An adult in the aquarium
An adult of Cichla ocellaris in the aquarium.Photo by Ad Konings.

Family
Cichlidae

Sub-family
Cichlinae

Tribe
Cichlini

Genus
Cichla

Status
valid


Curator

Published:

Last updated on:
26-Feb-2021

Cichla ocellaris Schneider, 1801

Aboné; Butterfly peacock bass; Kounanni; Kunan; Malisamba; Matawalé; Pavón; Pond Lukunani; Toekanale; Toekoenali; Toekoenari; Toekoenari; Toukounalé; Toukounaré; Tucunaré açu; Tukanale; Tukunali; Zonnevisch.


image

Original description as Cichla ocellaris:

ZooBank:0AB9AD36-2215-402F-A110-647F86C4E888.

  • Bloch, Marcus Elieser & J.G. Schneider. 1801. "M. E. Blochii, Systema Ichthyologiae iconibus cx illustratum. Post obitum auctoris opus inchoatum absolvit, correxit, interpolavit Jo. Gottlob Schneider, Saxo. Berolini". Sumtibus Austoris Impressum et Bibliopolio Sanderiano Commissum. Systema Ichthyol; i-lx + pp. 1-584 (crc00288) (abstract)

Synonyms (1):

Taxonomic history:

Etymology: ocellus = diminutive of oculus, eye (Latin); Referring to the eye like spots on the flanks.

Common names: Aboné (French Guiana); Butterfly peacock bass (United States); Kounanni (French Guiana); Kunan (French Guiana); Malisamba (French Guiana); Matawalé (French Guiana); Pavón (Venezuela); Pond Lukunani (Guyana); Toekanale (Suriname); Toekoenali (Suriname); Toekoenari (French Guiana, Suriname); Toukounalé (French Guiana); Toukounaré (French Guiana); Tucunaré açu (French Guiana); Tukanale (Suriname); Tukunali (French Guiana); Zonnevisch (Suriname).

Types: holotype: ZMB 2839 (1).

The holotype, in the Humboldt-Universität, Museum für Naturkunde [Berlin], is stated as had been collected in India Orientali [East India], which is obviously an error, most likely the specimen came actually from Surinam (Kullander et al., 1989:7).

Diagnosis: Distinguished from all other species of Cichla except C. nigromaculata, C. intermedia, C. piquiti, and C. melaniae, by presence of bars 1a and 2a. Lateral band abbreviated in juveniles. Distinguished from other species of Cichla with abbreviated lateral band by lateral line usually continuous versus. discontinuous or nearly always discontinuous in C. orinocensis and C. nigromaculata; scales in E1 row (67-) 70-80 (-82) versus. 84-93 in C. pleiozona; occipital bar absent or indistinct versus. emphasized in adults of C. monoculus, C. kelberi, and C. pleiozona; abdominal blotches present versus. absent in C. orinocensis; vertical bars present at adult size, versus. three midlateral ocellated blotches in C. orinocensis, except that an ocellated blotch consistently formed in dorsal portion of bar 3; absence of small black blotches on dorsum, versus. present in C. nigromaculata; vertical bars about equally wide across side, versus. wide, occasionally confluent dorsally, and tapering ventrad in C. nigromaculata, C. monoculus, C. kelberi, and C. pleiozona. Distinguished from C. intermedia, C. piquiti, and C. melaniae by abbreviated versus. complete juvenile lateral band, less scales in E1 row (67-82 versus. (78) 83-108), and presence of ocellated blotch in dorsal portion of bar 3 versus. absence (Kullander et al., 2006:302).

Size: Of 245 specimens examined for their Cichla work, Kullander & Ferreira (2006:331), the largest Cichla ocellaris specimen was 414 mm in standard length, some 49 cm total length. Lowe-McConnell (1969:267) mentions the largest male she saw in Guyana being 53 cm TL, weighing 3.5 km, and all specimens above 43 cm being males. In Brazil C. ocellaris attains sizes of 70 cm total length and 9 kg. (Zaret, 1980:146, probably referring to Cichla monoculus).

