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 melanura
Vieja melanura
(Redhead Cichlid)

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Vieja melanura (Günther, 1862)

Common name: Redhead Cichlid

Synonyms and Other Names: Cichlasoma synspilum Hubbs, 1935; Ciclaurus hicklingi Fowler, 1956; Vieja synspila (Hubbs, 1935); Paraneetroplus synspilus (Hubbs, 1935); pastel cichlid, quetzal cichlid

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: In general, cichlids (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). The species is included in identification keys of Greenfield and Thomerson (1997). Konings (1989) and Conkel (1993) discussed color variants and provided photographs. Photographs also appeared in Axelrod (1993).

Size: 30 cm (Conkel 1993).

Native Range: Tropical America. Atlantic Slope of Middle America including southern Mexico (Usumarinata River basin), Guatemala, and Belize (Conkel 1993; Greenfield and Thomerson 1997).

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 melanura are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL200120243Everglades; Florida Southeast Coast; Little Manatee
SD199319931Middle Cheyenne-Elk

Table last updated 6/19/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The Redhead Cichlid inhabits lakes and the lower river valley with a slight tolerance for the brackish environment (Froese and Pauly, 2012). This species is found in tropical waters with temperatures ranging from 24–30 °C. It produces a maximum of 1,000 eggs, and sexual maturity is reached at 10 cm (Froese and Pauly, 2012).

Means of Introduction: Probable aquarium release.

Status: Failed in South Dakota; established in Florida and Puerto Rico.

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.

Remarks: Voucher specimens: South Dakota (UF 96525).

References: (click for full references)

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

Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. 2017. EDDMapS: Early detection and distribution mapping system. The University of Georgia, Tifton, GA. http://www.eddmaps.org.

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

Froese, R., and D. Pauly (eds). 2012. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. Available from: http://www.fishbase.org.  Version (08/2012).

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

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

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

FishBase Summary

Author: Nico, L.G., and Neilson, M.E.

Revision Date: 8/3/2017

Peer Review Date: 8/7/2013

Citation Information:
Nico, L.G., and Neilson, M.E., 2024, Vieja melanura (Günther, 1862): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=451, Revision Date: 8/3/2017, Peer Review Date: 8/7/2013, Access Date: 6/19/2024

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 [6/19/2024].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted.

For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.