Cichla ocellaris
Cichla ocellaris
(Butterfly Peacock Bass)
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Cichla ocellaris Bloch and Schneider, 1801

Common name: Butterfly Peacock Bass

Synonyms and Other Names: pavón, tucunaré, tuc, peacock bass, butterfly peacock, tucunare comun, eyespot cichlid, lukanani

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Currently, systematists recognize five Cichla species; however, taxonomic problems still exist, and several species require description (Kullander and Nijssen 1989). The genus is currently being revised by Sven Kullander of Sweden. Willis et al. (2007) published results of molecular inquiry into systematic relationships within Cichla. Many fish currently called C. ocellaris by state resource agencies may be members of another Cichla species or possibly hybrids. Photographs of C. ocellaris, or of closely related forms, appeared in Kullander and Nijssen (1989), Axelrod (1993), and in Larsen (1993).

Size: 70 cm TL.

Native Range: Tropical America. Although the genus Cichla is widespread in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, true Cichla ocellaris apparently is restricted to the Guianas (Kullander 1986; Kullander and Nijssen 1989).

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Nonindigenous Occurrences: A single fish, tentatively identified as this species, was caught by a fisherman in the Wellton-Mohawk Canal near Yuma, Arizona, in September 2010 (Gilbert 2010). Fish identified as this species were introduced into southeastern Florida in the early 1960s (Moe 1964; Courtenay et al. 1974; Courtenay and Robins 1989); additional stockings were carried out in canals in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, starting in 1984 (Larsen 1993; Shafland 1995). To date, it has been recorded from more than ten Florida canals and many of their lateral extensions, including C-51 Canal in Palm Beach County, Cypress Creek Canal (C-14 Canal), Middle River Canal (C-13 Canal), North New River Canal (G-15 Canal), South New River Canal (C-11 Canal); Snake Creek Canal (C-9 Canal), Biscayne Canal (C-8 Canal), Miami Canal (C-6 Canal), Snapper Creek Canal (C-2 Canal), Cutler Canal (C-100 Canal), Black Creek Canal (C-1 Canal), Princeton Canal (C-102 Canal), Mowry Canal (C-103 Canal), and Tamiami Canal (C-4 Canal), and from lakes near Miami International Airport (Clugston 1990; Larsen 1993; Hidalgo 1997; Shafland et al. 2008). It was discovered in Canal C-111 along the eastern border of Everglades National Park in early 1997 (Nico, unpublished data). Collected in a lake in Miami-Dade county (Klinkenberg 1993). The species also may be present north to Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County (Larsen 1993). In Hawaii, there were two or more releases into reservoirs on Kauai and Oahu, starting in 1961 (Maciolek 1984; Larsen 1993). This species is established in Wahiawa Reservoir, a 350-acre, privately owned irrigation reservoir on Oahu (Devick 1991, 1992; Larsen 1993). It was introduced along with speckled pavon Cichla temensis into five electropower plant reservoirs in Texas between 1978 and 1984: Alcoa Reservoir, Milam County; Lake Bastrop, Bastrop County; Coleto Creek Reservoir, Goliad County; Wilkes Reservoir, Upshur County; and Tradinghouse Creek Reservoir, McLennan County. All fish ultimately died as a result of temperature extremes (Garrett 1982; Clugston 1990; Howells and Garrett 1992).

Peacock cichlids have also been stocked for sport fishing throughout farm ponds and reservoirs in Puerto Rico, including the Toa Vaca Reservoir and La Plata Reservoir (Erdsman 1984; Welcomme 1988), and were stocked in Guam in 1966 (Welcomme 1988)

Ecology: Members of the genus Cichla are large, diurnal piscivores that consume a wide variety of prey (Winemiller et al. 1997). Cichla ocellaris is a pair-forming substrate spawner, with spawning occurring on flat surfaces and newly hatched larvae moved by the parents to nests in small shallow depressions in the sediment or on rocks or logs (Zaret 1980)

Means of Introduction: Peacock cichlids have been stocked by state agencies as a sport fish. The Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission obtained breeding stock from several regions of South America. The progeny were released into open waters primarily as a sport fish, but also with the hope that it would prey on and thus control other introduced cichlids (Courtenay and Robins 1989; Shafland 1995). About 10,000 juveniles were released in the Fort Lauderdale area of Dade County, Florida, in 1964 (Moe 1964), but apparently those fish did not survive the cold winter of 1964-1965 (Courtenay et al. 1974; Courtenay and Robins 1989). More recent introductions into canals in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, starting in late 1984, resulted in established populations (Larsen 1993; Shafland 1995). The Hawaiian Division of Fish and Game obtained their broodstock from an aquatic supply dealer in New York, ca. 1957 (Kanayama 1968). These fish reportedly came from Guyana (Larsen 1993). The first Texas populations were released by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 1978. Texas stock came from Colombia and possibly Brazil, and from the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. The single fish reported from Arizona was likely an aquarium release or illegal stocking, as no authorized stocking of this fish has occurred in that state.