Although males and females grow similarly fast until they reach sexual maturity, males start growing faster after this point, suggesting that eggs production slows female growth; the larger females are about 48 cm in total length (1980:147).

Sex dimorphism: A nuchal protuberance is present in males from 236 mm SL (Kullander et al., 2006:303). Dominant or breeding Cichla ocellaris males have an enlarged nuchal hump and bright red iris. Gravid females can be told by the enlarged ventral area. For smaller specimens the best way to tell sexes apart is probably to observe the genital papilla, which is pointed in males and blunt and cylindrical in females.

Type locality: Indian Ocean [in fact is Suriname, South America].

Distribution: French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, and Brazil, in the Marowijne, Suriname, Saramacca, Nickerie, Corantijn, Berbice, Essequibo, and Branco drainages (Kullander et al., 2006:306).

Habitat: Cichla species inhabit a diversity of habitats ranging from streams to large reservoirs, each species has fairly distinct habitat affinities which are particularly apparent in regions were two or more species coexist, with the only general requirement being high water transparency, warm temperature, and access to lentic habitats for feeding and/or reproduction (Winemiller, 2001:100). Clear water is necessary to visually locate and capture prey. Cichla ocellaris is preferably found in slow water flow (Sabaj Pérez et al., 2020:82).

Cichocki (1977:163) took water measurements at a location in the lower Essequibo River in Guyana (near Bartica), which may give some guidance about the water chemistry likely to be found at C. ocellaris habitat. His records indicate a water temperature from 25.5 to 28.0 C, and a pH of 5.25 - 5.75.

Conservation: Cichla ocellaris is not evaluated by the international union for the conservation of nature in the iucn red list of threatened species. French Guiana, Surinam, Guyana, and Brazil, in the Marowijne, Suriname, Saramacca, Nickerie, Corantijn, Berbice, Essequibo, and Branco drainages (Kullander et al., 2006:306).

Cichla ocellaris is an excellent sport fish, and for this reason has been introduced to various water bodies throughout its native range and in other countries, including Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Panama (Zaret, 1980:145). In Panama its presence has had measurable and dramatic effects on the local fish fauna (Zaret et al., 1973).

Feeding: Cichla ocellaris as all other Cichla species feed during the day primarily or exclusively on fish. Fry and juveniles under 50 mm feed on zooplankton and other small aquatic invertebrates before shifting to a mainly piscivorous diet with a small percentage of aquatic and terrestrial insects, and shrimp (Sabaj Pérez et al., 2020:82; Winemiller, 2001:102). Cichla species partition the habitat (where more than one species cohabit) and mainly feed on Characiform and Perciform fishes (Winemiller, 2001).

I have observed Cichla species in both the Rio Negro and Rio Branco, part of the Amazon drainage, in Brazil. In one occasion, I was puzzled by a loud splashing near the shore of a lake. A fisherman and fish collector next to me who was familiar with the fish, explained me they were Cichla individuals, which like wolfs, corner Characinids and other fish against the shore in shallow areas, once this is done they splash on the surface to frighten them and make them lose their coordination, much like dolphins do in several areas, once this is achieved and the potential prey run for their life in different directions, they can be individually pursued and captured. After this occasion, I repeated this observation in several areas and was actually able to see the large Cichla individuals jumping out of the water and producing big splashes when landing.

Stomach examinations made by Lowe-McConnell (1969:270) showed mostly fish, which included cichlids, characoids, and even Corydoras, suggesting that Cichla ocellaris eats whatever small fish they can catch.

