Peacock Bass Species I.D. Guide

Introduction & Taxonomy

A guide to the 16 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.

Peacock Bass species Cichla Mono
Cichla monoculus

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.

Aerial View of the Amazon Basin
An aerial view demonstrating the aquatic complexity of a typical Amazon Basin waterway.

In 2003, after sorting through almost 200 years of data, ichthyologists published a previously unparalleled 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 (Cichla temensis, Cichla monoculus, Cichla orinocensis, Cichla ocellaris, and Cichla intermedia) 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.  In 2020, a newly identified species of peacock bass, Cichla cataractae, has been described by a team of scientists from several countries.  Stuart Willis, a colleague and contributor to our website, was part of the international team that studied and described the new species. 

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, 2006 and 2020 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 start. 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 find their way into the line class records over time and as anglers and fish experts alike  learn enough about the revised taxonomy to make species identification routine, predictable and broadly accepted. According to Jason Schratwieser, IGFA's President, all of the more recently  described species will be eligible for all-tackle records, if and when, as with all scientifically recognized fish species, they can be consistently and accurately 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 Osteichthyes bony fishes
Class Actinopteri ray-finned fishes
Infraclass Teleostei  
Cohort Euteleosteomorpha  
Subsection Acanthomorphata  
Series Ovalentaria  
Superorder Cichlomorphae  
Order Cichliformes  
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 1700 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, peacock bass 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.

Mark H. Sabaj, Hernán López-Fernández, Stuart C. Willis, Devya D. Hemraj, Donald C. Taphorn, and Kirk O. Winemiller. 2020. "Cichla cataractae (Cichliformes: Cichlidae), new species of peacock bass from the Essequibo Basin, Guyana and Venezuela," Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 167(1), 69-86, (17 March 2020). 

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
Data
Fishing
Information
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
Chris Atkins X X X

TucunaréCichla temensis —Humboldt 1821 

 

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 assu coloration
Cichla temensis in its 'açú' spawning colors
 
 

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 (right), C. temensis displays a darker color pattern and a more hydrodynamic shape.

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

Where to catch: Floating Bungalow Trip, - Blackwater Explorer Yacht Trip, - Blackwater Adventurer Luxury Floating Hotel

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.

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.

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 açu 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
Tucunare
Açu
Paca
Giant peacock
All tackle—29.1 lbs

'Popoca'Cichla monoculus —Spix & Agassiz 1831 

 

Called "popoca" or "botão" in Brazil, Cichla monoculus is widely distributed along the Amazon main stem and up to the mid-upper Rio Negro and tributaries. It is also found in coastal rivers. Typically attains up to 5 pounds but has been known to reach 10.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla monoculus
Cichla monoculus
 

Where to catch: Floating Bungalow Trip, Blackwater Explorer Yacht Trip

ID Key:

Short vertical bars that do not extend below the lateral line and a long horizontal bar beginning at the base of the pectoral fin. No individualized ocellum at the base of second dorsal and no opercular (cheek) markings. Brilliantly colored when spawning. Large specimens have dark occipital bar.

Fishing Tactics

In waters where C. temensis is present, C. monoculus tends to occupy lentic (slow) waters with the most dense structure. It readily strikes subsurface lures, including jigs and flies and will sometimes take Zara Spooks and small woodchoppers on the surface. In Rio Solimoes waters where C. temensis is not present, it can be found guarding fry and will readily attack large surface plugs. Angling characteristics in other regions are not known to us.

If you have fished for Cichla monoculus in other waters and have information to contribute, please contact usE-Mail Paul Reiss

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
3 distinct, entire, short, broad bars from dorsal peak to near lateral line. Postorbital band on operculum (cheek markings) not present. Irregular horizontal dark bar on abdominal side. Markings and color fairly consistent between individuals, except for reproductively active specimens who show brilliant red markings around lower jaw. Juveniles: up to about 200mm
(8 inches)

Adults: from 200mm up to about 450mm (18 inches)
Depth to length ratio: approx. 30%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 75
Most similar to
C. kelberi
C. pleiozona
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil

River Basins: Rio Solimoes - Amazonas basin to Marajo Island (near mouth of Amazon). Widespread throughout Amazon basin.
Where found with congeners (other species of peacock bass), such as C. temensis, C. monoculus tends to occupy the shallower or more structure dense areas of the fishery, especially related to dense tangles of wood. Primarily occupies lentic (slow or still water) environments in floodplain lakes and backwater river lagoons, both blackwater and whitewater. popoca
botao
All-tackle;
3.63 kg.
(8 lb. 07 oz.) 

'Borboleto'Cichla orinocensis —Humboldt 1821 

 

Also called "taua" or "borboleta" (meaning butterfly in Portuguese). This nomenclature often causes confusion among Amazon visitors familiar with Florida’s "butterfly peacocks" (transplanted Cichla ocellaris). The species occurs naturally in the Negro, Branco and Orinoco drainages. Attains weights of up to about 12 pounds.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla orinocensis
Cichla orinocensis
 

Where to catch: Floating Bungalow Trip, Blackwater Explorer Yacht Trip

ID Key:

Has 3 distinct ocelli on the sides of the body in place of the vertical bars of other species; body color ranges from bright golden yellow to olive green and is fairly uniformly distributed along the torso. There are no dark markings on the operculum (cheeks).

