Cichla: A Brief Overview of Taxonomy, Natural Distribution and Captive CareCichla
species are the largest cichlids in South America. Most information on maximum size is imprecise, however. The largest specimen reliably recorded is Machado's (1971) 62 cm SL C. orinocensis, but C. temensis probably reaches about one meter in length.
Cichla is easily distinguished from all other South American cichlids by the shape of the dorsal fin: the spines increase in length to about the 5th, after which there is a gradual decrease to a very short penultimate spine. The soft fin is again about as high as the anterior spinous part. The mouth is large, with prominent jaws, the lower jaw prognathous and the maxilla well exposed. The triacanth anal fin is small and densely scaled in adults. From about 100 mm SL a prominent ocellus is formed on the caudal fin base. The colour pattern is otherwise variable ontogenetically and between individuals. At larger sizes colour pattern can be used to identify species, and in particular breeding colouration is species specific.
The bilateral elements of the lower pharyngeal jaw are separate posteriorly and extensively covered by fine teeth. A series of small tooth plates on the 4th ceratobranchial. On the first gill arch there are 7 or 8 epibranchial gill rakers, one in the angle, and 17 to 19 cerato- and hypobranchial rakers, all strongly denticulate, those caudally on the ceratobranchial long, gradually shorter towards arch articulations, anterior 3-5 becoming plate like in large specimens. Microbranchiospines, with a few spines on the exposed face, are present on both sides of all gill arches in adults, only externally in young. Two supraneurals, 35-36 vertebrae (usually 1-2 more abdominal than caudal).
The lateralis canal system of the head includes 7 preopercular and 5 dentary foramina; the suborbital series includes 7 bones, the lacrimal and the plate like first infraorbital forming a unit with together 5 lateralis foramina, remaining infraorbitals tubular. The flank lateral line is commonly continuous; tubed lateral line sequences on caudal fin are long, positioned between rays D3 and D4, and V4 and V5. The lip folds are discontinuous symphysially, the upper and lower lips narrowly connected ventrally on the maxilla ('African type' lips). The preoperculum is entire.See Stiassny (1982, 1987) and Kullander (1986, 1988) for discussions on generic characters and phylogenetic relationships. The taxonomy of the synonym Acharnes is discussed in Kullander (1981).I. Included Species
- Cichla temensis, Humboldt, 1821
- Cichla orinocensis, Humboldt, 1821
- Cichla monoculus, Agassiz, 1831
- Cichla ocellaris, Schneider, 1801
- Cichla intermedia, Machado-Allison, 1971
Of the 15 nominal species referrable to the genus, five are currently
recognized as valid following the review by Kullander (1986) and Kullander & Nijssen (1989): C. ocellaris, C. orinocensis Humboldt, C. temensis Humboldt, C. intermedia Machado-Allison, and C. monoculus Agassiz. Studies in progress suggest, however, that Cichla has at least 12 species.
Cichla ocellaris is generally regarded as a very variable species with wide distribution, but non-Guianan records are mostly for C. monoculus (Kullander 1986) or C. orinocensis (as in Machado 1971). Cichla temensis, C. orinocensis (as C. ocellaris) and C. intermedia were recently described in some detail by Machado (1971), C. monoculus by Kullander (1986), and C. ocellaris by Kullander & Nijssen (1989).Cichla temensis
C. temensis is by far the largest representative of the peacockbass. Their natural range extends over much of South America. These giants can attain lenths of 30+ inches, and weigh over 25 pounds. Temensis have three dark bars along the body, no ocelli on the sides or at the base of the second dorsal are present. Dark speckling or even slight striping from the eye to the end of the opercular bone.Cichla orinocensis
, Cichla sp. 'Venezuela'
The orinocensis is found mainly in the upper Rio Negro and associated tributaries such as the Rio Jau and Rio Branco in northern Brazil, and all throughout the Rio Orinoco drainage.
The orinocensis is probably the most misunderstood and misidentified species of the genus. These fish can reach lenghts of 30 inches and weigh 20 pounds. They have three distinct ocelli or rossetes. No dark banding along the body, and no black markings are present on the cheek.Cichla monoculus
C. monoculus is perhaps the most widely distributed species of Cichla next to temensis. Its natural range encompasses the entire Amazon River. C. monoculus grows to 2 feet on average, and can weigh as much as 18 pounds. They have short dorsal bars that do not go below the lateral line, and no cheek markings. No ocelli at the base of the second dorsal.