Breeding: Zarel (1980:147) made repeated observations of C. ocellaris breeding in Lake Gatun [Panama], where it has been introduced, some of his observations are reproduced here. He observed that C. ocellaris generally starts breeding efforts when reaching 33.2 cm standard length (some 40 cm in total length), with the smaller males being about 28 cm TL. Lowe-McConnell (1969:267) found in Guyana that both sexes matured around the same size, about 24 cm long and weighting 200 g, when less than one year of age; males were always slightly larger in breeding pairs. Lowe-McConnell (1969:268) found that breeding season starts just before and after the rains start in May, and many young of the year were seen just after the rainy season in October, when the gonads of adult fish were already quiescent. Fontenele (1950) reports that south of the equator in Brazil Cichla may spawn at any time of year, but spawning is more frequent from June to December; and that there may be three of four spawnings a year.

Cichla species are substrate spawning cichlids in which both sexes defend eggs and fry. During breeding time, males Cichla develop nuchal humps and bright coloration, which may serve as advertisement for females of the male's availability, in the females the yellow on the chest and fins becomes orange, spawning is said to start some 7-20 days after the appearance of these sexual characters (Lowe-McConnell, 1969:269]).

Winemiller (2001:107) reports on Cichla orinocensis breeding in Rio Pasimoni in Venezuela with nests constructed on rock substrates in shallow water (about 30 cm) near the shore of lagoons. Breeding groups have been observed at several places, as well as isolated pairs, it is believed that breeding aggregations are more a function of limited suitable nesting habitat than of social instincts.

Mature males select a site from which to display to females, commonly in an exposed and prominent location near a suitable site for later spawning, commonly at the base of submerged tree trunks. Males remain at this display ground, aggressively defending their territories from other males and presenting themselves to passing females by means of lateral displays, additionally digging while standing in a somewhat vertical position, removing small fragments of the substrate. A female may opt to leave and if attracted by the male later return, starting a pattern of leaving and returning, until starts following the male, having formed a pair. It was observed that larger males pair with the largest females.

After pair formation, the fish prepares a site to place the eggs, as well several shallow depressions which will be used to contain the newly hatched larvae. Both individuals participate in digging activities, although the female may be more active than the male. Days to spawning in C. ocellaris are probably a maximum of 14 after pair formation. Spawning in C. ocellaris mostly takes place on a flat, horizontal surface which is either bare to begin with, or cleared of algae or other vegetation until a hard surface is uncovered and cleaned. The female moves forward laying a single row of eggs, and the male follows exuding sperm over each row.

Females Cichla are reported to spawn as many as 10,000 eggs, and 5,000 or more eggs have been frequently reported, as with most cichlids, fecundity increases with size. Cichla parents cease feeding during the period of brood care, and all attention is focused on protecting the brood, with both sexes defending eggs and fry. Parents fan the eggs with their pectoral fins presumably to keep them sediment free and oxygenated, the eggs remain attached by threads protruding from them to the hard surface until they hatch. It is the female who does the bulk of the fanning of the eggs, with the male defending the territory. As the eggs develop, their color changes from white to a lemon yellow, underdeveloped eggs rapidly accumulate a fungus, and are removed by the parent. Eggs develop into larvae after approximately 48 hours after spawning, and the parents move the newly hatched fry in their mouths from the oviposition nest to nest depressions that lie up to 2 m away (Zaret, 1980).

After hatching, it takes approximately three days for the larvae to become free-swimming fry, and two more days to leave the nest area forming a cloud of babies that follow the parents throughout the surrounding area. The caudal ocellus, which becomes brilliant in the breeding fish, has an important function in enabling the young to orientate themselves to the parent (Lowe-McConnell, 1969:270). At this point they start to feed on aquatic crustaceans and rotifers. The young attain a size of approximately 7-8 cm after two months under the parents care, this is the moment when the start to desert their parents and enter the littoral vegetation habitat.C. ocellaris guards their brood for a period of up to 10 weeks. While the young are in a free-swimming school, their color pattern is dominated by a dark lateral stripe, once the young have entered the littoral vegetation, the stripe is replaced by the dark, distinct vertical bars which are part of the adult color pattern.

Zarel (1980:150) mentions that he never saw schooling larvae without the presence of both parents, which shows that only through the continual vigilance of both parents the young can avoid predation, many times by conspecifics, or/and secure them enough food.