Fishing Tactics

Similar fishing tactics to C. temensis, although less likely to attack large prop baits, such as woodchoppers. Readily taken on walking stick baits, such as Zara Spooks and on subsurface lures, especially the peacock bass jig. Although normally caught unintentionally by anglers pursuing the larger C. temensis, C. orinocensis can achieve fairly large sizes and has excellent fighting characteristics.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
3 distinct, black ocelli ringed with silvery outline in place of three bars Postorbital band (or series of connected blotches on operculum (cheek) not present. Reproductively active specimens show intensified coloration. Some specimens with a unique reticulated pattern and a reddish cast to their coloration are encountered in certain regions (based on meristic characters, apparently a phenotypic variant of C. orinocensis). Otherwise coloration is fairly consistent between individuals. Juveniles: up to about 200mm
(8 inches)

Adults: from 200mm up to about 500mm (20 inches)
Depth to length ratio: approx. 30%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 80
Most similar to
C. kelberi
C. pleiozona C. ocellaris
C. monoculus
C. nigromaculatus
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil.

River Basins: Rio Negro, Rio Branco and Rio Orinoco basins.
Generally when found in waters where C. temensis is present, C. orinocensis tends to occupy shallower, slower waters. Aggressive fry guarders. Primarily occupies lentic (slow or still water) environments in lagoons, backwaters and shoreline pockets. C. orinocensis relates to blackwater environments. Borboleto
Taua
Saupa
Pavon mariposa
Pavon amarillo
All tackle—lbs

'Lukanini'Cichla ocellaris  — Bloch & Schneider 1801

 

C. ocellaris is found mostly in northern Guyana shield drainages. It only occurs in the upper Rio Branco (Tacutu and Urariquera) in Brazil. Temperature tolerant, it has been successfully transplanted to Florida where it is called the "Butterfly” peacock, leading to confusion with C. orinocensis. Attains up to 12 lbs.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla ocellaris
Cichla ocellaris
 

ID Key:

C. ocellaris has faint transversal bars in some specimens and a round mark underneath the pectoral. Sometimes has one distinct individualized ocellum underneath the second dorsal fin. No black markings on the operculum (cheek).

Fishing Tactics

peacock bass - Cichla ocellaris
Cichla ocellaris caught on an Acute Angling Amazon peacock bass fishing trip

Jim Micinilio caught specimens like the one at right in a quiet cove off the Rio Uraiquera. There was a small tributary feeding the back of the bay. The first one he encountered was caught on a Rapala CD14. He caught several more on topwater plugs (such as small woodchoppers and storm chug bug poppers - 5 1/2") up close to the bank. A lot of fish were found on the edge of the channel hanging on rock ledges. They were super aggressive. Jim also caught alot on home made buck tail jigs, all colors. As the water levels subsided during his week on the river, the fish were easier to spot, but harder to catch. Jim experienced a lot of cut offs on rocks. These peacocks were a highlight of his trip to the region. They averaged 4-7lbs.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
3 distinct, short vertical bars, abdominal bar and ocellated blotch in rearmost bar. Postorbital band (or series of connected blotches on operculum (cheek) not present. Reproductively active specimens show intensified coloration, otherwise coloration fairly consistent between individuals. Juveniles: up to about 200mm
(8 inches)

Adults: from 200mm up to about 500mm (20 inches)
Depth to length ratio: approx. 32%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 75
Most similar to
C. kelberi
C. pleiozona
C. monoculus
C. nigromaculatus
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana and Brazil.

River Basins: Marowijine, Suriname, Saramacca, Nickerie, Corantijn, Berbice, Essequibo and upper Rio Branco drainages.
  Found in rivers with fast water sections. Tend to be accessible in shallow eddies and rocky backwaters. English:
Florida Butterfly peacock bass

Local: Lukanini
Toekoenali
Zonnevisch
Matawale
& other regional variations.
All tackle—lbs

'Royal Peacock'Cichla intermedia — Machado-Allison 1971

 

Known as the "Royal" peacock by American anglers. Cichla intermedia is found only in the Orinoco drainage, reaching as far south as the Casiquiare,. Typically found in lotic (faster) water. Attains weights up to about 6 pounds.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla intermedia
Cichla intermedia
 

ID Key:

Has up to 8 dark bars along the body. Mid-body has a long dark stripe.

Fishing Tactics

If you have fished for Cichla intermedia , please contact us - E-Mail Paul Reiss

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Adults are marked uniquely with a row of irregular dark blotches and six or seven vertical bars along the side just below the lateral line. Adults have several small black blotches on gill covers. Light spots are on side are absent. Body olive on dorsum, shading to gold on sides. Abdomen white. Lower fins red. Dorsal fin bluish Juveniles: up to about 200mm
(8 inches)

Adults: from 200mm up to about 485mm (19 inches)
Depth to length ratio: approx. 26 - 31%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 102
Although similarly elongate with some of its conspecifics, C. intermedia is quite uniquely marked among Cichla.
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Venezuela.

River Basins: Cinaruco, Casiquiare, Cataniapo, Siapa, and Caura drainages.
Relates mostly to rocky structure. Like its congenerics, a primarily piscivorous predator. Primarily occupies lotic (fast water) environments in blackwater river systems. English:
Blackstriped
peacock
Royal peacock bass

Local: Pavon Real.
All-tackle;
3.86 kg
(8 lb. 8 oz.)