Further information is available in this excellent WaterWolves Species Profile:>> WaterWolves Species Profile: Cichla monoculus Cichla ocellaris
Cichla ocellaris is known as the butterfly peacock bass. This species has become established in parts of Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. They exhibit no black markings on the cheek. C. ocellaris will exhibit a rosette or ocellus on the third bar under the second dorsal. Most will have dark red eyes, but this is not a defineing characteristic. Cichla intermedia
The barred peacock bass is found in faster flowing waters and only found in the Orinoco drainage. This is the smallest representative of the genus, with adults reaching 18 inches in length and weighing around 6 pounds. This species has up to eight bars along its body, with a mid-body stripe as well. Cichal sp."Xingu"
The peacock bass of the Xingu are known simply as yellow tucunare. Despite an appearance similar to that of Cichla monoculus, it displays characteristics totally different from those of the yellow, common to the South Central region of Brazil. The yellow peacock bass of the Xingu River, as a juvenile, displays numerous spots and is dark. As the fish grows in size, the spots begin to disappear, leaving in their place stripes, adding up to as many as 10 bands. In the adult stage, the fish loses all of its bands and turns completely yellow. The fish of the Xingu is a new species (without a scientific name), that is being described in a revision of the genus Cichla, being undertaken by Dr. Sven Kullander (a Swedish ichthyologist), in collaboration with Dr. Efrem Ferreira (associated with INPA, Brazilian National Institute of Amazon Research.
"xingu II" II. Natural Distribution
Cichla are found throughout the Amazon and have been introduced as a game fish in other countries.Orinoco River
With a length of 2,141 km, the Orinoco is one of the largest rivers of South America. It flows through Venezuela, having its source in Parima on the Brazilian frontier, and from there making a wide arc, first flowing southwest, then west, north and finally northeast, into the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Paria.
At its mouth it forms a wide delta that branches off into hundreds of rivers and waterways that flow through 41,000 km of swampy forests. In the rainy season it can swell to a breadth of 22 kilometres and a depth of 100 meters. Most of the important Venezuelan rivers are tributaries of the Orinoco, the largest being the Caroni, which joins the Orinoco at Puerto Ordaz, close to the Llovizna Falls. The river is navigable for most of its length, and dredging enables ocean ships to go as far as Ciudad Bolí¶¡r, 435 km upstream. You can find it at about 9 degrees north (latitude) and 60 degrees west (longitude).
A peculiarity of the Orinoco river system is the Casiquiare canal, which starts as an arm of the Orinoco, and finds its way to the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon, thus forming a 'natural canal' between the Orinoco and the Amazon.Rio Negro
Rio Negro is the largest left tributary of the Amazon and the largest blackwater river in the world, has its sources along the watershed between the Orinoco and the Amazon basins, and also connects with the Orinoco by way of the Casiquiare canal. Its main affluent is Vaupé³¬ which disputes with the headwaters of the Guaviare branch of the Orinoco the drainage of the eastern slope of the Andes of Colombia.
The Amazon and Rio Negro join near Manaus. The muddy Amazon is laden with silt carried down from the Andes, the darker Rio Negro has its source in a region with little sedimentRio Negro is navigable for 450 miles above its mouth for 4 feet of water in the dry season, but it has many sandbanks and minor difficulties. In the wet season, it overflows the country far and wide, sometimes to a breadth of 20 miles, for long distances, and for 400 miles up, as far as Santa Isabella, is a succession of lagoons, full of long islands and intricate channels, and the slope of the country is so gentle that the river has almost no current. But just before reaching the Vaupé³¬ there is a long series of reefs, over which it violently flows in cataracts, rapids and whirlpools. The Vaupé³ is full of similar obstacles, some fifty rapids barring its navigation, although a long stretch of its upper course is said to be free from them, and to flow gently through a forested country. Despite the impediments, canoes ascend this stream to the Andes.
While the name Rio Negro means Black River, its waters aren't exactly black, they are similar in color to clear tea.Rio Tocantins
The Tocantins is a river, the central fluvial artery of Brazil. Running from south to north for a distance of about 1500 miles, it is not really a branch of the Amazon River, although usually so considered, since its waters flow into the Atlantic Ocean alongside those of the Amazon.
