Peacock bass is a group of closely related species of tropical, freshwater fish of the genus Cichla.
There are 15 known species of peacock bass, others will surely be described (but see the results based on DNA data). Their common names vary greatly depending on the country, region, stage of development and local anglers. Below is a complete list of the taxonomic, binomial names for these cichlids, along with available English common names.
Extensive molecular data has cast doubt on these designations, however. Aside from limited hybridization among many species, in both natural and human-altered environments, several species do not show sufficient differentiation to imply reproductive isolation and/or a history of independent evolution. Among the species implicated as probable "good" species were Cichla intermedia, C. orinocensis, C. temensis, C. melaniae, C. mirianae, and C. piquiti. The other species were suggested to be part of two widespread meta-species or species complexes, called Cichla pinima sensu lato (including C. jariina, C. thyrorus, and C. vazzoleri) and C. ocellaris sensu lato (including C. monoculus, C. nigromaculata, C. pleiozona, and C. kelberi).
Sport fishermen have made these cichlids prized game fish for their fighting qualities, so much so that many travel agencies now arrange fishing trips to Brazil and Florida specifically to catch peacock bass.
Renowned American peacock bass fisherman and fishing author, Larry Larsen, refers to them as "freshwater bullies" due to their ferocious nature when hunting and their tendency to damage and sometimes destroy fishing gear when striking.
The most common techniques for catching these cichlids are similar to those for catching largemouth bass, with the notable exception that peacock bass usually will not strike artificial worms, a widely used lure among largemouth bass fisherman. In addition, fly fishing techniques, including lures such as poppers and large streamers, are becoming increasingly popular for catching them.
Peacock bass have been identified as invasive species and cause of ecological imbalances in some of their introduced areas.
Peacock bass introduction in the Rosana Reservoir and upper Paraná River, both in Brazil, resulted in a 95 percent decline in native fish density and 80 percent decline in richness in only two years.
Few measures can protect native fish once peacock bass have been introduced. Reduction in native species richness in lakes with introduced peacock bass was observed in all of the Gatun-area lakes, regardless of the presence of macrophyte refugia. After initial increase in abundance, introduced peacock bass often deplete local prey and resort to cannibalism.
In 1984, after 10 years of study, Florida officials deliberately introduced butterfly peacock bass and speckled peacock bass to the southern region of that state to prey on other non-native species, including the oscar (Astronotus ocellatus), Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), and the spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae). Their introduction also provided additional sport fishing opportunities for anglers. While the butterfly peacock bass has flourished in Florida, the speckled peacock bass has not. Therefore, it is now illegal to kill or possess speckled peacock bass in Florida. The butterfly peacock bass tend to flourish in the canals and fresh waterways throughout south Florida.
Because of their tropical origins, peacock bass cannot tolerate low water temperatures. This has prevented them from becoming abundant in Florida outside of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties.
As a high school student, I sold them in the aquarium store I worked at in Los Angeles in the mid-late 60s, so technically speaking I have caught them. My time in Florida barely overlapped the period of their introduction, and I didn't have the pleasure.