'Rio Jari Peacock'Cichla jariina — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

 

Cichla jariina is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla jariina
Cichla jariina
 

ID Key:

Most similar to the temensis-like group (clade), including C. temensis, C. pinima, C. thyrorus, and C. vazzoleri. Preserved specimens show the opercular (cheek) markings, similar to C. temensis. A dark horizontal band extends from the eye (including the opercular markings) to the base of the tail. The three dark vertical bars are represented by rows of black blotches with light spots lining the margins. Several morphometric and meristic (countable) characters distinguish it from the rest of the temensis-like group.

Fishing Tactics

Stuart Willis caught C. jariina near the Reserva Estraitavista at the Iratapuru River above the waterfalls on the Jari. He found no particular pattern regarding where they were located other than among structure. The Jari is pretty rocky, and much of the structure was rocks, but they seemed common among submerged branches as well. Stuart only fished in the channel. He caught them on weedless spoons.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Large ocellated blotches replace vertical bars in adults. Blotchy cheek markings present. Greenish/gold head and lower torso, shading to gold mid-body and olive dorsally. Upper fins dark, lower fins bluish. Belly white. It is not known if these colors represent breeding colors, although the specimen pictured appears to be an adult male. Juveniles:

Adults:
Top out at around 10 pounds.
Depth to length ratio: approx. 27%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 104
Most similar to
C. pinima
C. temensis
C. thyrorus
C. vazzoleri
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins: Currently all known specimens have been collected only from the Rio Jari.
They are found both above and below a major, apparently impassable, waterfall, indicating that this is not a barrier to C. jariina Both high gradient and lowland regions of the Rio Jari English:
Rio Jari peacock

Local: Named by Kullander and Ferreira (2006), with reference to its locality.
All-tackle;
4.08 kg.
(9 lb. 0 oz.) 

'Tucunare Amarela'Cichla kelberi — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

 

Cichla kelberi is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla kelberi
Cichla kelberi
 

ID Key:

C. Kelberi is similar to both C. monoculus and C. pleiozona, with three distinct dark vertical bars on its sides and without dark opercular markings. Small light spots on the lower fins distinguish it from other species. Large specimens possess a distinct occipital bar.

Fishing Tactics

Stuart Willis reports on his experience with C. kelberi:

"We fished for these near Sao Felix, where the Rio das Mortes encounters the Araguaia. This is a clear, sandy, low-gradient, meandering floodplain river, with many lagoons and channels. C. piquiti and C. kelberi seem to divide ecological space not unlike C. temensis and C. monoculus in the Negro, or C. temensis and C. orinocensis in the Orinoco. That is, C. piquiti are larger, appear to occupy deeper habitats with more flow (e.g. channels), while C. kelberi are more often in smaller, shallower or lentic habitats (e.g. lagoons). We caught both on silver weedless spoons, my standard fare (the idiot-proof lure, I guess). Locals called these fishes tucunare branca (C. piquiti), and tucunare amarela (C. kelberi), and only the large, sexually mature C. piquiti acquire the bluish fins, and hence the appellation tucunare azul."

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Has three distinct dark vertical bars on its sides and is without dark opercular markings. Small light spots on the lower fins distinguish it from other species. Yellowish/gold sides, especially posteriorly. Head greenish. Lower fins reddish olive. Orange/red markings at lower edge of operculum. Juveniles:

Adults:
Adults appear to reach a maximum size of around 5 pounds
Depth to length ratio: approx. 32%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 80
Most similar to
C. pleiozona
C. monoculus
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins: Rio Araguaia and lower Rio Tocantins basins. Also introduced in reservoirs in Eastern and Northern Brazil.
See fishing tactics description. In low gradient rivers, C. kelberi occupy shallow, lentic habitats (lagoons). English:
Yellow peacock bass

Local: tucunare amarela
tucunare comum.
All-tackle;
1.81 kg.
(4 lb. 0 oz.) 

'Lower Xingu peacock'Cichla melaniae — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

 

Cichla melaniae is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla. The specimen at right was caught on the Rio Xingu in Brazil, by Dave Orndorf of Sunbury, OH.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla melaniae
Cichla melaniae
 

ID Key:

C. melaniae displays three prominent black vertical bars, slightly slimmer than other species and shows traces of medial bars between the three main bars. Numerous small black spots with light colored margins are scattered along the body sides. C. melaniae is similar to C. mirianae except for absence of light spots on head and absence of midlateral ocelli.

Fishing Tactics

Dave Orndorf caught specimens like the one pictured above on shallow running crank baits and jointed pikie minnows. As with other species of peacocks, they were caught in side lagoons as well as rock piles in the river. Dave upgraded his lures with enhanced hooks and split rings.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Distinguished by three narrow vertical bars and numerous ocellated spots scattered along body sides. Deep gold on sides, shading darker toward dorsum. Bars and ocellus black. Upper fins and tips of lower fins bluish. Juveniles: up to 200mm

Adults: from 200mm to 400mm
Depth to length ratio: approx. 31%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 82
Most similar to
C. mirianae
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins: lower Rio Xingu.
Like its congenerics, a primarily piscivorous predator. Lentic (off-current) lagoons and lotic (subject to river current) rock piles Cichla melaniae is named after Melanie Stiassny, an important contributor to Cichlid classification. All-tackle;
3.84 kg.
(8 lb. 7 oz.)

