- Family: Cichlidae
- Scientific Name: Cichla
- Care level: Moderate
- Temperament: Aggressive
- Diet: Carnivorous
- Water conditions: Warm and clean
- Max Size: 3.3 feet (Depends on type)
- Minimum tank size (as an adult): 70 gallons
Overview: Peacock Bass Care
Peacock bass are one of the apex predators of the fish world, and their popularity has been growing among aquarium hobbyists in the modern age. These fish have long been regarded as one of the top predatory species in the fish world, growing to massive sizes in the wild as well as in captivity. Some species can reach up to thirty inches long! Peacock bass are a popular sport and game fish for recreational anglers, but many people love to have them as part of the aquarium habitats in their homes as an alternative.
Peacock bass are technically cichlids and have diurnal instincts that allow them to be incredibly active and agile during the day. They are native to tropical South America, particularly in the rivers of the Guianas and the Amazon and Orinoco basins. They are not closely related to traditional bass, like the North American largemouth bass, but are considered food and game fish in many parts of the world. These fish were introduced in the large coastal canals of southeast Florida in 1984, but they aren’t abundant in most of this state because the waters are too cold.
Peacock Bass Lifespan
Peacock bass kept in captivity typically live to be 8-10 years of age; longer is possible if provided with optimal living conditions. In the wild, they are believed to reach 15 years or older.
Peacock Bass Appearance
Peacock bass are similar in appearance to that of a largemouth bass. Their colors vary widely depending on their subspecies, but most have three black vertical bars, fading as the fish ages. These have sometimes completely disappeared by the time the fish reaches full maturity. Peacock bass also has a black spot with a yellowish halo on the caudal fin. These fish are perfectly suited to bodies of water that move quickly, with powerful pectoral fins and a slim, sleek build that helps them ambush prey.
What size are they when they’re small?
Peacock bass are small when they are young, usually less than twelve inches. This can be challenging for someone visiting the pet store and looking at a young cichlid; they look as though they will never grow that large in size. On the contrary, these fish grow to massive sizes and can be difficult to care for in the long term if you aren’t aware of the fact that the petite little fish you have now will soon grow into a monstrosity of a fish.
How fast/slow should you expect them to grow?
These fish grow incredibly quickly during their first sixteen to eighteen months of life. They will increase in length up to 14 inches by the time they hit their second year of life, at this point beginning to level out. Once they have reached maximum length, these fish will then begin to put on weight, with a nineteen-inch fish (on the larger end of the spectrum), weighing up to five pounds.
What’s peacock bass max size?
Peacock bass on average can grow up to 26 inches in length, many with weights well into the double digits. The largest peacock bass caught in the United States was twelve pounds and measured nearly 28 inches in length, but some have suggested that wild peacock bass as well as those raised in captivity can become even larger.
Different types of Peacock Bass
There are fourteen traditionally recognized species of peacock bass, with several others undescribed that are believed to be native to Brazil. That being said, there are only five that are universally recognized as major peacock bass species. The five major types are as follows:
Tucunare (Cichla temensis): These fish have two distinct color phases, changing colors as they mature into adulthood. These subtypes are very violent, and should not be housed with other fish. In the wild, they can get as large as 27 pounds.
Butterfly Peacock Bass (Cichla ocellaris): This fish only occurs in Brazil, and can tolerate a number of cooler temperatures. It has faint markings and no black coloring at all on its cheek.
Popoca Peacock Bass (Cichla monoculus): This fish, a native of Brazil, is widely distributed and generally reaches up to five pounds. As a smaller fish, it is better suited to aquarium dwellings.
Royal Peacock Bass (Cichla intermedia): Most commonly known as the Royal Peacock Bass, this fish is generally well-suited to faster-moving waters. It can reach about six pounds and has long dark stripes along its body.
Butterfly Peacock Bass (Cichla orinocensis ): This is a smaller subspecies, reaching only twelve pounds in size. It is a rare species, found only in the Negro and Orinoco drainages.
Peacock Bass Diet & Feeding
What do Peacock Bass eat in the wild?