Young C. ocellaris stomach examinations showed that the common food is fresh-water and insects, although small fishes are became an important part of the diet as young grows. Lowe-McConnell (Lowe-McConnell, 1969) found that young of 8-13 cm SL in Guyana also feed on shrimps.

Zarel also made the observation that fisherman rarely catch individuals under 20 cm in open water, suggesting that they remain among the vegetation until they reach that size.

Aquaristics: Cichla species are rarely maintained by aquarists due to their unavoidable demand for very large aquariums to thrive, but yet there are a handful of specialists who are willing to cope with Cichla demands and successfully maintain and even breed them in captivity. Cichla species are among the largest of cichlids, and the largest cichlid species in South America. Cichla ocellaris can grow to 66 cm and weigh up to 8 kg, and given these dimensions and their need of good water quality a housing tank of less than 2.5 m and 1,500 liters in capacity equipped with a high capacity water filter would only put them to suffer. One should also consider that Cichla species are pursuing piscivorous, which means they chase their prey, and hence they are used to swim in open spaces. A large tank size would be the primordial for keeping these species.

Cichla species are social and should be kept in groups and they can even be kept with other fish species, either large cichlids or catfish preferably. I would however advise against housing them with Characinids since they can either nip on the Cichla fins or trigger their hunting instincts with their relentless swimming. Luckily, Cichla species as I have been told by successful keepers are not particularly aggressive, their common short range chasing and mouth-to-mouth encounters rarely produce them any damage.

The Cichla aquarium could be aquascaped with sand, wood and probably some large but not rough rocks that could hurt them. A bare or lightly aquascaped aquarium is probably the best approach. Plants are useless and lighting is better to keep dim for Cichla species to be calm, since these are the conditions found in the black water rainforest areas where Cichla species are commonly found.

Food is something to give particular consideration, C. ocellaris are very large fish with a huge appetite, particularly when growing, and so most conventional aquarium foods are not electable for them. For this reason, I think one of the best alternatives is buying them live bait fish or feeder goldfish, taking into consideration that fish not properly farm raised may risk bringing in diseases and parasites. Feeding should be offered every couple of days, particularly for adult fish, as daily feeding does not seem to be necessary and only worsens the potential water pollution risk.

Water conditions are important, one should particularly take note of temperature. All Cichla species inhabit in tropical South America where water temperature ranges from 25 to over 30 C degrees and hence low temperatures are not advisable to keep them. For this requirement to be applied to such large aquariums it is much better to consider the heating of the whole area where the aquarium is found for economic and practical reasons. Aquarium heaters would anyway likely be destroyed by Cichla species if placed in the same tank, risking their electrocution. In Cichla habitats water is generally acid and soft, although Cichla keepers maintain that an alkaline pH and some hardness does not seem to bother them. Water changes should be regular, massive and filtration very good.

With all the proper maintenance, Cichla species have been regularly bred under aquarium conditions.

For a more in-depth account of Cichla species aquarium keeping I would advise to read the excellent article "The genus Cichla: big fishes for big spaces" (Weidner, 2017).

Comments: A few years after the revision of Cichla by Kullander et al. (2006), a genetic work was published on Cichla by Willis et al. (2012), the researchers studied the variation of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA among the then recognized 15 species of Cichla, this was done in an attempt to determine the degree in which variations in populations were the result of introgressive hybridization – the introduction of genes of one species into another by the repeated distribution of genes obtained by the hybridization of one or some individuals, with the result of genes of one species becoming part of the genome of another. As a secondary result, they tested the robustness of the species delimitations made by Kullander et al. (2006) and found that genetic differences among some of the proposed species do not justify their recognition, recommending that some of the Cichla species be synonymized. In their specific results they recommend that the genus Cichla be reduced from the then fifteen species to eight, and that C. monoculus, C. nigromaculata, C. kelberi and C. pleiozona be considered junior synonyms of C. ocellaris.

