Peacock Bass

Peacock Bass Research

Peacock Bass, Cichla Monoculus

There is controversy about the scientific classifications of the members of the Cichlid family known popularly in English as Peacock Bass, in Brazil and Perú as Tucunaré or in Venezuela and Columbia as Pavon. This is partially due to the changing patters of color, stripes, and spots caused by progressive maturity, the breeding season, the water color and depth the fish lives in, and partially because the scientific study of Peacock Bass in the Amazon River watershed is years behind the study of fish in the United States and Europe.

There are generally accepted to be 4 or 5 species, but with the possibility that there may be 10 to 15 species. Are they hybrids or sub species? This question will most likely be resolved by DNA testing in the near future.

This is an excellent field research project for fish biologists looking to publish and make a name for themselves, particularly in the upper Amazon of Peru, where little research has been done.
Genetic Research

A study published in Molecular and Genetic Research titled, Evidence for a natural hybrid of peacock bass (Cichla monoculus vs Cichla temenses) based on esterase electophoretic patterns, makes a strong case for natural hybrids and more species of Peacock Bass than is currently recognized.

“Peacock bass, locally known as tucunarés, fish belonging to the order Perciformes, family Cichlidae, genus Cichla, are very valuable in the socio-economic terms, being among the most common fish species caught and marketed in the Amazonian regions. The genus Cichla is represented by five species: Cichla ocellaris Scheneider 1801, in the Venezuelan Amazon; Cichla monoculus Spix 1831, possibly throughout the Central Amazon, Cichla teminsis Humboldt 1833, found in the Orinoco, Negro, and Tapajós Rivers, Cichla orinocencis Humboldt 1833, in the Orinoco and Negro Rivers, and Cichla intermedia Machado’Allison 1971, in the Casiquiare River, (upper Negro River) and mid Orinoco River, (Kullander, 1983, 1986). However, in addition to these preveiously described five species, there may be others in the region, with the possibility of their total number reaching up to 15, (Ferreira, E.J.G.).”

Physical Characteristics

However many species, their physical characteristics are similar and easy to recognize. The most obvious is the “peacock” false eye on their caudal fin. It is a black spot haloed by a silver, yellow, or gold circle. They are beautiful fish colored gold, olive green, orange, and striped or spotted with black.

They have a deeply notched dorsal fin, a large mouth with the lower jaw extending beyond the upper jaw. The upper fins are gray or black, the lower ones are orange, and the stomach is white.

Peacock Bass feed during the day using high speed pursuit to capture prey. Most feeding occurs in the morning. Like most Ciclids, they are inactive at night. They do best in water stained black with tannic acid, below 6.5 ph with no sediment.

Prespawn and Spawn Behavior

A sexually mature male will have a pronounced hump of fatty tissue on the top of its forehead. After spawning the hump will gradually recede.

During the courting display the male will dig a shallow depression or nest with steep sloping sides to contain the larvae. Then the male and female will fan and clear a smooth area near the nest. The female lays an average of 5,000 eggs in rows, followed by the male giving off sperm that drifts down over the eggs to fertilize them. The eggs are constantly fanned by the female and develop into larvae in around two days. Only around 50 of the eggs will ultimately survive into adulthood.

Post Spawn Behavior

As the eggs hatch the male takes the fry in his mouth and deposits them in the nest. The larvae have sticky mucus on their heads that allow them to stick to the floor of the nest. At night the parents lower themselves over the nest and stand guard over their offspring. The fry become free swimming in about three days after hatching. The fry stay in a close cloud formation eating zooplankton near the surface of the water with the parents guarding their young for up to two and a half months.


As the fry grow to the fingerling stage they move off to shallow cover on their own and move up the food chain from small insects and freshwater shrimp to larger insects and small minnows. After 6 months they form an aggressive school and move out to more open water attacking larger fish.

The Butterfly Peacock Bass attains a maximum size of 11 to 12 pounds, compared to the Speckled Peacock Bass which can grow to over 30 pounds, and become one of the top predators in the Amazon waters. Peacock Bass fishing is one of the fastest growing segments of the sport fishing world.

To learn more about Peacock Bass follow this link to the Peacock Bass Association

Peacock Bass Research

Bill Grimes, President of Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises

Another good article about Peacock Bass Fishing