Taxonomic name: Cichla ocellaris Bloch and Schneider, 1801
Synonyms: Acharnes speciosus, Cichla argus, Cichla atabapensis, Crenicichla orinocensis, Cychla argus, Cychla trifasciata
Common names: aboné (Djuka), aborrecichlide (Danish), butterfly peacock bass, eyespot cichlid, Grüner Augenfleck-Kammbarsch (German), isokikla (Finnish), isokirjoahven (Finnish), kounanni (French Creole), kunan (Palicur), lukanani (Swedish), malisamba (Galibi), matawalé (Wayana), pavon (Spanish), peacock bass, peacock cichlid (English), sargento (Spanish), toekoenari (Saramaccan), toukounalé (Oyampi), toukounaré (French Creole), tuc, tucunare (Portuguese), tucunaré açu (Portuguese), tucunare comun, tukunali (Djuka)
Organism type: fish
Cichla ocellaris is a piscivorus fish that has been introduced for sport fishing. Studies have concluded that where introduced this species predates on native species, competes for resources with others, and causing a cascading effect throughout the entire trophic food chain, but there are also contradictory studies that attribute increases in native fish populations to the introduction of C. ocellaris.
Cichla ocellaris have a sloping forehead and elongate bodies that typically reach 50-60cm in length (91cm is the current record) with a deeply notched dorsal fin. Males are larger than females. Their mouth is large, the lower jaw projects beyond the upper jaw. They have a characteristic large black spot encircled by a silver coloured halo on their caudal fin. Their colouration is olive-green dorsally fading to yellow-white ventrally, with three broad transverse stripes, between which are a series of dark spots. The first dorsal, upper caudal, and pectoral fins are gray or black, the anal, pelvic and the lower caudal fins are red. White spots are present on the second dorsal and the upper lobe of the caudal fin. Large adults have a yellow-orange stripe, which extends from their mouth to their caudal fin. Their iris is red (Environmental Institute of Houston, 2004; Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2005; and Mongabay Tropical Fish, 2006).
lakes, water courses, wetlands
Cichla ocellaris occurs primarily in freshwater but can tolerate moderate salinities and brackish water. It inhabits aquatic environments ranging from rapids to quiet waters with medium depth (~5m) and rocky substrates. Through experimentation an upper salinity tolerance of 18 ppt has been reported. This species is not tolerant to cold waters and has a reported lower lethal temperature of 15.6-16°C and a higher lethal temperature of 37.9°C. Some studies have shown that some fish can survive temperatures of 13.5°C when salinity is raised to 10 ppt (Environmental Institute of Houston, 2004; FishBase, 2006; and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2005).
The introduction of Cichla ocellaris mainly occurs in altered environments, where the community of fishes is already in decline. The presence of these highly adapted and quickly proliferating predators causes serious damage to these communities by predation, competition, and cascade effects throughout the whole trophic chain (Gomiero and Braga, 2004). This species is a voracious piscivore capable of greatly modifying ecosystems where introduced. Some studies have reported as much as a 25% decline of forage fish from canals in which C. ocellaris have been introduced. There is speculation that if C. ocellaris continues to expand its range throughout southern Florida, faunas of less altered waters, such as those of the Everglades, could be at risk (Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2005).
However, other studies report beneficial effects of this species introudction into Florida's waterways such as attributed increases to native fish because C. ocellaris feeds on non-indigenous fish that have previously caused other native fish declines. Also, this species attracts recreational fishermen (Gomiero and Braga, 2004), which has accounted for a very large boon to the sport fishing industry in Florida. And some analyses and estimates reveal no major deleterious effects attributable to C. ocellaris, and indicate native fishes continue to exist satisfactorily with them (Shaflanda, 1999; and Shaflanda and Stanforda, 1999).
In Miami, there is an estimated $15.5 million dollar market attributed to sportfishing, of which most is contributed by anglers fishing for C. ocellaris and largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). The C. ocellaris received 56% more fishing effort than largemouth bass, and their estimated annual asset value was $6.6 million (Shaflanda and Stanforda, 1999).
Shafland (1996) states that, "The collective environmental effects of the planned introduction of the butterfly peacock (C. ocellaris) were both predicted and beneficial" and the author also argues that some common assumptions involving exotic fishes and their negative impacts have little, if any, scientific merit, and that professional journals are "Publishing nonverifiable opinions as if they were scientific facts" (Shafland, 1996).
Native range: Tropical America. “Although the genus Cichla is widespread in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America,
the true C. ocellaris apparently is restricted to the Guianas (Kullander 1986; Kullander and Nijssen 1989 in Environmental Institute of Houston. 2004). Native to natural waters of South America (Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2005).
Known introduced range: Introduced to North America and man-made watercourses in South America (Shaflanda and Stanforda, 1999; and Gomiero and Braga, 2004).
Introduction pathways to new locations
Stocking: Cichla ocellaris have been stocked by state agencies as a sport fish (Nico, 2004).
Cichla ocellaris are piscivorus and feed during the day while remaining inactive at night. Prey is caught typically through high-speed pursuit. Fish consumed include atherinids, poecilids, characids, eleotrids and other cichlids. Spotted tilapia, Tilapia mariae, Mozambique tilapia, Oreochromis mossambicus, and bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus also constitute major prey items (Environmental Institute of Houston, 2004; and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2005).
The Cichla ocellaris is a biparental substrate spawner, spawning approximately 2000-3000 eggs per brood. Spawning, with rare exceptions, takes place on a flat, horizontal surface which is either bare to begin with, or cleared of algae or other vegetation during the spawning activities. The female moves forward laying a single row of eggs and the male follows exuding sperm over each row. Once the eggs have hatched, the parents transport the larvae in their mouths to one of the depression nests. Breeding pairs guard their clutch for approximately nine weeks, at which time the fry move from open waters to areas rich vegetation along banks. As is the case with most cichlids, breeding pairs are highly territorial and aggressive (FishBase, 2006; and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2005).
Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Friday, 21 April 2006