Archocentrus nigrofasciatus
Archocentrus nigrofasciatus
(Convict Cichlid)
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Archocentrus nigrofasciatus (Günther, 1867)

Common name: Convict Cichlid

Synonyms and Other Names: Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum (Günther 1867), Amantitlania nigrofasciata (Günther 1867); zebra cichlid, zebra chanchito, punto rojo, punto naranja

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: In general, cichlids (Cichlidae) are superficially similar to 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 (vs. a continuous lateral line in centrarchids).

For distinguishing characteristics and figure see Page and Burr (1991). Color photographs were given in Bussing (1987), Konings (1989), and Conkel (1993). Schmitter-Soto (2007) revised the genus Archocentrus, assigning convict cichlids and three newly described species to the novel genus Amatitlania, and provided a key to closely related taxa.

Size: 10 cm SL (Kullander 2003)

Native Range: Central America, including Pacific Slope drainages of Guatemala, from Río Suchiate to Río Grande de Taracoles in northwestern Costa Rica. Atlantic Slope drainages in Central America, including Honduras, from Río Aguan to Río Guarumo in Panama (Conkel 1993). Distribution maps in Bussing (1987) and in Conkel (1993).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Several specimens were collected and observed from Little Schultz Creek, Bibb County, Alabama in September, 2011 (B. Kuhajda, personal communication). A population occupied a borrow pit of the often dry Salt River, at the eastern edge of Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona, from 1969 through 1972, but apparently was eliminated by 1973 floods; a reproducing population found in Mesa, Maricopa County, during the summer of 1970, did not overwinter (Minckley 1973). Single specimens are not uncommon. Reproducing populations may still survive in canals of the Phoenix metropolitan area and also may be established in warmer areas of the southwestern part of the state (Minckley 1973; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.). An established population was discovered in a thermal outfall flowing into the Santa Clara River, Los Angeles County, California, in 2007 (Hovey and Swift 2012; museum specimens). Additional specimens were collected/observed in Machado Lake (Los Angeles County) and Montecito Creek (Santa Barbara County), but these were failed introductions of few individuals into water outside of this species' low temperature tolerance (Hovey and Swift 2012; museum specimens). The first record from Florida was an unconfirmed report of an established population in a rock pit in northwest Miami, Dade County (Rivas 1965); however, the site's location is not known, and there are no known voucher specimens. A population was discovered in Green Pond on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Alachua County, in 1997 (G.T. Bergman, personal communication; museum specimens). The population was eradicated in 2001 (Hill and Cichra 2005). An additional sighting on the UF campus came from near Hume Pond (L. Somma, personal communication), but no additional specimens have been reported. In Hawaii the species first was reported in an irrigation ditch and a reservoir near Haleiwa, on Oahu, in 1983 (Devick 1991b; museum specimens). It was established in Nuuanu #4 Reservoir and found in the lower reaches of several windward streams on Oahu (Devick 1991b). It recently was established in Opaek'a and Kalama streams (adjacent to the North Fork of the Wailua River), on Kauai, ca. 1990 (Devick 1991a; museum specimens). Documented cases in Idaho include an established population of an amelanic form in Barney Hot Spring and the upper end of Barney Creek in Little Lost River Valley, Custer County; introduction into the site first was reported in 1985, when a sample of 19 fish (15-92 mm SL) was taken on 7 September 1985 (Courtenay et al. 1987; museum specimens). Additional reports include other creeks within the Little Lost drainage. A report produced by the Idaho Game and Fish (Fisheries Management Plan 1991-1995) listed this species as being confined to one or a few geothermal waters in the region known as Snake River drainage below Shoshone Falls, in the south central part of the state; however, that report may contain erroneous information. Numerous specimens were collected from an unnamed tributary to Big Branch Bayou in Lacombe, Louisiana, near a tropical fish farm in 2004 (K. Piller, pers. comm.) The species is established in several warm springs along the White and Moapa (Muddy) rivers and the Pahranagat Valley in southeastern Nevada. The earliest records are from Rogers Spring, near the Overton arm of Lake Mead, Clark County, dating to March 1963 (Deacon et al. 1964; Bradley and Deacon 1967; Courtenay and Deacon 1983; museum specimens). There are three springs along the White River with reported established populations, all in Lincoln County: Ash Spring and its outflow near Alamo, since June 1964; Crystal Springs since the 1970s; and Hiko Spring since about 1984 (Hubbs and Deacon 1964; Courtenay and Hensley 1979; Courtenay and Deacon 1982; Deacon and Williams 1984; Courtenay et al. 1985). In Puerto Rico, the convict cichlid has been established in areas of the Canaboncito River, the Yunes River, the Canas River and has been collected in the Carraizo Reservoir (Grana 2007). One specimen was seined from the San Marcos River below the Spring Lake dam in Hays County, Texas, on 19 September 1989 (Whiteside and Berkhouse 1992). An established population exists within Grand Teton National Park in Kelly Warm Springs, Teton County, Wyoming (museum specimens). This species was likely introduced into that site after the mid-1980s because it was not found when the site was sampled by Courtenay on 23 July 1984 (Courtenay et al. 1987).

Ecology: Convict cichlids are substrate brooders, depositing eggs on surfaces of small caves and crevices. Adults form monogamous pair bonds during spawning events, and exhibit biparental care of eggs and juvenile fishes. Convict cichlids show some degree of size assortative mate pairing, with individuals of both sexes preferring larger partners (Wisenden 1995).

Means of Introduction: As this species is popular in the aquarium trade, aquarium release is the most likely source of introduction in all instances.

