the lakes and rivers of Miami-Dade County, in south Florida. Upon introduction, roughly 10,000 young fish were introduced to the Miami-Dade County area via releasing the juveniles into the lakes and canals. Distribution throughout the area can be attributed to the travel of this species through the warm, freshwater canals of Florida. It is thought that these fish inhabit up to 300 miles (500 km) of canals specifically. Due to the fish's inability to tolerate salt water and low water temperatures, this species of fish is typically found only in the Miami-Dade and Broward County areas of Florida, with a few sightings in Texas and Louisiana.
Ecological and feeding habits
The introduction of the butterfly peacock bass to Florida has successfully aided in managing and controlling tilapia and oscar populations that once were a threat via overpopulation. The fish primarily feeds on fish allowing for them to be roleplayers in the balancing of a habitat. These fish typically feed during daylight hours where visibility is better for hunting. Like other bass, they use their incredible speed and large mouth to capture prey.
Regarded as the most popular sportfish in south Florida, millions of game fishermen travel each year to fish for Butterfly Peacock Bass, spending about 8 million dollars combined in resources and efforts. The fish is available to boat fishermen along with fishermen located on the shore. The species is fished similarly to largemouth bass, with shiners used as live bait and topwater jigs and jerkbaits as suggested tackle. Florida includes a daily bag limit of two fish, with a minimum length of 17 in (430 mm).
The edibility of the fish is considered to be very good, as it provides a clean and flaky white filet. Many people refer to it as having a "non-fishy" taste. However, they are not commonly eaten as state restrictions require the fish to be of at least a certain size.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Cichla ocellaris" in FishBase. April 2011 version.
- Nico, L. (2011). Cichla ocellaris. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
- Shafland, P. L. (1999). The Introduced Butterfly Peacock (Cichla ocellaris) in Florida. I. Fish Community Analyses. Reviews in Fisheries Science, 7(2), 71-94. doi:10.1080/10641269991319199
- "Florida's Butterfly Peacock Bass". www.jimporter.org. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
- "Butterfly Peacock". Bass Fishing Florida. Retrieved 2020-12-14.
- "Can you eat Peacock Bass?". Catch Florida Peacock Bass. Retrieved 2020-12-14.