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Peacock Bass ID Guide

An Anglers Guide to the
Recognized Species of Peacock Bass

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Introduction & Taxonomy

Peacock Bass species Cichla Mono
Cichla monoculus

A guide to the 15 described species of peacock bass — Our peacock bass species directory has been made available in an effort to provide anglers with clear and concise information about all of the currently described species. We’ve made great progress toward creating a definitive guide, but there's still more information we can add. To that end, we're hoping to make this guide a web-community project. We've laid down the basic framework with data and input from ichthyologists and anglers. We're asking all of our website visitors with additional knowledge to share to contribute their photos, experiences and fishing info to these pages, as they evolve. Take a look, see what's missing, send us your info, add your name to our list of contributors and help make accurate field identification of peacock bass feasible.

The Amazon basin is a difficult place to get around in. The main highways are rivers and there are almost no roads. Dense jungles, vast rainforests and convoluted floodplains have helped to keep the region's secrets for centuries. Until the mid-1900's, only a few adventurous explorers had probed its depths, providing most of the information the world has had regarding almost one third of its freshwater fishes. As a result, many Amazon species have long been poorly understood, only partially classified and often misidentified. Only in the last two decades has this begun to be extensively rectified by scientists with powerful new taxonomic tools and databases.

In 2003, after sorting through almost 200 years of data, ichthyologists published a previously unparalled checklist of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America (CLOFFSCA 2003). This work defined 5 relatively well known and distinct species of peacock bass in the genus Cichla. These species are listed in the first section of the navigation bar to the left and comprise the group that was initially best known to anglers and aquarists alike. It was recognized even at that time, however, that several additional species existed and that additional taxonomic work was necessary. A 2006 study co-authored by Dr. Sven Kullander of the Swedish Museum of Natural History and Dr. Efrem Ferreira of INPA, in Manaus, Brazil thoroughly revised the taxonomy (classification) of the genus Cichla (the category of fishes to which peacocks belong). In this newer publication, the authors sorted through the historical collections of early 19th century pioneers such as Humboldt and Agassiz and 20th century explorers such as Michael Goulding to update and correct the scientific names and recorded geographic distributions of the world's greatest freshwater gamefish. Kullander & Ferreira named 9 new species and resurrected one old name, increasing the number of described species in the genus to 15.

There may yet be additional species to be described in the future as a result of better communication, increased sampling and modern DNA analysis. This online pictorial angling and identification guide has evolved from an earlier 2004 guide compiled by Dr. Paul Reiss and Dr. Paulo Petry. The 2003 and 2006 work provided the principal resources for this guide which aims to depict the currently accepted species of peacock bass encountered by anglers and aquarists alike.

What does all this taxonomic revision mean for the sportfisherman? Well, new world record categories for a beginning. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA- the keeper of records for the fishing community) has already added most of the newly described species to the record books. Three species were originally included in IGFA's comprehensive line class categories (Cichla temensis, C. ocellaris and C. intermedia). Two more of the species listed by Dr. Kullander in 2003 are anticipated to join that category in the near future (C. monoculus and C. orinocensis). The rest will probably take some time before being included in the line class records. Anglers and fish experts alike must learn enough about the newly revised taxonomy to make species identification routine, predictable and broadly accepted. According to Jason Schratwieser, IGFA's Conservation Director, the nine newly described species (along with a redescribed tenth) will be eligible for all-tackle records, if and when, as with all scientifically recognized fish species, they can be successfully identified and documented.

The most important thing for anglers is not likely to change anytime soon, however. The fish in the water haven't changed at all. The peacock bass will continue to be the world's most sought after freshwater sportfish, giving anglers the greatest fight they will ever experience with a rod and reel. And Cichla temensis, the giant Amazon peacock, will continue to be the ultimate quarry for trophy peacock seekers. There's one other thing you can count on; Acute Angling will continue to be the best way to get there and enjoy this incredible creature in its pristine Amazon environment. Our focus, as always, will be on combining the very best in fishing quality with the very best in travel value.

Anatomical features of the Amazon Peacock Bass Genus Cichla
Cichla Anatomy

Formalized Terminology (after Kullander and Ferreira, 2006)