Status: Established or locally established in Hawaii, Idaho, and Nevada; possibly established in Arizona, but current status unknown (Courtenay and Hensley 1979); established locally in California and Louisiana. Failed in Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Wyoming. One population eradicated in Florida.

Impact of Introduction: Mostly unknown. According to Deacon et al. (1964), C. nigrofasciatum, in combination with other foreign fishes, apparently caused the decline and extermination of a population of the native speckled dace Rhinichthys osculus near the Overton arm of Lake Mead, Nevada. Along with other foreign species, it has been implicated as a threat to the survival of the endangered White River springfish Crenichthys baileyi and other native White River fish in southeastern Nevada (Deacon and Bradley 1972; Page and Burr 1991). Tippie et al. (1991) produced experimental evidence for reduced growth and recruitment of White River springfish in the presence of convict cichlids. Introductions, in combination with other human-induced changes, caused the disappearance of all native fishes from Hiko Spring, Nevada (Courtenay et al. 1985).

Remarks: Concern exists that this aggressive cichlid will compete with native sunfishes for spawning sites (Courtenay and Hensley 1979). There was early concern that Nevada populations, if they were to become established in Lake Mead, might affect the sport fishery adversely (Deacon et al. 1964). An attempt in December 1963 to eliminate the Nevada population at Rogers Spring failed (Hubbs and Deacon 1964). Barney Creek in Idaho is a tributary of Summitt Creek; the Little Lost River Valley is an isolated, cold, high-altitude drainage whose water sinks into the sand or gravel of the Arco Desert (W. Horton, personal communication; also see Linder 1964).

Voucher specimens: California (LACM 56801.001, 56801.002, 56885.001); Florida (UF 110742, 119548, 119600); Hawaii (UF 98932, 119864, 119871, 120000); Idaho (UMMZ 213373); Nevada (UF 91894, 175046, 175057, 175063, 175065, 175066; UMMZ 189545, 189554); Wyoming (UF 116050).

References: (click for full references)

Bradley, W.G. and J.E. Deacon. 1967. The biotic communities of southern Nevada. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers No. 13, Part 4. 201-273.

Bussing, W.A. 1987. Peces de las aguas continentales de Costa Rica. Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose.

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

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and J.E. Deacon. 1982. Status of introduced fishes in certain spring systems in southern Nevada. Great Basin Naturalist 42(3):361-366.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and J.E. Deacon. 1983. Fish introductions in the American southwest: a case history of Rogers Spring, Nevada. Southwestern Naturalist 28:221-224.

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., J.E. Deacon, D.W. Sada, R.C. Allan, and G.L. Vinyard. 1985. Comparative status of fishes along the course of the pluvial White River, Nevada. Southwestern Naturalist 30:503-524.

Deacon, J.E., and W.G. Bradley. 1972. Ecological distribution of fishes of Moapa (Muddy) River in Clark County, Nevada. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 101(3):408-419.

Deacon, J.E., and J.E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103-118.

Deacon, J.E., C. Hubbs, and B.J. Zahuranec. 1964. Some effects of introduced fishes on the native fish fauna of southern Nevada. Copeia 1964(2):384-388.

Devick, W.S. 1991a. Disturbances and fluctuations in the Wahiawa Reservoir ecosystem. Project F-14-R-15, Job 4, Study I. Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Devick, W.S. 1991b. Patterns of introductions of aquatic organisms to Hawaiian freshwater habitats. Pages 189-213 in new directions in research, management and conservation of Hawaiian freshwater stream ecosystems. Proceedings of the 1990 symposium on freshwater stream biology and fisheries management, Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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

Hill, J.E., and C.E. Cichra. 2005. Eradication of a reproducing population of convict cichlids, Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum (Cichlidae), in north-central Florida. Florida Scientist 68: 65-74.

Horton, W. - Staff Biologist, Idaho Fish & Game, Boise, ID.

Hovey, T.E., and C.C. Swift. 2012. First record of an established population of the convict cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus) in California. California Fish and Game 98(2):125-128.

Hubbs, C., and J.E. Deacon. 1964. Additional introductions of tropical fishes into southern Nevada. Southwest Naturalist 9:249-251.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1990. Fisheries Management Plan 1991-1995. Appendix I - A list of Idaho fishes and their distribution by drainage. Idaho Fish and Game.

Konings, A. 1989. Cichlids from Central America. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

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.

Linder, A.D. 1964. The guppy, Lebistes reticulatus (Peters), from a hot spring in Idaho. Copeia 1964(4):708-709.

Minckley, W.L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

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.

Piller, K. - Southeastern Louisiana University.

Rivas, L.R. 1965. Florida fresh water fishes and conservation. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Science 28(3):255-258.

Schmitter-Soto, J.J. 2007. A systematic revision of the genus Archocentrus (Perciformes: Cichlidae), with the description of two new genera and six new species. Zootaxa 1603:1-78.

Tippie, D., J.E. Deacon, and C.-H. Ho. 1991. Effects of convict cichlids on growth and recruitment of White River springfish. Great Basin Naturalist 51(3):256-260.

Whiteside, B.G., and C. Berkhouse. 1992. Some new collection locations for six fish species. Texas Journal of Science 44(4):494.

Wisenden, B.D. 1995. Reproductive behaviour of free-ranging convict cichlids, Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum. Environmental Biology of Fishes 43:121-134.

Other Resources:
FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 7/31/2013

Peer Review Date: 2/10/2016

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Archocentrus nigrofasciatus (Günther, 1867): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 7/31/2013, Peer Review Date: 2/10/2016, Access Date: 1/24/2018

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.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [1/24/2018].

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