Status: Established in south Florida (Courtenay and Robins 1989; Shafland 1995), Guam (Welcomme 1988), Hawaii (Maciolek 1984), and Puerto Rico (Erdman 1984). Shafland (1996) indicated that fishable populations of peacock cichlid in Florida exist in more than 500 km of canals, plus numerous urban lakes in the metropolitan Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area. The range of this species in Florida is limited by cold winters that restrict it to the southernmost counties and exclude it from much of the Everglades. Extirpated in Texas: some Cichla populations in Texas survived and reproduced for a brief period, but by 1992 all fish had died. For the most part, Cichla species are unable to survive cold winters, although evidence indicated fish in one Texas reservoir succumbed to high summer temperatures (Garrett 1982; Courtenay and Robins 1989; Howells and Garrett 1992). Unknown, but likely failed, in Arizona.

Impact of Introduction: Largely unknown. Introduced Cichla in Florida include native fishes in their diets (Nico, unpublished data) although Shafland (1999) claimed no evidence for adverse effects on native communities. There is some evidence that it may exclude largemouth bass from spawning aread in Florida canals. The introduction of peacock cichlids into Lake Gatun, Panama, was followed by largescale changes in food-web structure and aquatic community composition (Zaret and Paine 1973).

Remarks: Selected voucher specimens: Florida (NCSM 28183, 29045, 29049, 29070, 29687; UF 92181, 96428, 100494, 100731, 162704, 174351, 174387)

References: (click for full references)

Axelrod, H.R. 1993. The most complete colored lexicon of cichlids. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Clugston, J.P. 1990. Exotic animals and plants in aquaculture. Reviews in Aquatic Sciences 2(3):481-489.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and C.R. Robins. 1989. Fish introductions: good management, mismanagment, or no management? CRC Critical Reviews in Aquatic Sciences 1(1):159-172.

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.

Devick, W.S. 1991. 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. 1992. The great piranha hunt. Hawaii Fishing News 17(10)6-7.

Erdman, D.S. 1984. Exotic fishes in Puerto Rico. 162-176 in W.R. Courtenay, Jr., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Distribution, biology, and management of exotic fishes. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Garrett, G.P. 1982. Status report on peacock bass (Cichla sp.) in Texas. Presented at the Annual Proceedings of the Texas Chapter, American Fisheries Society.

Gilbert, J. 2010. Dead shark, illegal fish found in Yuma canals. Yuma Sun. Created on 11/23/2010. Accessed on 12/13/2010.

Hidalgo, C. 1997. South Florida's peacock bass. CatFish Books, Inc, Tamarac, FL.

Howells, R.G., and G.P. Garrett. 1992. Status of some exotic sport fishes in Texas waters. Texas Journal of Science 44(3):317-324.

Kanayama, R.K. 1968. Hawaii's aquatic animal introductions. Proceedings of the Annual Conference of Western Association State Game and Fish Commissioners 47:123-131.

Klinkenberg, M. 1993. Record peacock bass is caught. Miami Herald. March 17:10D.

Kullander, S.O. 1986. Cichlid fishes of the Amazon River drainage of Peru. Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, Sweden.

Kullander, S.O., and H. Nijssen. 1989. The cichlids of Surinam, Teleostei: Labroidei. E. J. Brill, New York, NY.

Larsen, L. 1993. Peacock bass explosions! Larsen's Outdoor Publishing, Lakeland, FL.

Maciolek, J.A. 1984. Exotic fishes in Hawaii and other islands of Oceania. 131-161 in W.R. Courtenay, Jr., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Distribution, biology, and management of exotic fishes. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Moe, M.A. 1964. Survival potential of piranhas in Florida. Quarterly Journal of the Florida Academy of Sciences 27:197-210.

Shafland, P.L. 1995. Introduction and establishment of a successful butterfly peacock fishery in southeast Florida canals. American Fisheries Society Symposium 15:443-445.

Shafland, P.L. 1996. Exotic fishes of Florida – 1994. Reviews in Fisheries Science 4(2):101-122.

Shafland, P.L. 1999. The introduced butterfly peacock (Cichla ocellaris) in Florida. I. Fish community analyses. Reviews in Fisheries Science 7(2):71–94.

Shafland, P.L., K.B. Gestring, and M.S. Stanford. 2008. Florida’s exotic freshwater fishes—2007. Florida Scientist 72:220-245.

Welcomme, R.L. 1988. International introductions of inland aquatic species. FAO Fisheries Technical Paper 294. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Italy.

Willis, S.C., M.S. Nunes, C.G. Monta, I.P. Farias, and N.R. Lovejoy. 2007. Systematics, biogeography, and evolution of the Neotropical peacock basses Cichla (Perciformes: Cichlidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 44:291-307.

Winemiller, K.O., D.C. Taphorn, and A. Barbarino-Duque. 1997. Ecology of Cichla (Cichlidae) in two blackwater rivers of southern Venezuela. Copeia 1997(4):690-696.

Zaret, T.M. 1980. Life history and growth relationships of Cichla ocellaris, a predatory South American cichlid. Biotropica 12(2):144-157.

Zaret, T.M., and R.T. Paine. 1973. Species introduction in a tropical lake. Science 182:449-455.

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 5/3/2013

Peer Review Date: 2/10/2016

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Cichla ocellaris Bloch and Schneider, 1801: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 5/3/2013, Peer Review Date: 2/10/2016, Access Date: 3/22/2018

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 [3/22/2018].

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