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.

Herichthys cyanoguttatus
Herichthys cyanoguttatus
(Rio Grande Cichlid)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Herichthys cyanoguttatus Baird and Girard, 1854

Common name: Rio Grande Cichlid

Synonyms and Other Names: Heros pavonaceus Garman 1881, Parapetenia cyanostigma Hernández-Rolón 1990, Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum; Texas cichlid, Rio Grande perch, mojarra de Norte.

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Rio Grande Cichlid is known for its cream and turquoise spots giving them a speckled look over a very dark to light olive background coloration. Lighter colored specimens usually exhibit four to six dark vertical bars or blotches (1st blotch most prominent; Page and Burr 1991, Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019). Females are generally less colourful than males (Page and Burr 1991). Both dorsal and anal fins are long and tapered extending behind the caudal peduncle (fleshy portion of the tail; Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019). Breeding adults have a white head and front half of the body, and the rear half of the body, particularly the ventral surface, is black (Page and Burr 1991). Adult males develop a nuchal hump on the forehead (Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019).

Unlike tilapia and most sunfishes, which typically have three spines on the anal fin, Rio Grande cichlids have five to seven anal-fin spines (Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019. Page and Laird 1993). In general, cichlids (Cichlidae) are superficially similar to North American native sunfishes and black basses (Lepomis and Micropterus; family Centrarchidae). Cichlids can be distinguished from centrarchids by a single nostril opening on each side of the head (vs. two openings in centrarchids) and the presence of a discontinuous or two-part lateral line (continuous in centrarchids).

Size: 30 cm TL (Kullander 2003).

Native Range: Tropical and subtropical America. Northeast Mexico and southern Texas, on the Atlantic Coast from the Río Conchos to the Río Grande basin. Native Texas range limited to the Nueces and Rio Grande drainages (Hubbs et al. 1978). Distribution maps (incomplete) given by Birkhead (1980), Conkel (1993), and Page and Burr (1991).

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 Herichthys cyanoguttatus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AZ196920224Agua Fria; Lower Colorado Region; Lower Gila-Painted Rock Reservoir; Lower Salt
FL1942202312Alafia; Caloosahatchee; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Florida Bay-Florida Keys; Florida Southeast Coast; Hillsborough; Little Manatee; Manatee; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Tampa Bay; Upper St. Johns; Vero Beach
IL198419911Lower Illinois-Lake Chautauqua
LA197720206Amite; East Central Louisiana Coastal; Eastern Louisiana Coastal; Lake Pontchartrain; Vermilion; West Central Louisiana Coastal
NV198320232Lake Mead; Las Vegas Wash
OH199719971Upper Scioto
PR200620071Eastern Puerto Rico
TX1929202343Aransas Bay; Atascosa; Austin-Travis Lakes; Buffalo-San Jacinto; Cibolo; Concho; East San Antonio Bay; Hondo; Lavaca; Llano; Lower Brazos-Little Brazos; Lower Colorado-Cummins; Lower Frio; Lower Guadalupe; Lower Nueces; Lower San Antonio; Lower West Fork Trinity; Medina; Middle Colorado-Concho; Middle Guadalupe; Mission; Navidad; North Corpus Christi Bay; North Llano; Nueces Headwaters; Pedernales; San Fernando; San Gabriel; San Marcos; San Saba; South Concho; South Corpus Christi Bay; South Llano; Spring; Turkey; Upper Frio; Upper Guadalupe; Upper Nueces; Upper San Antonio; West Fork San Jacinto; West Galveston Bay; West Matagorda Bay; West Nueces

Table last updated 6/24/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Rio Grande Cichlids occur in riffles or other areas with some degree of water flow over mixed substrate types (rocks, sand, mud, clay) in ponds, lagoons, creeks, rivers, and springs (Robertson and Winemiller 2003, Miller et al. 2005). Spawning occurs in early spring, and both parents provide parental care of eggs and fry (Birkhead 1980, Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019). This species is omnivorous (Birkhead 1980), primarily feeding on small fish, insects, and crustaceans, and adults are also known to consume large quantities of fish eggs (Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019).

The Rio Grande cichlid is generally considered a warm-water fish and is very sensitive to cold. In general, this fish does not survive at water temperatures below 49°Fahrenheit (Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019). This species is also tolerant of brackish conditions to a max of 27.5 psu (Lornez et al. 2016).

Means of Introduction: Herichthys cyanoguttatum was brought to the Guadalupe River drainage by the Fish Cultural Station, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, at San Marcos, Texas, in 1928 and released into waters on the Edwards Plateau between 1928 and 1941 or 1943 (Brown 1953; Hubbs et al. 1978). Presumably, San Antonio River stocks came from near Mission, Texas (Hubbs et al. 1978). The species reportedly was introduced into Florida from Texas stocks around 1941 by a private individual from Mulberry, Polk County. The same individual is reported as having made additional introductions at Mulberry over a period of several years (Courtenay and Hensley 1979). A fish farm may have been the source of introduction into Six Mile Creek, Hillsborough County, Florida, because this species was cultured as an aquarium fish during the 1940s and early 1950s under the trade name "Texas bluespot" (Burgess 1958; Courtenay and Hensley 1979). Some Florida introductions supposedly were due to flooding of resident fish farms (Conkel 1993). Introductions elsewhere were most likely the result of aquarium releases or fish farm escapes.

Status: Introduced and established or locally established in parts of Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. It was established locally in a power plant lake in Illinois but the species no longer is thought to be reproducing in that state (Laird and Page 1996). It was reported from Arizona and Nebraska. Formerly established in Nevada, but now considered extirpated in that state.

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...

EcologicalHuman Health

Rio Grande Cichlids were highly aggressive, both as territory holders and entering the territory of Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus; Lorenz et al. 2011), indicating potential competition for space with native centrarchids for food and spawning habitat (Lorenz et al. 2011, Culbertson 2016).