Peacock bass are voracious eaters, attempting to eat anything that even comes close to being smaller or the same size as themselves. These fish are not picky eaters, but prefer live foods such as fish, insects, and even rodents!
In the wild, peacock bass feeds rapidly and hungrily during the daylight hours, using speed to capture their prey. They prefer to feed on mostly fish, and have actually reduced the number of many exotic species in the wild, such as the spotted tilapia.
Peacock Bass Feeding Habits
Peacock bass will try to eat anything they come into contact with. Keep this in mind when housing the bass with other fish species. As juveniles, these fish are always waiting to be fed. Small bass like to eat frozen blood worms, freeze-dried krill, feeder guppies, and minnows. Feed small peacock bass several times a day but with small amounts of food. As the fish grow older, they can make do with just one or two larger feedings every day. At this age (large juvenile to fully grown adult), you can also feed them foods like market shrimp and smelt.
What foods are recommended for Peacock Bass?
As mentioned, peacock bass prefers live food. They will occasionally eat pellets, but live foods like fish, shrimp, worms, or even other fish or rodents are also acceptable. When caring for and feeding peacock bass, watch each individual fish closely to get a better idea of its individual, unique eating habits.
When I kept peacock bass I had no problem getting them onto pellets. To be specific, I got them to eat Hikari’s carnisticks, they do have a strong smell but your fish won’t be complaining!
Peacock bass do love live foods, as these are what they feed upon in their natural environment, but these can cause tank contamination and/or diseases; it’s important to keep this in mind. If your tank begins to develop a lot of build-up or detritus, you may need to switch to commercial fish foods with only the occasional live feeding. Live foods are also more expensive, and while peacock bass enjoys the prey drive and aggressive feeding tactics of live foods, they may not be a good idea for all fish owners. Here is a great food choice to feed your Peacock Bass!
Peacock Bass Tank Setup
Brief overview of their natural habitat
Peacock bass are naturally found in the tropical regions of North, South, and Central America, tending to inhabit freshwater areas or the acidic blackwaters of the Amazon. They can also survive in more brackish warm-water environments.
These fish are now frequently found outside of their native habitats as a result of accidental release from fish farms or for purposeful introduction to regions outside the native range. They can become invasive very quickly in the wild since they are so predatory and feed mostly on smaller native fish.
Peacock bass prefers to inhabit warm, slow-moving canals, lakes, ponds, rock pits, and places like beneath bridges or culverts. They love plenty of coverage, such as that provided by fallen trees or overhanging vegetation. They cannot tolerate temperatures below sixty degrees Fahrenheit or salinity that is higher than 18 ppt.
Peacock Bass Tank Size
Peacock bass need quite a bit of space in order to handle their naturally territorial, aggressive behaviors. They also grow quite large and will need this space in order to coexist peacefully with other species. Only keep peacock bass in indoor tanks when they are juveniles, and try to select an aquarium of at least 70 gallons. This will keep them comfortable as adults, although juveniles and fingerlings may be okay in tanks around 30 gallons in size.
The larger the tank, the better. Many peacock bass owners keep these fish in tanks of up to 180 gallons in a size to accommodate multiple individual fish.
Peacock Bass Water conditions (Temperature, pH, KH)
Your peacock bass will need a tank that is relatively warm, with temperatures ranging between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit. pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5. Juvenile and fry fish will need even warmer temperatures of no less than 76 degrees.
A good filtration system is imperative to raising healthy peacock bass. As these fish grow larger, they place an immense bioload on the tank. Your tank will get dirty very quickly once you have one or more adult peacock bass in your tank. Ideally, you should try to install an external or sump filtration system.
Peacock bass needs a high-quality environment with very low levels of pollutants. They also need high levels of dissolved oxygen. They are somewhat sensitive to lower oxygen levels but can tolerate it better than some species because they are used to living in slower-flowing tributaries.
One of the most important details to notice about peacock bass, related to how you set up and ornate the tank, is that they do have a tendency to jump. Therefore, you should always place a cover on the top of the tank to prevent this from happening.