Abdominal Blotches
abdominal blotch A series of dark markings in the region of the abdomen that is covered by the pectoral fin when it is pressed against the body. Typical in C. monoculus, C. ocellaris, C. nigromaculata, C. pleiozona and C. kelberi. May feature several black blotches sometimes lined by light margins.
Caudal Blotch
caudal blotch The caudal blotch is what has given the peacock bass its common name. It starts as a dark spot covering 2 or 3 rays of the caudal (tail) fin. With maturity, the blotch becomes larger and margined with a silvery or golden ring. The blotch is reminiscent of the eyes on a peacock (bird) tail feather.
Horizontal rows of light spots
light spots Except for C. intermedia, all species of peacock bass appear to have a pattern of light spots on their sides during at least some of their developmental stages. In C. temensis and possibly others, the spots are more evident during non-spawning periods of individual's reproductive cycles.
Lateral Blotches
blotches In some species of Cichla the color pattern includes large roundish blotches along the middle of the side, corresponding to the position of the three numbered vertical bars. This is exemplified in C. thyrorus, C. vazzoleri and C. jariina and others.
Lateral Band
etem baby Juveniles specimens generally possess a complete dark horizontal band extending from the head to the caudal fin base. In some species this band is abbreviated. Usually disappears with maturity.
Ocellated Markings
ocellus An ocellus or ocellar blotch is a dark round marking outlined with a light border color, resembling and sometimes called an eye-spot. Ocellated markings may appear in various areas of the body including the tail (caudal blotch), the sides corresponding to the vertical bars (C. orinocensis) or scattered about the body (C. melaniae).
Occipital Bar
occipital bar A dark stripe above the gill cover and running obliquely across the nape. Prominent in large specimens of C. monoculus, C. pleiozona and C. kelberi.
Postorbital Markings
cheeks Black markings arranged in and around a horizontal band running from the eye to the posterior edge of the operculum. May be represented by irregular or isolated blotches or small spots, as in C. temensis. Often referred to as cheek markings.
Vertical Bars
bars Black or dark bars are present in some form in all species of Cichla. Three bars, 1, 2 and 3 are arrayed on the sides below the dorsal fins. Bars 1a and 2a occur in several species and are located between 1 and 2, and 2 and 3 respectively. A fourth bar (4) is found in some species or individuals on the caudal peduncle

Peacock Bass Classification Overview

Taxonomic Grouping Latin Descriptor English Translation
Kingdom Animalia animals
Phylum Chordata with spinal cords
Subphylum Vertebrata with back bones
Superclass Gnathostoma jawed vertebrates
Grade Osteichthes bony fishes
Class Actinopterygii ray-finned fishes
Division Teleostei  
Subdivision Euteleostei  
Superorder Acanthopterygii  
Series Percomorpha  
Order Perciformes  
Suborder Labroidei  
Family Cichlidae  
Genus Cichla  

The Cichlid Family (Cichlidae) — All species of peacock bass belong to the genus Cichla, within the family Cichlidae. Cichlids are among the most successful of freshwater fish families with over 1300 species on four continents. They are also among the best known, including angelfish, discus, oscars and other aquarium favorites. You've met and enjoyed them in seafood restaurants too (tilapia). From a scientific perspective, they are an amazing family. Known for their astonishing species radiation in African lakes, they are an important research focus for evolutionary biologists. Their reproductive behavior is among the most complex and diverse of all fishes, and their specialization into extremely varied feeding niches is remarkable. But anglers know where they are really extraordinary ... and that's on the end of a fishing line. Like no other freshwater fish in the world, peacocks are the ultimate in violent strikes and sheer fighting power.

Reference Sources

Barlow, G. W. 2000. The Cichlid Fishes. Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA.

Correa, R. O. 1998. Crescimento de Cichla monoculus (Perciformes: Cichlidae) em ambiente natural: Selecao da melhor estrutura para a determinacao da idade. Master's Thesis. University of Amazonas, Amazonas, Brazil.

Farias, I. P., G. Orti, I. Sampaio, H. Schneider, and A. Meyer. 1999 Mitochondrial DNA Phylogeny of the Family Cichlidae: Monophyly and Fast Molecular Evolution of the Neotropical Assemblage. Journal of Molecular Evolution [J. Mol. Evol.

Farias, I. P., G. Orti, and A. Meyer. 2000. Total Evidence: Molecules, Morphology, and the Phylogenetics of Cichlid Fishes. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol Dev Evol) 288:76-92

Kullander, S. O., and E. J. G. Ferreira. 2006. A review of the South American cichlid genus Cichla, with descriptions of nine new species (Teleostei:Cichlidae). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 17: 4: 289-298

Lasso, C. A., A. Machado-Allison. 2000 Sinopsis de las especies de peces de la familia Cichlidae presentes en la cuenca del rio Orinoco. Claves, diagnosis, aspectos bio-ecologicos e illustraciones. Museo de la Historia Natural la Salle. Instituto de Zoología Tropical, Universidad Central de Venezuela.

Myatt, M.J., D. Hartman, A. E. Gray, L. Arico, G.M. Morchower, and J. Schratweiser, eds. 2005. World Record Game Fishes, annual compilation of the International Game Fish Association. Dania Beach, FL.

Reis, R. E., S.O. Kullander, and C. J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) 2003. Check List of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio Grande do Sul, Porto Alegre, RS. Brasil. 620-621.

Stiassny, M. L. 1987. Cichlid familial intrarelationships and the placement of the neotropical genus Cichla. Jour. Nat. Hist. 21:1311-1331.

Vasconcelos, W.R., M.S. Nunes, P. Reiss, and I.P. Farias. 2005. Different population genetics patterns in two species of peacock bass (Cichla:Perciformes) of tributaries of the Rio Negro. Poster presentation. Brazilian Ichthyology Society meeting, January, 2005

Willis, S.C. 2005. Diversification in the Neotropical cichlid genus Cichla (Perciformes: Cichlidae). Master's thesis. University of Manitoba, Canada.

Peacock Bass I.D. Guide - Contributors
Name Photos Scientific
Paul Reiss X X X
Dr. Paulo Petry X X  
Dr. Stuart Willis X X X
David Orndorf X   X
Jim Micinilio X   X
Capt. Tony Herndon X    
Friedhelm Milord X   X

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