'Xingu peacock'Cichla mirianae — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

 

Cichla mirianae is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla mirianiae
Cichla mirianiae
 

ID Key:

C. mirianae is distinguished by three prominent black ocellated blotches along its side and remnants of the juvenile lateral band connecting the blotches and extending onto the caudal peduncle and forward onto the operculum. Similar to C. melaniae except for absence of vertical bars

Fishing Tactics

C. mirianae—Fishing report by Dr. Stuart Willis:

"We fished these near Alta Floresta in the Teles Pires and its tributary the Rio Azul, and on the Suia Missu in the upper Xingu basin, at Brazil Novo. The Suia Missu is a mid-gradient bowl shaped river (relatively deep and stable, with high banks), with a number of oxbow lagoons. We found C. mirianae in both the channel and lagoons here. The Rio Azul, and many smaller upper Xingu tributaries are higher gradient tributaries, and C. mirianae are less common in the main channel than in lagoons. We caught them mostly in floodplain lagoons. Both river systems vary between clear or black water, depending on the surroundings and season. In both places we caught these on weedless spoons, or on in-line spinnerbaits."

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Distinguished by three narrow vertical bars and numerous ocellated spots scattered along body sides. Yellow/gold laterally, shading to olive green dorsally and on the head. Lower caudal fin red and dorsal shows signs of bluish tint. Juveniles: up to 200mm

Adults: from 200mm to 400mm
Depth to length ratio: approx. 30%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 75
Most similar to
C. melaniae
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins: upper Rio Tapajos drainage (Juruena and Teles Pires rivers) and the mid and upper Xingu (Fresco, Batovi, Culuene and Suia-Missu rivers.
Like its congenerics, a primarily piscivorous predator. Found in both the channels and lagoons of mid-gradient rivers. In higher gradient rivers, fish found mostly in floodplain lagoons. Cichla mirianae is named after Mirian Leal-Carvalho, who helped collect the definitive identifying specimens. All-tackle;
4.54 kg.
(10 lb. 0 oz.) 

Cichla nigromaculata — Jardine & Schomburgk 1843

 

Cichla nigromaculata is one of the newly re-described (2006) species of Cichla.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla nigromaculata
Cichla nigromaculata
 

ID Key:

ID Key: C. nigromaculata

Fishing Tactics

C. nigromaculata—Report by Dr. Stuart Willis:

"We fished for these all through the upper Orinoco and Casiquiare, mostly in the Mavaca and Pamoni. They are most common in lagoons, especially floodplain lagoons (seasonally isolated/connected), although they can be found sporadically in the channel. These don't show any particular observable habitat use differences to C. monoculus. We caught these on weedless spoons and in-line spinnerbaits."

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Possesses three relatively narrow and short dark vertical bars and two lighter bars in between the darker ones. No markings on operculum. Overall dark body coloration, shading from greenish/gold below to black dorsally. A bluish cast overlies the body color. Upper fins dark, lower fins bluish. Not known to us at this time. If you have info and would like to share it on this site, please contact us - E-Mail Paul Reiss Depth to length ratio: approx. 30%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 80
Most similar to
C. monoculus
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries:Venezuela, Brazil.

River Basins:Rio Orinoco, Rio Casiquiare, Rio Negro.
Relates mostly to woody structure. Like its congenerics, a primarily piscivorous predator. Most common in lagoons, especially floodplain lagoons (seasonally isolated/connected), although they can be found sporadically in the channel. None None

'tucunare pinima'Cichla pinima — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

 

Cichla pinima is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla pinima
Cichla pinima
 

ID Key:

C. pinima is similar to C. temensis, however its torso is somewhat thicker proportionately with a greater height to length ratio. It’s 3 bars are less contiguous and often have disconnected blotches at the ends.

Fishing Tactics

Cichla pinimaRio Piranima — C. pinima — Variety Floating Bungalow trip report.
These fish similar, in many ways to C. temensis, (although not reaching into the 20 pound class), offer much the same fishing experience on subsurface baits, especially the peacock rattle jig. Attacking with powerful strikes, they immediately head for the nearest cover. As readily taken on topwaters as C. temensis, they will explode on well-presented Zara Spooks and prop baits. Although locals claimed that they could reach 9 kilos (almost 19 pounds), the largest we’ve encountered was 17 pounds. Of course, it would be great to find the giants the locals describe, so we’ll keep on plugging away.

C. pinima—Report by Dr. Stuart Willis:
"We angled these in the Araguari River downstream of Ferreira Gomes in Amapa. This clearwater river, downstream of FG, is a low-gradient floodplain river, and is also heavily tidally influenced. C. pinima were fairly abundant along the shore, in amongst the woody structure. We caught these on weedless spoons. The people I spoke with called this species "tucunare acu" and C. monoculus, with which C. pinima is largely co-distributed, 'tucunare chinga'."

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Possesses three prominent dark vertical bars or blotches in adults. Dark markings on operculum are present. Juveniles have 4 or more horizontal rows of light spots. Possesses three prominent dark vertical bars or blotches in adults. Dark markings on operculum are present. Juveniles have 4 or more horizontal rows of light spots. Our Variety Floating Bungalow trip to the Rio Piranima has yielded specimens up to 17 pounds. Depth to length ratio: approx. 27%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 95
Most similar to
C. temensis
C. jariina
C. thyrorus
C. vazzoleri
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins: lower Rio Tapajos, Rio Curua-Una, lower Rio Xingu, lower Rio Tocantins and Rio Capim. Also introduced in other locations in Brazil's northeast
They relate strongly to the edges of flooded igapo, in both river and lagoon environments, coming out to attack baits. C. pinima are fairly abundant along the shorelines, in amongst woody structure in low-gradient rivers. pinima is a Tupi-Guarani Indian word meaning white-spotted. The name was in use prior to the 2006 revision All-tackle;
11.09 kg.
(24 lb. 7 oz.) 