In an isolated incident, Rio Grande Cichlids where observed biting several swimmers in the Frio River, TX. The swimmers sustained several abrasions on their ankles. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assumed that the swimmers had disturbed the nests of the cichlids (Texas Chapter American Fisheries Society 2016).

Remarks: Herichtys cyanoguttatum (Rio Grande Cichlid), naturally occurring in parts of southern Texas, represents the only cichlid native to the United States. According to Courtenay et al. (1974), reports of this species at Gibsonton, Riverview, and Ruskin in Hillsborough County, Florida, by Buntz and Chapman (1970) were based on misidentifications of Jack Dempsey C. octofasciatum. Introduced Texas populations mainly occur in larger springs and spring outflows with favorable water temperatures (Hubbs et al. 1978; Birkhead 1980). It is assumed that the minimum temperature tolerance for C. cyanoguttatum in Texas is between 14.2 degrees Celsius and 19 degrees Celsius, probably closer to 14.2 degrees Celsius (Hubbs 1951).

Lorenz and O'Connell (2008) found reduced growth of Rio Grande Cichlids in the presence of Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), indicating the potential for biotic resistance and competition to minimize the impact and spread of Rio Grande Cichlids.

The Texas state record was caught at Lake Dunlap in 2011 and weighed 2.02 pounds (Texas Parks and Wildlife 2019).

Voucher specimens: Florida (UF 40190, 56196, 91892, 92197), Illinois (SIUC 10805, INHS 68039), Louisiana (SIUC 26460; UNO 9487), Texas (INHS 74255).

References: (click for full references)

Birkhead, W.S. 1980. Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum (Baird and Girard). Rio Grande perch. Page 765 in Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer Jr, eds. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History. Raleigh, NC.

Brown, W.H. 1953. Introduced fish species in the Guadalupe River Basin. Texas Journal of Science 5:245-251.

Buntz, J., and P. Chapman. 1970. A preliminary report on the increasing establishment of non-native fish in the Tampa Bay area. Unpublished Report to the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission.

Burgess, J.E. 1958. The fishes of Six Mile Creek, Hillsborough County, Florida, with particular reference to the presence of exotic species. Paper presented at the 12th annual conference of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissioners, Louisville, KY. Unpublished mimeograph.

Burr, B.M. 1991. The fishes of Illinois: an overview of a dynamic fauna. Proceedings of our living heritage symposium. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 34(4):417-427.

Conkel, D. 1993. Cichlids of North and Central America. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and D.A. Hensley. 1979. Survey of introduced non-native fishes. Phase I Report. Introduced exotic fishes in North America: status 1979. Report Submitted to National Fishery Research Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gainesville, FL.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., H.F. Sahlman, W.W. Miley, II, and D.J. Herrema. 1974. Exotic fishes in fresh and brackish waters of Florida. Biological Conservation 6(4):292-302.

Culbertson, J. 2016. Exotic fish discovered in urban bayous of Galveston Bay. https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/didyouknow/coastal/exotics.phtml. Accessed on 09/20/2016.

Grana, F. 2007. Personal communication. Puerto Rico Dept. of Natural & Environmental Resources. San Juan, PR.

Hubbs, C. 1951. Minimum temperature tolerances for fishes of the genera Signalosa and Herichthys in Texas. Copeia 1951 (4): 297.

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Hubbs, C., T. Lucier, G.P. Garrett, R.J. Edwards, S.M. Dean, E. Marsh, and D. Belk. 1978. Survival and abundance of introduced fishes near San Antonio, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 30(4):369-376.

Kibbey, M. 2000. Personal communication. Online sighting report. Ohio State University.

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.

Laird, C.A., and L.M. Page. 1996. Non-native fishes inhabiting the streams and lakes of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 35(1):1-51.

Lorenz, O.T., and M.T. O'Connell. 2008. Growth of non-native Rio Grande Cichlids (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) at different salinities and in the presence of native Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus). Journal of Freshwater Ecology 23(4):537-544.

Lorenz, O.T., M.T. O'Connell, and P.J. Schofield. 2011. Aggressive interactions between the invasive Rio Grande cichid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) and native bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), with notes on redspotted sunfish (Lepomis miniatus). Journal of Ethology 29:39-46.

Lorenz, O.T., Riccobono, S.A., and Smith, P. 2016. Effects of salinity on the survival and aggression of the invasive Rio Grande cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus). Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology 49(1):1-8.

Miller, R.R., W.L. Minckley, and S.M. Norris. 2005. Freshwater fishes of Mexico. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Page, L.M., and C.A. Laird. 1993. The identification of the nonnative fishes inhabiting Illinois waters. Report prepared by Center for Biodiversity, Illinois Natural History Survey, Champaign, for Illinois Department of Conservation, Springfield. Center for Biodiversity Technical Report 1993(4).

Robertson, M.S., and K.O. Winemiller. 2003. Habitat associations of fishes in the Devils River, Texas. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 18(1):115-127.

Texas Chapter American Fisheries Society. 2016. Fish attack swimmers in the Frio River. Personal communication: 11/01/2016

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2019. Rio Grande Cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus). https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/cichlid/. Accessed on 07/15/2019.

FishBase Summary

Author: Nico, L., Fuller, P., Neilson, M., and Daniel, W.

Revision Date: 3/31/2020

Peer Review Date: 9/20/2019

Citation Information:
Nico, L., Fuller, P., Neilson, M., and Daniel, W., 2024, Herichthys cyanoguttatus Baird and Girard, 1854: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=443, Revision Date: 3/31/2020, Peer Review Date: 9/20/2019, Access Date: 6/24/2024

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. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/24/2024].

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