References (14):

  • Bloch, Marcus Elieser & J.G. Schneider. 1801. "M. E. Blochii, Systema Ichthyologiae iconibus cx illustratum. Post obitum auctoris opus inchoatum absolvit, correxit, interpolavit Jo. Gottlob Schneider, Saxo. Berolini". Sumtibus Austoris Impressum et Bibliopolio Sanderiano Commissum. Systema Ichthyol; i-lx + pp. 1-584 (crc00288) (abstract)
  • Cichocki, Frederick Paul. 1977. "Tidal cycling and parental behavior of the cichlid fish, Biotodoma cupido". Environmental Biology of Fishes. v. 1(n. 2), pp. 159-169. DOI: 10.1007/BF00000407 (crc02889) (abstract)
  • Fontenele, O. 1950. "Contribucão para conhecimiento de biologia dos tucunarés (Actinopterygii, Cichlidae) em captiviero. Aprelhlo de reproducão. Habitos de desova e incubacão". Revista Brasileira Biologica. v. 10, pp. 503-519 (crc09636)
  • Kullander, Sven & Efrem J. G. Ferreira. 2006. "A review of the South American cichlid genus Cichla, with descriptions of nine new species (Teleostei: Cichlidae)". Ichthyological Explorations of Freshwaters. v. 17; n. 4; pp. 289-398 (crc01337)
  • Kullander, Sven. 2003. "Family Cichlidae (Cichlids)". Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. pp. 605-654 (crc01092)
  • Kullander, Sven & H. Nijssen. 1989. "The Cichlids of Surinam (Teleostei: Labroidei)". E. J. Brill, Leiden. Cichlids Surinam. i-xxxii + pp. 1-256 (crc00290)
  • Lowe-McConnell, Rosemary. 1969. "The cichlid fishes of Guyana, South America, with notes on their ecology and breeding behaviour". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. v. 48(n. 2) ; pp. 255-302. DOI: 10.1111/j.1096-3642.1969.tb00714.x (crc01346) (abstract)
  • Müller, J. & F. H. Troschel. 1849. "Fische". Reisen in Britisch-Guiana in den Jahren 1840-44 Im Auftrag Sr. Mäjestat des Königs von Preussen ausgeführt von Richard Schomburgk.. pp. 618-644 (crc00030)
  • Sabaj Pérez, Mark H & Hernán López-Fernández, Stuart C.Willis, Devya D. Hemraj, Donald C. Taphorn, Kirk O. Winemiller. 2020. "Cichla cataractae (Cichliformes: Cichlidae), new species of peacock bass from the Essequibo Basin, Guyana and Venezuela". Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. v. 167(n. 1), pp. 69-86. DOI: 10.1635/053.167.0106 (crc09634) (abstract)
  • Weidner, Thomas. 2017. "The genus Cichla: Big fishes for big spaces". Amazonas (English). v. 6(n. 5), pp. 16-24 (crc08232)
  • Willis, Stuart C & J. Macrander, I.P. Farias & G. Orti. 2012. "Simultaneous delimitation of species and quantification of interspecific hybridization in Amazonian peacock cichlids (genus Cichla) using multi-locus data". BMC Evolutionary Biology. v. 12(n. 96), pp. 1-41. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-12-96 (crc04462) (abstract)
  • Winemiller, Kirk O.. 2001. "Ecology of peacock cichlids (Cichla spp.) in Venezuela". Journal of Aquariculture and Aquatic Sciences. v. 9, (crc05691) (abstract)
  • Zaret, Thomas Michael. 1980. "Life history and growth relationships of Cichla ocellaris, a predatory South American cichlid". Biotropica. v. 12(n. 2), pp. 144–157. DOI: 10.2307/2387730 (crc09635) (abstract)
  • Zaret, Thomas Michael & R. T. Paine. 1973. "Species introduction to a tropical lake". Science. (n. 182), pp. 449-455 (crc11168)

Citation:

Artigas Azas, Juan Miguel. (February 26, 2021). "Cichla ocellaris Schneider, 1801". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on June 25, 2021, from: https://cichlidae.com/species.php?id=278. (crc11169)