'tucunare azul'Cichla piquiti — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

 

Cichla piquiti is one of the newly described species of Cichla (Kullander and Ferreira, 2006). See below for fishing reports from Stuart Willis and a thorough fishery description from Friedhelm Milord.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla piquiti
Cichla piquiti
 

ID Key:

Uniquely marked as adults with 5 wide dark vertical bars. Reproductively active specimens display the striking blue fin coloration that has given the species its common name.

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla piquiti
Cichla piquiti

Fishing Tactics

C. kelberi and C. piquiti - Report by Dr. Stuart Willis:

"We fished for these near Sao Felix, where the Rio das Mortes encounters the Araguaia. This is a clear, sandy, low-gradient, meandering floodplain river, with many lagoons and channels. C. piquiti and C. kelberi seem to divide ecological space not unlike C. temensis and C. monoculus in the Negro, or C. temensis and C. orinocensis in the Orinoco. That is, C. piquiti are larger, appear to occupy deeper habitats with more flow (e.g. channels), while C. kelberi are more often in smaller, shallower or lentic habitats (e.g. lagoons). We caught both on silver weedless spoons, my standard fare (the idiot-proof lure, I guess). Locals called these fishes tucunare branca (C. piquiti), and tucunare amarehla (C. kelberi), and only the large, sexually mature C. piquiti acquire the bluish fins, and hence the appellation tucunare azul (like the acu C. temensis)."

C. kelberi and C. piquiti - Report and fishery description by Friedhelm Milord (translated from Portuguese):

"Bom, se a Amazônia é o império do Tucunaré Acú ,na região sudeste do Brasil de clima subtropical é o império do Tucunaré Azul que coexiste com o Amarelo, mas sempre o sobrepuja em numero e tamanho. Nesta região ele chega a 4,5 kg mas a média é de 1,5 a 2,5 kg. Mas ocorre em grande numero o ano inteiro o que torna as pescarias repletas de ação!

O Tucunaré é originário da bacia amazonica e não ocorria na bacia do prata (Rio Paraná e Paraguai). Na bacia do prata não existem muitas lagoas originalmente e o predominio era de espécies fluviais com migração de piracema. Mas na decada de 60 e 70 muitas barragens hidroelelétricas foram construidas nesta bacia e muitos lagos se formaram. O que aniquilou com os peixes fluviais (Dourado,Pacu e Pintado) e propiciou um estouro populacional de piranhas nestas represas. Então para se controlar as piranhas se introduziram os tucunarés e corvinas ,também peixes lacustres. Que junto com a Tilapia Nilótica são sa populações destes lagos artificiais. O Tucunaré Azul e Amarelo parecem suportar bem as temperaturas da região Sudeste (10 a 32c) e o clima subtropical. Se reproduzem 2 vezes ao ano. Pelo clima subtropical enganar seus instintos reprodutivos. Os estimulos para reprodução são temperatura e pressaõ coluna de agua (ligado a precipitação pluviométrico). Na região sudeste, no verão temperatura sobe e coluna de agua sobe e no inverno temperatura cai e coluna de agua também!"

ENGLISH

"OK, if Amazonia is the realm of the Giant Peacock Bass (Cichla temensis), then the southeastern region of Brazil with its subtropical climate is the realm of the Blue Peacock (Cichla piquiti). Here it coexists with the Yellow Peacock (Cichla kelberi), although always outnumbering and outweighing them. In this region they reach almost 11 pounds, with the average size around 3 to 6 pounds. They occur in great numbers the entire year round, making for fishing loaded with action!

The peacock bass is native to the Amazon basin and does not occur naturally in the "silver basin" (Rio Parana and Paraguai). Originally, few naturally occuring lagoons existed in this basin and it was dominated by migratory riverine species. However in the decades of the 60's and 70's, hydroelectric dams were constructed in this system, resulting in the formation of many lakes. This extinguished the populations of many migratory species (Dourado, Pacu and Pintado) and precipitated a piranha population boom behind the dams. Therefore, in an effort to control the piranha populations, peacock bass and freshwater drum (croakers) were introduced, themselves lacustrine species. Together with introduced Nile Tilapia, they made up the population of these artificial lakes. Both the Blue and Yellow Peacock Bass appear to tolerate the subtropical temperatures of the Southeastern region (10 to 32 C) well. They reproduce twice each year. The subtropical environment likely overcomes their natural behavior. The reproductive stimuli are water temperature and water level (tied to the region's rainfall). In the southeast's summer, temperature rises along with water level while in the winter temperature falls together with the water column."

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Uniquely marked as adults with 5 wide dark vertical bars Body color varies from pale grey to yellow Juveniles:

Adults: up to 500mm
Depth to length ratio: approx. 28%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 93
Most similar to
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins: upper and lower rio Tocantins and Rio Araguaia drainage. Also introduced and extensively stocked in Brazil's southern regions
Like its congenerics, a primarily piscivorous predator. C. piquiti appear to occupy deeper habitats with more flow (e.g. channels), while sympatric species are more often in smaller, shallower or lentic habitats (e.g. lagoons). tucunaré azul means blue peacock.
piquiti is a Tupi-Guarani Indian word meaning striped.
Blue peacock
All-tackle;
4.99 kg.
(11 lb. 0 oz.)