It rises in the mountainous district known as the Pyreneos; but its more ambitious western affluent, the Araguay, has its extreme southern headwaters on the slopes of the Serra Cayapo, and flows a distance of 1080 miles before its junction with the parent stream, which it appears almost to equal in volume. Besides its main tributary, the Rio das Mortes, it has twenty smaller branches, offering many miles of canoe navigation. In finding its way to the lowlands, it breaks frequently into waterfalls and rapids, or winds violently through rocky gorges, until, at a point about 100 miles above its junction with the Tocantins, it saws its way across a rocky dyke for 12 miles in roaring cataracts.Rio Xingu
The Xingu River in Brazil is a tributary of the Amazon River.
It was little known until it was explored in 1884 - 1887 by Karl von den Steinen from Cuyaba. Travelling east, 240 miles, he found the river Tamitatoaba, 180 feet wide, flowing from a lake 25 miles in diameter. He descended this torrential stream to the river Romero, 1300 feet wide, entering from the west, which receives the river Colisu. These three streams form the Xingu, or Parana-xingu, which, from 73 miles lower down, bounds along a succession of rapids for 400 miles. A little above the head of navigation, 105 miles from its mouth, the river makes a bend to the east to find its way across a rocky barrier. Here is the great cataract of Itamaraca, which rushes down an inclined plane for 3 miles and then gives a final leap, called the fall of Itamaraca. Near its mouth, the Xingu expands into an immense lake, and its waters then mingle with those of the Amazon through a labyrinth of eanos (natural canals), winding in countless directions through a wooded archipelago.Rio Tapajó³›¯u]
The Tapajó³¬ a Brazilian river running through a humid, hot and unhealthy valley, pours into the Amazon River 500 miles above Pará ¡nd is about 1200 miles long.
It rises on the lofty Brazilian plateau near Diamantino in 14 degrees 25' southers latitude. Near this place a number of streams unite to form the river Arinos, which at latitude 10 degrees 25' joins the Juruena to form the Alto Tapajó³¬ so called as low down as the Rio Manoel, entering from the east.
Thence to Santaré the stream is known as the Tapajó³® The lower Arinos, the Alto Tapajos and the Tapajos to the last rapid, the Maranhã¯ Grande, is a continuous series of formidable cataracts and rapids; but from the Maranhao Grande to its mouth, about 188 miles, the river can be navigated by large vessels.[u]Rio Nanay
The Nanay River is tributary to the Amazon River west of the Napo in Peru. The Nanay is one of the three rivers that surround the jungle city of Iquitos, making it an island. Other nearby settlements on the river include the villages of Santo Tomá³¬ Padre Cocha, and Santa Clara. During periods when the river is low, the many beaches along the Nanay are popular destinations. The Nanay belongs entirely to the lowlands, and is very crooked, has a slow current and divides much into canos1 and strings of lagoons which flood the flat, low areas of country on either side. It is simply the drainage ditch of districts which are extensively overflowed in the rainy season. Captain Butt ascended it 195 miles, to near its source.
For its last 100 miles it is from 4 to 9 miles wide and much of it very deep. The valley of the Tapajó³ ©s bordered on both sides by bluffs. They are from 300 to 400 foot high along the lower river; but, a few miles above Santaré¬ they retire from the eastern side and only approach the Amazon flood-plain some miles below Santaré®
The Tapajó³ ©s named after the Tapajó³ ‰ndians, a tribe of Native Americans from Santaré known for some unusual practices.Rio Sã¯ Francisco
Rio Sã¯ Francisco is a river in Brazil with a length of 3,160 kilometres. It originates in the state of Minas Gerais. It runs generally north behind the coastal range draining an area of over 630,000 square kilometers before turning east to form the border between the state of Bahia and the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas before entering the Atlantic between the states of Alagoas and Sergipe. The river is navigable from the coast to Paulo Afonso by small vessels and from Paulo Afonso's huge lake for approximately 1,800 kilometers. Until the hydroelectric dams at Paulo Afonso the entire river was a major route of commerce and entry into the hinterland of the northeast. Paulo Afonso's hydroelectric plant now provides electric power for the entire northeast.Rio Araguaia
The Araguaia River or, in Portuguese, Rio Araguaia is one of the major rivers of Brazil. It has a total length of approximately 2,627 km.
Like almost all large rivers, the Araguaia represents a whole fluvial system. Because of the vast number of tributaries, it is not easy to unambiguously define its source. Important tributaries originate in the Araras mountain range in Mato Grosso as well in the Divis?mountain range situated in Goiá³ (according to other sources however, the Araguaia comes from the Caiapó ’¡nge, at the Goiá³Mato Grosso border).
