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Gamefish of the Amazon Basin

Amazon Gamefish Encyclopedia: A compendium of scientific and angling information for the fisherman - to help you better understand your quarry.

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The "Speckled" or "3-barred Peacock" - Cichla temensis

The giant peacock bass (Cichla temensis), known as "tucunare paca or tucunare acu" is the largest of the Cichla species, reaching sizes well into the 20-pound class. These fish, when not in spawning condition, are so distinctly spotted (with a fawn-like pattern of white spots running laterally along their sides), that they appear to be a separate species from the reproductively active spawners and are called 'paca' (also pinta lapa). (The names 'paca' and 'pinta lapa' come from the pattern's resemblance to the respective local names of a 30-pound spotted jungle rodent that English speakers call an agouti.) As C. temensis enter their regional or particular spawning season(s) the white spots fade or disappear altogether, the brilliant gold, black and red markings take over and they are called 'açu'. (see progression of color and pattern variation left).

Male peacock bass in the acu color and pattern form develop a distinct fatty lump on the top of their heads during breeding season (this subsides after spawning). Scientists have shown that Cichla deposit fat in several locations prior to spawning. It is possible that this particular fatty deposit is an "honest signal” of male fitness and condition, visually discernable by females and signaling reproductive suitability in the male. There is much speculation as to possible additional purposes of this growth. It has been postulated that it may provide a material utilized as a food source by the peacock's fry for a period after hatching. It has also been suggested that the male peacock's nuchal hump may disperse a chemical marker that keeps the young close to the adult. In clear or still water, one can often see tightly-packed clouds of peacock fry swarming about the head of their protective father, who provides the bulk of the fry rearing and protecting effort.

Although body coloration and markings vary greatly, in any color phase, this fish has an unmistakable mottled patch directly behind its eye. Three vertical black bars are usually visible (intensity varies from fish to fish) beginning behind the pectoral fin and ending underneath the soft portion of the dorsal fin. Often, the previously mentioned lateral white spots are also faintly present. On rare occasions, there are neither black bars nor horizontal stripes/spots, however, the mottled patch directly behind the eye remains a distinct identifying characteristic. C. temensis is found primarily in the Amazon lowlands in tributaries draining into the Rio Negro, Rio Branco and Rio Madeira basins. Some of the largest specimens have been encountered in the Rio Negro tributaries of Brazil.

All of the specimens below are Cichla temensis, exhibiting their wide range of color and pattern variability.

peacock bass color and pattern variation
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trophy peacock bass
Note the distinct lump on the head of this mature male peacock.
(Click image to enlarge)
peacock bass
The classical 3-barred pattern
(Click image to enlarge)

The peacocks below were caught on the same river, during one week.

Amazon peacock bass showing its paca marking pattern
The "paca" marking pattern.
Amazon peaqcock bass Cichla temensis identification markings
The black cheek (opercular) markings provide a consistent identifier for Cichla temensis.
Amazon peacock bass nearly silver in color
This big peacock is almost silver in color.

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