The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Vieja maculicauda
Vieja maculicauda
(Blackbelt Cichlid)

Copyright Info
Vieja maculicauda (Regan, 1905)

Common name: Blackbelt Cichlid

Synonyms and Other Names: Cichlasoma maculicauda Regan 1905, Paraneetroplus maculicauda (Regan 1905), Cichlasoma nigritum Meek 1907, Cichlasoma globosum Miller 1907, Cichlasoma manana Miller 1907, Vieja panamensis Fernández-Yépez 1969; Spotted Cichlid, vieja

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Cichlids (family Cichlidae) are superficially similar to North American sunfishes and black basses (Lepomis and Micropterus; family Centrarchidae). Cichlids are distinguished from centrarchids by a single nostril opening on each side of the head (vs. two in centrarchids) and the presence of a discontinuous or two-part lateral line (vs. continuous in centrarchids).

Blackbelt Cichlid (Vieja maculicauda) is a member of the Neotropical cichlid subfamily Cichlinae. The composition and distinguishing features of Cichlinae and its included tribes and subtribes is described by Smith et al (2008). Vieja can be distinguished from other Central/Middle America herichthyin cichlids by having conical or bicuspid teeth, and the presence of a large dark, round blotch filling the caudal peduncle with the lower lateral line running through it. Vieja maculicauda can be distinguished from other species of Vieja by the dark blotch not extending anteriorly from the caudal peduncle onto the body (McMahan et al. 2015)

Size: to 25 cm standard length (Kullander 2003)

Native Range: Central America, lowland rivers from Río Usumacinta, Guatemala to Río Chagres, Panama (Bussing, 1998)

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Vieja maculicauda are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†

Table last updated 2/27/2023

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: In Central America, the Blackbelt Cichlid inhabits low gradient, freshwater to brackish rivers, streams, canals, and coastal lagoons in lowlying areas (Bussing 1998). In its native range, Blackbelt Cichlid is an omnivore with a diet consisting primarily of algae, macrophytes, plant detritus, and small molluscs (Winemiller et al. 1995; Cochran-Biederman and Winemiller 2010).

Means of Introduction: Likely aquarium release

Status: Unknown, but likely failed due to a single reported individual.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

References: (click for full references)

Bussing, W.A. 1998. Peces de las aguas continentales de Costa Rica. 2nd edition. Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, San José, Costa Rica.

Cochran-Biederman, J.L., and K.O. Winemiller. 2010. Relationships among habitat, ecomorphology, and diets of cichlids in the Bladen River, Belize. Environmental Biology of Fishes 88:143-152. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10641-010-9624-y

Kullander, S.O. 2003. Family Cichlidae (Cichlids). Pages 605-654 in Reis, R.E., S.O. Kullander, and C.J. Ferraris, Jr, eds. Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. EDIPUCRS. Porto Alegre, Brazil.

McMahan, C.D., W.A. Matamoros, K.R. Piller, and P. Chakrabarty. 2015. Taxonomy and systematics of the herichthyins (Cichlidae: Tribe Heroini), with the description of eight new Middle American genera. Zootaxa 3999(2):211-234. http://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3999.2.3

Smith. W.L., P. Chakrabarty, and J.S. Sparks. 2008. Phylogeny, taxonomy, and evolution of Neotropical cichlids (Teleostei: Cichlidae: Cichlinae). Cladistics 24(5):625-641. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1096-0031.2008.00210.x.

Winemiller, K.O., L.C. Kelso-Winemiller, and A.L. Brenkert. 1995. Ecomorphological diversification and convergence in fluvial cichlid fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 44:235-261.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Neilson, M.E.

Revision Date: 9/29/2020

Peer Review Date: 9/29/2020

Citation Information:
Neilson, M.E., 2023, Vieja maculicauda (Regan, 1905): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=3015, Revision Date: 9/29/2020, Peer Review Date: 9/29/2020, Access Date: 6/3/2023

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2023]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/3/2023].

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