Along its course, the river forms the border between the Brazilian federal states of Goiá³¬ Mato Grosso, Tocantins and Pará® Roughly in the middle of its course, the Araguaia splits into two forks (with the western one retaining the name Araguaia and the eastern one being called Rio Javaé³© that later reunite, thus forming the Ilha do Bananal, the world's largest river island. Close to the town of Sã¯ Joã¯¬ the Araguaia River flows into the Tocantins River.
A large portion of the Araguaia's course is navigable all year.
The combined watershed of Araguaia and Tocantins rivers (named the Araguaia Tocantins Basin) covers approximately 9.5% of Brazil's national territory.
"Araguaia" means "River of the Macaws" in the language of the native Tupi.III. Aquarium Care
If you are planning on keeping Cichla, prepare yourself. These fish get big. Remember that even the smallest species gets huge by aquarium standards.
Once you have decided on the aquarium, you will need to decide on filtration. With few exceptions, peacock bass are riverine fish. They can be very sensitive to poor water quality, as they are accustomed to well-oxygenated water. Therefore a filter system that is highly efficient and provides good turnover is a necessity.
To help with water quality, big water changes are a must. 40-60% water changes a week will keep your fish and water in top condition.
So now the fun part. FEEDING! I challenge you to find a fish that hits harder at feeding time then the pbass. These fish are diurnal fish that hunt their prey using sharp eyesight. They are pursuit predators with lightning speed.
When young, they need to consume their own weight in food each day. Once they achieve 4 to 6 inches in length they can be fed every other day. As they mature, their feedings can spread out more and more until they are being fed only once or twice a week. This will allow them to grow in a more even manner. Feeders (CLEAN feeders for a treat) shrimp, smelt, and pellets can all be on the menu. The fish will appreciate a varied diet.
To maintain these fishes properly, you will need to provide them plenty of space and food. Remember that they are sensitive to water quality, so you will need a filter system that can turn the water over many times each hour. A good diet, and large water changes and a large aquarium will go a long way to keeping these beast. There is no reason, after following these guidlines, that these fish should not live 10 years or more in captivity.
These are serious fish, for the serious keeper. Remember, BIG
water changes. Did I say BIG
?IV. Future Updates and Further Information
For even more amazing information and pics (with a little fun thrown in
), take a look at this thread:>> WW Topic: THE Official Peacock Bass Thread.
It is the biggest thread of its kind. Go visit and post your updated pics and information. Who knows, maybe they will replace some of the photos in this thread.
It has contributions from some of the premier Cichla enthusiasts around with many photos of undescribed species and localized variants. We will update this topic in the future regularly to specifically focus on these new and exciting Cichla sp., some of which are even making it into the hands of a lucky few!References
SCOTT, 2003.TFH. Closer look at Peacock Bass. 116-122.
KULLANDER, S.O. 1981. Cichlid fishes from the La Plata basin. Part I. Collections from Paraguay in the MusÃ©um d'Histoire naturelle de GenÃ¨ve. Revue suisse Zool. 88: 675-692.
KULLANDER, S.O. 1986. Cichlid fishes of the Amazon River drainage of Peru. Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, 431 pp.
KULLANDER, S.O. 1988. Teleocichla, a new genus of South American rheophilic cichlid fishes with six new species. Copeia 1988: 196-230.
KULLANDER, S.O. & H. NIJSSEN. 1989. The cichlids of Surinam. E.J. Brill, Leiden and other cities, XXXIII+256 pp.
LOWE-McCONNELL, R.H. 1969. The cichlid fishes of Guyana, South America, with notes on their ecology and breeding behaviour. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 48: 255-302.
MACHADO-ALLISON, A. 1971. Contribució® ¡l conocimiento de la taxonomia del gé®¥ro Cichla en Venezuela. Parte I. Acta biol. Venez. 7: 459-497.
MACHADO-ALLISON, A. 1973. Contribució® ¡l conocimiento de la taxonomia del gé®¥ro Cichla en Venezuela. Parte II. Osteologia comparada. Acta biol. venez. 8: 155-205.
STIASSNY, M.L.J. 1982. The relationships of the neotropical genus Cichla: a phyletic analysis including some functional considerations. J. Zool. Lond. 197: 427-453.
STIASSNY, M.L.J. 1987. Cichlid familial intrarelationships and the placement of the neotropical genus Cichla. J. nat. Hist. 21: 1311-1331
To lessen my troubles, I stopped hanging around jackals.