Peacock bass requires sand and/or gravel at the bottom of their tanks for forage. In the wild, these fish will filter the sand for shrimp, insects, and other small prey. They also like plenty of rocks and structures behind which they can hide. You can also add plants or ledges, as these fish need a place to wait for prey and ambush species (even though they aren’t necessarily doing that in your tank!)
Peacock Bass Tank Mates
That said, you can sometimes have success with raising peacock bass with Oscars. Oscars have similar habits as well as a strong predatory nature. Otherwise, you should keep peacock bass isolated with only members of the same species for the safest outcomes. They can also live in relative harmony with the following:
If you choose to house your peacock bass with other species, make sure you have a tank large enough to accommodate all of them, as all of these species will grow to be extremely large.
It can be a challenge to raise peacock bass with other fish species since they are so aggressive. They will usually try to eat any other fish that cohabitate in the tank with them. They are also territorial, causing them to fight with each other and with other species.
How to Keep Peacock Bass Healthy
Common diseases to look out for
A member of the largest families of freshwater fishes – cichlids – Peacock Bass are prone to several common aquarium fish diseases.
Swim bladder disease is one of the most common aquarium illnesses. This disease affects the part of the body known as (as you might guess) the swim bladder. This part helps fish stay afloat, so when your fish has this disease, it will have difficulty remaining submerged. This can be caused by physical injury or communicable diseases (like tuberculosis), but the more common cause is poor nutrition or constipation. To prevent it, feed your fish a varied diet and add high-fiber foods like peas to help relieve constipation.
Hole in the head disease is another common cichlid disease with a malignant sounding name and outcome. This is widely believed to be caused by poor water quality and mineral imbalance, although some studies have suggested that the presence of the parasite Hexamita may also contribute. It can be difficult to treat the disease, as it has so many causes, but the first step in preventing or eliminating it may be to improve water quality and then treat the tank with an antibiotic.
Ich is another disease with which very few aquarium hobbyists are unfamiliar. This disease is caused by a parasite known as Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It is easy to identify, presenting symptoms like white dots on the gills, fins, and bodies of infected fish. Your fish might also have symptoms like labored breathing, lethargy, or clamped fins. If you notice one or more of your peacock bass have ich, treat the entire tank before quarantining the affected fish, as there is a likelihood that the other fish have already been exposed and are simply not displaying symptoms yet. You can use salt baths, raised tank temperatures, or malachite green to treat your fish.
Tips on keeping Peacock Bass in good health
The easiest way to keep your fish healthy is to maintain adequate aquarium health. Peacock bass are particularly prone to diseases caused by poor water quality and pathogen exposure. Keep your tank clean and maintained, and try to avoid feeding live food frequently to help cut down on the amount of floating matter that will build up in the tank.
Breeding Peacock Bass
Peacock bass spawns from April through September in the wild, with the summer months providing the greatest surge in reproduction. Peacock bass will lay between 4,00 and 10,000 eggs on a flat, hard surface, with the young guarded by both parents for several months at a time.
Breeding males will have golden coloration on their side, along with vertical black bars and a greenish head and white chest. Females will have similar coloring, ut also have yellow on their cheeks and gill covers. Their lower jaws will be white or light yellow, and they will also have light spots.
To date, there are no reports of peacock bass being bred successfully in captivity. If you want to give it a try, you can syphon your fry out of a tank and move them to a filtered and aerated tank. Your eggs should hatch in three or four days. You will need to feed them newly hatched brine shrimp until they are slightly larger.
Interesting facts about Peacock Bass
Peacock bass is among the largest of the cichlids and feed with a unique method. They ambush their prey before using a “suction feeding” mechanism. They usually strike violently, then jump energetically, making them an interesting species to watch in your aquarium – but not if they are trying to eat your other aquarium fish!
Is a Peacock Bass Right For You?
If you have plenty of space in which to house these fish, they are a fantastic fish to keep as pets. They need very large aquariums with plenty of room to swim and hide, and they shouldn’t be kept with other fish species. That being said, if you can accommodate these conditions, then peacock bass has the ability to provide you with multiple years of enjoyment and entertainment, and may be the right choice for you.