'Lake Gatun Peacock'Cichla pleiozona — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

Cichla pleiozona is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla.

See below for fishing information and photos provided by Chris Atkins

Amazon Peacock Bass species Cichla pleiozona
Cichla pleiozona

ID Key:

Distinguished from C. monoculus and C. kelberi by a greater number of scales, typical presence of fourth vertical bar on caudal peduncle and absence of light spots on lower fins.

Cichla pleiozona

Fishing Tactics

Cichla pleiozona, a peacock bass species transplanted from Bolivia. has become the most popular game fish on the Panama Canal. Since they aren’t native to these waters, they have few natural predators and their population has exploded. Almost any day you hit the water you can expect to catch double digit fish in the 1-3 lb range using live minnows. These smaller, juvenile fish tend to travel in huge schools, so once you find them you can wear your arms out in just a couple hours. This is great for a family fishing day with kids or novice anglers. The real fun, and greater challenge here, is pursuing the larger adults in the 5-10 lb range. The bigger, mature fish tend to be found in smaller schools or even in pairs, so as an angler you'll sacrifice quantity for quality. They are ambush predators that respond to quick movements and erratic behavior, so twitch baits or stick baits as well as spinner baits always work well. If you cast and retrieve these through a mess of old tree trunks or overtop an underwater ledge you will often get the response you are looking for. Poppers are always exciting, when cast towards thick weeds or overgrowth you can often entice a bigger fish to leave it's cover. Once the hot Panamanian sun is overhead and things heat up the bigger fish tend to move to deeper water, so deep diving bomber lures become what you need to get into the strike zone.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
3 dark vertical bars on sides, pronounced occipital bar in mature specimens. Irregular dark bars on abdominal side. Cheek markings absent. A fourth dark vertical bar is typically present on caudal peduncle. Olive green dorsally, golden yellow mid body with white abdomen Juveniles:
Typically 1 to 3 pounds
Adults:

Typically 5 and up to 10 pounds
Depth to length ratio: approx. 30%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 88
Most similar to
C. kelberi
C. monoculus
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Panama (Lake Gatun) .
River Basins: The Bolivian Amazon basin, and the upper Rio Madeira (Rio Jamari). Introduced into the Rio Chagres in Panama.
Smaller specimens are often found in larger numbers schooling together. Larger, mature adults are often found alone or in pairs. They are aggressive ambush predators and will leave cover to attack bait. Found among of sunken trees resulting from the damming of the Chagres River to create the Panama Canal. Also found under the cover of hanging branches and weeds .
pleiozona is a latin term describing the additional fourth vertical bar typical to the species.
All-tackle;
4.58 kg.
(10 lb. 1 oz.)

Cichla thyrorus — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

Cichla thyrorus is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla.
Photo from the upriver region of the Rio Trombetas.

ID Key:

Vertical bars are absent, although remnants of their location are the site of a centrally-located, large, ocellated blotch and several small black spots in-line with the missing vertical bars, above and below the main blotch.

Cichla thyrorusCichla thyrorus
Cichla thyrorus

Fishing Tactics

During our exploratory trip to the previously untested upper reaches of the Rio Trombetas, we caught plenty of these spunky peacocks in several types of structure. We found them most commonly in “Rock Gardens”, the piles of rock common in fast-water Guyana shield rivers. The usual array of jigs, spooks and Yo-Zuris were effective here. More fun, however, was finding them behind bushy current-blockages that created pockets of quiet water in the midst of stronger current. Tossing a lure upriver of the bushes and into the current, then maneuvering it around the point and into the quiet water almost always elicited a strike from its resident(s). We tended to find bigger, spawning-ready fish in this fashion. C. Thyrorus also made for good sport on the fly, readily taking streamers probing between rocks in the “Rock Garden” areas and also, sight fishing on sandy flats.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Large ocellated blotches replace vertical bars in adults. Blotchy cheek markings present. Body color: Olive dorsally, brightening to yellow-gold below
Markings: Black, ocellated
Juveniles:
up to 200mm
Adults:

p to 700mm
Depth to length ratio: approx. 29%

Lateral Line Scales: approx. 83
Most similar to
C. pinima
C. temensis
C. vazzoleri
C. jariina
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil

River Basins: The Rio Trombetas, upstream of the waterfall, Cachoeira Porteira
Relates mostly to rocky structure. A primarily piscivorous predator. Unlike many other Cichla, most active at dawn and dusk. High-gradient, fast-water river. Found in rocky backwaters, sandy flats and current breaks in fast water.

Thyrorus peacock

All-tackle;
6.35 kg.
(14 lb. 0 oz.)

Cichla vazzoleri — Kullander & Ferreira 2006

 

Cichla vazzoleri is one of the newly described (2006) species of Cichla.

Cichla vazzoleri - fast water peacock bass
Cichla vazzoleri
 

Where to catch: Rio Travessao Multi-Species trip

ID Key:

Large ocellated blotches replace vertical bars in adults. Blotchy to speckled cheek markings present. Yellow lower torso, shading to gold above. More brilliantly colored when spawning. Large adults present a very stocky torso.

