Rocio octofasciata
Rocio octofasciata
(Jack Dempsey)
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Rocio octofasciata (Regan, 1903)

Common name: Jack Dempsey

Synonyms and Other Names: Cichlasoma biocellatum Regan 1909, C. hedricki Meek 1904, C. octofasciatum (Regan 1903); mojarra castarrica, riquiraqui (Kullander 2003).

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: 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 in centrarchids) and the presence of a discontinuous or two-part lateral line (continuous in centrarchids).

The species is included in identification keys of Greenfield and Thomerson (1997). For distinguishing characteristics and figure see Page and Burr (1991). Color photographs appeared in Konings (1989) and in Conkel (1993). Schmitter-Soto (2007), in a revision of the genus Archocentrus, erected the genus Rocio for this and two newly described species, and provided a key to related genera.

Size: 25 cm SL (Kullander 2003)

Native Range: Tropical America. Atlantic Slope drainages in Middle America from Río Paso San Juan, Veracruz, Mexico, south to the Río Ulua basin in Honduras (Greenfield and Thomerson 1997).

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Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Three specimens were taken from Lafayette Creek, Contra Costa County, California, in 1986 (A.J. Cordone, personal communication; museum specimens). Specimens 6-15 cm long have been taken from major drainages in Connecticut (Whitworth 1996). One specimen was collected in Jackson Reservoir, Colorado (Walker personal communication 2010). This species has been found in several canals, ditches, and quarry ponds in various parts of Florida in Brevard, Broward, Hillsborough, Indian River, Levy, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties, as well as an isolated population on the University of Florida campus in Alachua county (Courtenay et al. 1974; Hogg 1976a, b; Courtenay and Hensley 1979; Levine et al. 1979; Dial and Wainright 1983; Gilmore et al. 1983; Jennings 1986; Shafland et al. 2008; J.D. Williams, pers. comm.; J. Krebs, pers. comm; museum specimens). Courtenay et al. (1974) reported established populations near fish farms west of Lantana, Palm Beach County, but the species was not found during a 1978 survey (Courtenay and Hensley 1979); recently a nearby population was discovered but its status is uncertain (P. Schofield, personal communication). An isolated population formerly in a rock pit in southern Levy County was eradicated in 1977 (Levine et al. 1979; Courtenay and Hensley 1979). This species is also established on the island of Oahu, Hawaii (Devick 1991). Jack Dempsey is also locally established in the Fall River in Hot Springs, South Dakota (Minerich personal communication 2009).

Means of Introduction: Likely aquarium release in most cases, with the possibility of aquaculture escape in areas of Florida adjacent to current or former aquaculture production facilities.

Status: Locally established in South Dakota; established in Hawaii. In Florida, extirpated in Alachua County; unknown in other counties. Failed in California, Colorado, and Connecticut.

Impact of Introduction: The omnivorous, opportunistic feeding behavior of the Jack Dempsey should enhance its survival in areas where it is introduced (Jennings 1986). 

Remarks: Juvenile fish from the vicinities of Gibsonton, Riverview, and Ruskin in Hillsborough County, identified as Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum by Buntz and Chapman (1970), were actually this species (Courtenay et al. 1974). This highly aggressive and combative species possibly competes with native sunfishes for food and spawning sites. A report of convict cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus) near Hume Pond on the University of Florida campus in 2002 may have been this species (L. Somma, personal communication). Based on its abundance ans success in seasonal karst wetlands in Yucatan and Belize (Zambrano et al. 2006), it may be preadapted to Everglades ecosystem wetlands if ever introduced there.

Shafland et al. (2008) lists this species as 'formerly reproducing' in Florida due to the intermittent nature of collections.

Rocio octofasciata is also introduced in Australia (Welcomme 1988), Russia (Zworykin and Pashkov 2010), and Thailand (Nico et al. 2007).

Museum records – California (LACM 44336.001); Florida (UF 29846-7, 91878, 100550, and many others; UMMZ 200778).

References: (click for full references)

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.

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

Cordone, A.J. - Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, CA. Response to NBS-G non-indigenous questionnaire. 1992.

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.

Devick, W.S. 1991. Disturbance and fluctuations in theWahiawa Reservoir ecosustem.  Project number F-14-R-15, Job 4 Study I. Division of Aquatic Resources, Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Dial, R.S., and S.C. Wainright. 1983. New distributional records for non-native fishes in Florida. Florida Scientist 46(1):8-15.

Gilmore, R.G., P.A. Hastings, and D.J. Herrema. 1983. Ichthyofaunal additions to the Indian River Lagoon and adjacent waters east-central Florida. Florida Scientist 46:22-30.

Greenfield, D.M. and J.E. Thomerson. 1997. Fishes of the continental waters of Belize. University Press of Florida. Gainesville, FL.

Hogg, R.G. 1976a. Ecology of fishes of the family Cichlidae introduced into the fresh waters of Dade County, Florida. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL.

Hogg, R.G. 1976b. Established exotic cichlid fishes in Dade County, Florida. Florida Scientist 39(2):97-103.

Jennings, D.P. 1986. Characterization of a localized Jack Dempsey, Cichlasoma octofasciatum, population in Alachua County, Florida. Florida Scientist 49(4):255-259.

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.

Levine, D.S., J.T. Krummrich, and P.L. Shafland. 1979. Renovation of a borrow pit in Levy County, Florida, containing Jack Dempseys (Cichlasoma octofasciatum). Non-native Fish Research Laboratory, Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, Boca Raton, FL. Contribution 21.

Minerich, S. 2009. Personal communication. South Dakota DENR.

Nico, L.G., W.H. Beamish, and P. Musikasinthorn. 2007. Discovery of the invasive Mayan cichlid fish "Cichlasoma" urophthalmus (Günther 1862) in Thailand, with comments on other introductions and potential impacts. Aquatic Invasions 2(3):197-214.

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.

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.

Schofield, P.J. 2013. Personal communication. USGS, SESC, Gainesville, FL.

Shafland, P.L., K.B. Gestring, and M.S. Stanford. 2008. Florida's exotic freshwater fishes - 2007. Florida Scientist 71(3):220-245.

Walker, P.G. 2010. Personal communication. Colorado DNR-Division of Wildlife, Aquatic Health Program. Brush, CO.

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.

Whitworth, W.R. 1996. Freshwater fishes of Connecticut. State Geological and Natural History Survey of Connecticut, Bulletin 114.

Zambrano, L., E. Vazquez-Dominguez, D. Garcia-Bedova, W.F. Loftus, and J.C. Trexler. 2006. Fish community structure in freshwater karstic wetlands of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwater 17:193-206.

Zworykin, D.D., and A.N. Pashkov. 2010. Eight-striped Cichlasoma—an allochthonous species of cichlid fish (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from Staraya Kuban Lake. Russian Journal of Biological Invasions 1(1):1-6.

Other Resources:
FishBase Fact Sheet

Author: Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 7/8/2015

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, and Matt Neilson, 2017, Rocio octofasciata (Regan, 1903): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 7/8/2015, Access Date: 11/21/2017

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. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [11/21/2017].

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