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Crenicichla punctata
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cichliformes
Family: Cichlidae
Subfamily: Cichlinae
Tribe: Geophagini
Subtribe: Crenicaratina
Genus: Crenicichla
Heckel, 1840
Type species
Crenicichla macrophthalma
Heckel, 1840

Batrachops Heckel, 1840
Boggiania Perugia, 1897

Crenicichla is a genus of cichlids native to South America commonly known as the pike cichlids. They are found in most tropical and subtropical freshwater habitats between the Andes and the Atlantic.[1]


The smallest species of Crenicichla (notably members of the C. wallacii species group) are no larger than 6–14 cm (2.4–5.5 in),[2] and are referred to as "dwarf cichlids" for the aquarium hobby – though their aggressive and territorial habits make them unsuitable for novice keepers. The biggest pike cichlids can grow to about 50 cm (20 in) long.[2] Most Crenicichla measure in the range of 15–30 cm (6–12 in).[3] Like many other predatory fishes, a pike cichlid has a wide mouth and elongated body.

Distribution and ecology[edit]

A 19th century watercolor painting of a pike cichlid from Brazil by Jacques Burkhardt.
A 19th century watercolor painting of a pike cichlid from Brazil by Jacques Burkhardt.

The genus Crenicichla is native to freshwater in tropical and subtropical South America east of the Andes, ranging from Trinidad and the Guiana Shield (including Orinoco), through the Amazon and Río de la Plata Basins, south as far as Río Negro in Argentina.[4] Although widespread as a group, the individual species are often restricted to a single river or river basin.[4][5] They are found in a wide range of habitats, including rivers, streams, pools and lakes; some species are rheophilic.[4][5]

The vast majority of pike cichlids are predatory and feed on fish, insects, and other small animals. They usually place themselves where they can stay undetected by the prey, like close to a sunken tree stem or behind a rock. This behavior, as well as the correspondingly adapted shape, which resembles that the unrelated pikes (Esocidae) of the Holarctic, gives the pike cichlids their common name. An exception is C. tapii, which is similar in general appearance to other pike cichlids, but unusual for being gregarious and feeding on periphyton.[5]


There are currently around 93 recognized species in this genus:[3][6][7]

In addition to these, several undescribed species are known.[2]


  1. ^ Kullander, Sven O.; Lucena, Carlos A. Santos de (June 2006). "A review of the species of Crenicichla (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from the Atlantic coastal rivers of southeastern Brazil from Bahia to Rio Grande do Sul States, with descriptions of three new species". Neotropical Ichthyology. 4 (2): 127–146. doi:10.1590/s1679-62252006000200001.
  2. ^ a b c Gottwald, J: Crenicichla arten.
  3. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2015). Species of Crenicichla in FishBase. August 2015 version.
  4. ^ a b c Piálek, Lubomír; Říčan, Oldřich; Casciotta, Jorge; Almirón, Adriana; Zrzavý, Jan (January 2012). "Multilocus phylogeny of Crenicichla (Teleostei: Cichlidae), with biogeography of the C. lacustris group: Species flocks as a model for sympatric speciation in rivers". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 62 (1): 46–61. Bibcode:2012MolPE..62...46P. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.09.006. PMID 21971056.
  5. ^ a b c d e Piálek, L., Dragová, K., Casciotta, J., Almirón, A. & Říčan, O. (2015): Description of two new species of Crenicichla (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from the lower Iguazú River with a taxonomic reappraisal of C. iguassuensis, C. tesay and C. yaha. Historia Natural, 5(2): 5–27. S2CID 51899505
  6. ^ a b CASCIOTTA, JORGE; ALMIRÓN, ADRIANA; AICHINO, DANILO; GÓMEZ, SERGIO; PIÁLEK, LUBOMÍR; ŘÍČAN, OLDŘICH (16 October 2013). "Crenicichla taikyra (Teleostei: Cichlidae), a new species of pike cichlid from the middle río Paraná, Argentina" (PDF). Zootaxa. 3721 (4): 379–86. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3721.4.5. PMID 26120682.
  7. ^ a b Mattos, J.L., Schindler, I., Ottoni, F.P. & Cheffe, M.M. (2014): A new species of Crenicichla from the upper Rio das Antas basin, dos Patos lagoon system, southern Brazil (Teleostei: Cichlidae). Vertebrate Zoology, 64 (1): 35–42.
  8. ^ Ito, Priscila Madoka M.; Py-Daniel, Lúcia H. Rapp (September 2015). "A small new species of Crenicichla Heckel, 1840 from middle rio Xingu, Brazil (Teleostei: Cichlidae)". Neotropical Ichthyology. 13 (3): 471–478. doi:10.1590/1982-0224-20140105.
  9. ^ Varella, Henrique R.; Kullander, Sven O.; Lima, Flávio C. T. (2012). "Crenicichla chicha, a new species of pike cichlid (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from the rio Papagaio, upper rio Tapajós basin, Mato Grosso, Brazil". Neotropical Ichthyology. 10 (2): 233–244. doi:10.1590/s1679-62252012000200002.
  10. ^ KULLANDER, SVEN O.; DE LUCENA, CARLOS A. SANTOS (23 April 2013). "Crenicichla gillmorlisi, a new species of cichlid fish (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from the Paraná river drainage in Paraguay". Zootaxa. 3641 (2): 149–64. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.3641.2.3. PMID 26287074.
  11. ^ Kullander, Sven O.; Varella, Henrique R. (September 2015). "Wallace's Pike Cichlid Gets a Name after 160 Years: A New Species of Cichlid Fish (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from the Upper Rio Negro in Brazil". Copeia. 103 (3): 512–519. doi:10.1643/ci-14-169.