Fishing Tactics

This is a powerful and pugnacious fish. Short and stumpy they attain sizes at least up to 15 pounds. When water conditions are somewhat high and less clear, they aggressively take zara spooks, small woodchoppers and a variety of subsurface lures. As water drops and becomes clearer, success diminishes with topwaters, but improves with subsurface lures, particularly peacock bass rattle jigs and streamer flies.

In the main river or larger braids, anglers can consistently find them behind large, current diverting rocks or stands of macrophytes. Here, a lure presented at the edge of the structure, where the current flows around it, will elicit aggressive attacks. And, if by chance there isn't a peacock present, then the angler is often reward with the violent strike of a big trairão (wolfish). Submerged rocks near shorelines and rocky outcroppings hold fish as well. Here, they hold in between submerged rocks and will come up to take a tempting surface lure or well-placed subsurface presentation. These are their primary stomping grounds.

They can also be found in creeks and protected back-waters which tend to hold either very small specimens or large, fry-guarding spawners. As with other species of Cichla, fry guarders will ultimately attack anything they perceive to be a threat to their offspring. Cichla vazzoleri can also be found feeding in fast water and they are often taken while using deep-running lures for payara.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Large ocellated blotches replace vertical bars in adults. Blotchy cheek markings present. Yellow lower torso, shading to gold above. Yellowish green to reddish cast to lower fins, blueish cast to upper fins. Juveniles:
< 2 lbs.
Adults:
from 3 to 15 lbs. in river
Depth to length ratio: approx. 27%

Lateral Line Scales: approx.105
Most similar to

C. thyrorus
C. jariina
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil .

River Basins: The mid-upper, middle and lower Rio Trombetas and the middle Rio Uatuma
Wildly territorial in spawning areas. Feeds aggressively in river structure. We encountered smaller specimens in creek mouths and backwaters. Adults were located in protected, lagoon-like spawning waters or behind current blocking rocks in the main river. Named in honor of Gelso Vazzoler, a collector of the species' reference specimens All-tackle;
7.71 kg.
(17 lb. 0 oz.) 

Cichla cataractae — Sabaj, López-Fernández, Willis, Hemraj, Taphorn & Winemiller — 2020

 

Cichla cataractae a newly identified species of peacock bass, has been described by a team of scientists from several countries.  The new species, the 16th now identified, was confirmed using both DNA (molecular) evidence and by its unique pattern of markings (morphometric differences).  Stuart Willis, a colleague and contributor to our website, was part of the international team that studied and described the new species. 

Cichla vazzoleri - fast water peacock bass
Cichla cataractae
 

 

ID Key:

Heavy bodied with ocellated blotches

Fishing Tactics

Not yet recorded

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Large ocellated blotches replace vertical bars in adults.  Body color varies from gary-green to yellow Adults up to 8 kg. Typically 3 to 3.5 kg Continuous lateral line Other Guyana shield species are physically similar
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Essequibo River and its left-bank tributaries Most likely strongly piscivorous Rocky shoals in flowing channels Falls Lukunani Not yet recorded.

Rio Travessao Peacock Bass (Unidentified/Undescribed Taxa)

 

Note the deep-bodied form and unique markings of the Rio Travessão peacock. Spawning pairs are found in quiet lagoons and off-river backwaters, juveniles hide in riverbank structure, while hunting adults frequent rapids and eddies, in stark contrast to the lentic behavior of its lowlands brethren.

Unidentified Amazon Peacock Bass Species from the Rio Travessao
Rio Travessao Peacock Bass
 

Where to catch: Rio Travessao Multi-Species trip

ID Key:

Currently residing with the decription of C. vazzoleri, this population is geographically isolated from the described range and may also prove to be reproductively isolated. Several morphological characters show significant differences, pointing to the possibility of a separate species

Fishing Tactics

Fish found in quiet backwaters are in typically various stages of spawning preparation or fry-guarding. Both pre-spawn and fry-guarding fish are readily taken on a variety of lures, including peacock rattle jigs, walking stick baits, swimming plugs and spoons. The large prop baits have not been shown to be effective here. When found in fast water, fish are generally feeding and are most readily taken with swimming baits such as Yo-zuri crystal minnows, smaller Rapalas (i.e.CD 11), etc. When in edge waters or bank structure, fish do not appear to be actively feeding but will opportunistically take baits appropriate to the access requirements; i.e, on sandbars or in still rocky structure, small surface plugs, especially Zara Spooks; in shallow quiet pools, small floating swimming plugs, such as 5" red-fin or jointed Rapala.

Although not as large as the giant lowlands peacocks, these fish can achieve sizes up to 14 pounds and because of their environment, they can present significant angling challenges. Spawners are often in very tight, small waters and can rapidly find their way into woody structure. Fast water feeders will readily use the current and their deep bodies to their advantage, augmenting their already powerful bodies.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Large ocellated blotches replace vertical bars in adults. Blotchy cheek markings present. Gaudy yellow coloration on body with elecftric blue upper fins and bright yellow lower fins. Red coloration appears to be totally absent. Juveniles: up to 200mm

Adults: Specimens caught up to 14 pounds
Depth to length ratio: approx. 31%

Lateral Line Scales:
Most similar to
C. pinima
C. temensis
C. thyrorus
C. vazzoleri
This may be identified as:
C. thyrorus
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins:The upper Rio Travessao, above the principle waterfall.
Powerful fighters in fast waters, they are expert at using their deep bodies in conjunction with currents. Spawning pairs are found in quiet lagoons and off-river backwaters, juveniles hide in riverbank structure, while hunting adults frequent rapids and eddies. Rio Travessao peacock bass
Potato head peacock.
None

Additional Information

The Rio Travessão is an extraordinary, almost inaccessible, high gradient river, fished exclusively by Acute Angling. This ecological gem is located in Brazil's northern Amazon mountains, a region known as the Guyana Shield. Unlike the placid, slow moving waters of the lowlands Amazon basin, this region is crisscrossed by rocky divides and isolated by fast moving rapids and waterfalls. The fish fauna here, are very different, and by lowlands standards, very strange. Monsters roam here, including giant payara, trairão (an enormous cousin of the traira), bicuda as big as your leg, South America's largest catfish and a peacock bass far different from any of its lowlands brethren.

