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Peacock Bass ID Guide

An Anglers Guide to the Recognized Species of Peacock Bass

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TucunaréCichla temensis  —Humboldt & Valenciennes 1821

Peacock bass species - Cichla temensis in it's assu coloration
Cichla temensis in its 'açú' spawning colors

Cichla temensis is the largest member of the peacock bass genus. Its violent behavior and awesome tackle-busting power is the primary attraction that brings avid sport fisherman to the Amazon. This top level predator is considered by many to be the most powerful freshwater gamefish in the world.

Peacock bass species - Cichla temensis in it's paca coloration
Cichla temensis in its 'paca' form

C. temensis, in its bright spawning color phase (above right) is called "açú" in Brazil or "3-bar" in English. They become heavier and deeper bodied in this form due to pre-spawn changes and matured gonads.

In the "paca" form (opposite right), C. temensis displays a darker color pattern and a more hydrodynamic shape.

Where to catch: Floating Bungalow trip
                            Blackwater Explorer yacht trip
                            Exploratory Trip

ID Key

Color and Pattern: Cichla temensis identification is made somewhat complex by the species' unusual morphological variability. Specimens are encountered in two very distinct color and pattern phases, with an array of intermediate stages corresponding to their degree of reproductive readiness. The spawning pattern transformation process is gradual - the bars darken, colors brighten and the white speckles disappear. The brilliantly colored açú (pronounced 'assu') is in reproductively active condition and is shown at the top, above. The paca morph (second from top photo) has white or yellow dots (3) arranged in four distinct longitudinal rows. Both morphs have 3 distinct dark bars (2) along the sides of the body and a distinct black stripe or speckled markings from the eye to the end of the opercular bone (cheek or gill cover) (1), no ocelli on the sides or at the base of the second dorsal.

Body shape and characteristics: Temensis is the most elongate of the Cichla species, with a body depth generally around 25% of its standard length (length measured to the base of the tail). It has the smallest relative scale size of the genus, generally having from 100 to 125 scales along its lateral line.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
3 distinct, entire bars from dorsal peak to below lateral line, almost to abdomen Distinctive postorbital band (or series of connected blotches on operculum (cheek). In paca form, four horizontal rows of light colored speckles. Extremely variable
peacock bass variation

(Click image to enlarge)
Juveniles: up to about 300mm
(12 inches)

Adults: from 300mm up to about 1 meter (39 inches)
Depth to length ratio: approx. 25%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 110
Most similar to
C. pinima
C. vazzoleri
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Venezuela, Columbia, Brazil

River Basins: Rio Negro, Orinoco, Madeira and Branco basins, with some, limited populations noted in several rivers draining into the Solimoes and Amazon
A primarily piscivorous (fish-eating) predator, C. temensis will behave as both a pursuit feeder and an opportunistic feeder. Their determined and aggressive fry-guarding behavior makes large acu readily accessible to sharp-eyed anglers. Primarily occupies lentic (slow or still water) environments in lagoons, backwaters and shoreline pockets. However, readily enters faster waters to feed and when water levels leave most lentic habitat dry. Mostly restricted to blackwater systems. Three-barred peacock
Speckled peacock
Giant peacock
All tackle—29.1 lbs

Fishing Tactics

Cichla temensis is the premier peacock bass species pursued by trophy anglers. It's sheer size, violent attacks and general overall aggressiveness have made it the most highly regarded of all freshwater sportfish. It has spurred volumes of literature and endless variations of tactics and techniques. See our 'Peacock Bass Primer' for a thorough introductory guide to catching this species in its native, pulsative river environments.

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