The Rio Travessão, and its physical isolation from other regions, may add yet another level of complexity to an already complicated taxonomy. The Travessão peacock population may possibly represent an as yet undescribed 16th species. In addition to its strict geographic isolation, it is significantly different from its lowlands relatives both behaviorally and morphometrically.

Rio Travessao Peacock Bass
An adult male - note the prominent nuchal (forehead) hump.
(Click image to enlarge)

The Travessão peacock roams a wide range of water types. Spawning pairs are found in quiet lagoons and backwaters, juveniles hide in riverbank structure, while hunting adults frequent even the fastest rapids and tailraces. This is in contrast to the more specialized behavior of its lowlands brethren. Physically, these peacocks show differences in several morphological and meristic features. Scale size and lateral line counts tend to be species specific within Cichla, so taxonomists have used these characters to differentiate among the described species. The Travessão peacock has a lateral line scale count unique within the genus, and statistically significantly different from its relatives. Further, it is a deeper bodied fish than any of the other Cichla, whose length to height ratios range between 25 to 30%. Travessão specimens' ratio is typically 30 to 32% for this relationship. Added to these measurable characters, Travessão is truly a beast of a different color as well. Its bright yellow body, unique marking patterns and lack of typical red coloration in its lower fins place it in stark contrast to most of its congeners.

Several steps remain before the Travessão peacock can be described as a new species. DNA analysis is currently under way to determine its relationships within the genus. Additional preserved specimens are being prepared for analysis and comparison to other Cichla species. A final step will require exploratory visits to neighboring river basins to ascertain the Travessão peacock's range limitations and to confirm that there are no intermediate forms connecting it to neighboring species.

Anglers can catch these unique peacocks along with an entire gamut of other exotic monsters that share their waters in the Rio Travessao, and you can let the region's pristine natural beauty inspire your soul in the bargain.

Rio Paru Peacock Bass (Unidentified/Undescribed Taxa)

 

Note the unusually deep body of this large male specimen of the Rio Paru peacock. This fish utilizes a wide range of habitats in fast water. Spawning pairs frequent quiet lagoons and off-river backwaters while hunting adults utilize even fast rapids. This peacock has similarities to C. thyrorus and C. vazzoleri, however, it shows some morphometric characters that differentiate it from those species. It appears to be most similar to C. jariina

Rio Paru Peacock Bass
Rio Paru Peacock Bass
 

ID Key:

Fishing Tactics

Fish found in quiet backwaters are typically in various stages of spawning preparation or fry-guarding. Both pre-spawn and fry-guarding fish are readily taken on a variety of lures, including peacock rattle jigs, walking stick baits, swimming plugs and spoons. The large prop baits have not been shown to be effective here. When found in fast water, fish are generally feeding and are most readily taken with swimming baits such as Yo-zuri crystal minnows, smaller Rapalas (i.e.CD 11), etc. When in edge waters or bank structure, fish do not appear to be actively feeding but will opportunistically take baits appropriate to the access requirements; i.e, on sandbars or in still rocky structure, small surface plugs, especially Zara Spooks; in shallow quiet pools, small floating swimming plugs, such as 5" red-fin or jointed Rapala.

Although not as large as the giant lowlands peacocks (Cichla temensis), we have caught these fish up to 10 pounds. Because of their environment, they can present significant angling challenges. Spawners are often in very tight, small waters and can rapidly find their way into woody structure. Fast water feeders will readily use the current and their deep bodies to their advantage, augmenting their already powerful bodies.

Acute Angling has organize and operated trips to this fishery where, in addition to the peacock bass, anglers can encounter payara, exceptionally large pirapitinga, giant catfish (Jau, piraiba, pirarara, suribim), large pacu, large bicuda and other variety species.

Identification Keys
Bars and Markings Colors Size Key Characters Similar Species
Adults possess three blotchy, incomplete vertical bars Distinct dark markings on operculum. Juveniles marked with rows of horizontal white dots. Body olive on dorsum, shading to gold on sides. Abdomen white. Lower fins yellowish with blue edges. Juveniles: up to about 200mm
(8 inches)

Adults: from 200mm up to about 485mm (19 inches)
Depth to length ratio: approx. 36%

Lateral Line Scales:
approx. 102
Appears to be most morphologically similar to
C. jariina
Angler's Summary
Known Range Behavior Notes Habitat Common Names IGFA records
Countries: Brazil.

River Basins:Specimens are from the middle Rio Paru, above the principle waterfall, Cachoeiro Panama.
Spawning fish are concentrated in lentic (still), back-water sections scattered along the main river. The Rio Paru is a high gradient river adjacent to the Rio Jari. The population encountered here is deep-bodied and accesses even the faster waters.   None