The Peacock Bass is a 3-foot predatory fish. This species has long been considered food in many parts of the world. Recreational anglers also use these fish for sport and game. Nowadays, the Peacock Bass has been growing in popularity among fishkeepers.

We’ve seen many people welcoming this apex predator as part of the aquarium habitats in their homes. If you are among those who are fascinated by the Peacock Bass, this care guide should provide you with the primary elements to ensure successful fishkeeping.

Read on and leave no stone unturned!


Cichla ocellaris
Common Names Tucunare, Pavon
Class Actinopterygii
Family Cichlidae
Genus Cichla
Size Up to 30 inches
Diet Carnivore
Temperament Semi-aggressive, predatory
Lifespan 10 to 15 years
Strata Middle to top
pH 6 to 7
Hardness 5 to 12 dGH
Temperature 76 to 86 F
Care Level Moderate


The Peacock Bass is technically one of the many large cichlids in the aquarium hobby. The warm waters of South America are their home ground, particularly in the Amazon, Orinoco, and the Guianas. This explains its name as the South American Peacock Bass. This fish was later introduced in other areas, like South Florida, to compete with Brazil’s tourist industry.

Peacock Bass have been reported to cause ecological imbalances to some of their introduced areas, including the Rosana Reservoir and upper Parana River of Brazil. Escapees from fish farms have also resulted in accidental introductions to certain areas outside their native range.

As apex predators in the fish world, their appetite matches their size and this has resulted in a significant decline in native fish density as well as cannibalism. The Peacock Bass has not appeared on the IUCN Red List.

Appearance and Distinct Features

South American Peacock Bass have a slim, oval build and a powerful pectoral fin that allow them to ambush their prey in fast-flowing waters. Although these large cichlids resemble the North American largemouth bass, they come from a different genus. Older males may develop a pronounced hump on their forehead shortly before and during the rainy season.

– Colors and Patterns

The color of the fish will vary depending on its species but, generally, they are vibrant and colorful. Most species display a pattern based on a theme of three vertical bars on their bodies, sometimes with smaller intermediate stripes.

All the specimens share one notable feature that resulted in their common name. This characteristic is the ocellus, which resembles the “eyes” on a peacock’s tail. The ocellus is thought to deter fin-biting predators, such as piranhas.

– How Big Do Peacock Bass Cichlids Get?

Physical traits can vary between subspecies and this includes the Peacock Bass size. The Speckled Peacock Bass, scientifically known as Cichla temensis, reaches up to 40 inches in length and 29 pounds in weight, making it the largest species in its genus. The others are smaller, which makes them a more practical choice as pets.

The most readily available species in the aquarium trade is the Butterfly Peacock Bass or Cichla ocellaris. The male Peacock Bass size can grow nearly as large as the Cichla temensis. These fish grow incredibly fast and hit their maximum length within their second year of life.

Meanwhile, the Cichla kelberi and Cichla intermedia grow around 12 to 14 inches, making them suitable for a 100-gallon tank. Once these fish have reached their maximum length, they will begin to put on more weight, many with weights well into the double digits.

Behavior and Temperament

While there are several species of Peacock Bass, their behavior is similar. These large cichlids are diurnal, thus they feed during daylight hours. In the wild, they use speed to capture prey. Peacock Bass are extremely aggressive, especially the C. temensis.

Care and Upkeep

Currently, there are 15 described species of Peacock Bass but the variations are minor, mostly limiting to the color pattern, size, and meristic traits. All of these large cichlids share similar care requirements. Discover them in this section!

– Diet

Peacock Bass are voracious eaters. As juveniles, these gluttons will constantly wait to be fed. You will want to feed the young fish small amounts of food several times a day. When the fish have become fully grown, they can make do with one or two large feedings daily.

These predators prefer to devour live foods as these are what they feed upon their natural habitat. Here are excellent choices for the ravenous predator:

  • Bloodworms
  • Dried krill
  • Feeder fish
  • Insects
  • Rodents
  • Shrimp
  • Smelt

Unfortunately, a diet comprising live foods is the fastest way to tank contamination, increasing the risk of introducing disease-causing microorganisms. Live foods also mean more frequent trips to the fish store and they cost more than commercially prepared dried foods. Some Peacock Bass enthusiasts have weaned their cichlids to dried foods to simplify their care and provide live feeding once in a while.

– Water Conditions

Peacock Bass are hardy fish so long as you provide them with Amazonian conditions. Soft, acidic water is ideal, but neutral or slightly alkaline conditions are also tolerable. The most important factor is the temperature, which must be very warm at all times.

  • Temperature: 76 to 86 F
  • pH: 6 to 7, acidic
  • Hardness: 5 to 12 dGH

The Peacock Bass cannot withstand temperatures lower than 76 F. To lower the risk of disease, always aim for the upper range of 80 to 86 F for juveniles and fry.

– Lifespan

Wild Peacock Bass can live up to 15 years or older, while captive specimens reach 10 years when provided with optimal living conditions.

– Diseases To Look Out For

The problem with raising large cichlids is that they create a lot of waste. Poor water quality and pathogen exposure are often the major culprits that make your Peacock Bass ill.

Hole-In-The-Head Disease

Not only does this disease have a malignant-sounding name, but its outcome is also just as horrifying. There is no singular cause for this ailment, making it a challenge to treat. Some believe that it is caused by mineral imbalance, while others suggest that the presence of the parasite Hexamitid spp. is the main culprit.

Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease, also called swim bladder disorder, is one of the most common ailments that affect aquarium fish. As the name suggests, it affects the swim bladder, which contributes to the ability of fish to control their buoyancy. An impaired swim bladder makes it difficult for the fish to stay at the current water depth and they would have to exert more energy in swimming.

What Causes Swim Bladder Disease?

While intestinal parasites and microorganisms may cause this disease, it can also stem from constipation induced by overeating and gulping too much air during feeding time. Swim bladder disease is temporary or permanent depending on the cause.

How Do You Fix Swim Bladder Disease?

The best course of action is to consult an aquatic veterinarian to determine the exact cause of the disease.


Ichthyophthirius multifiliis is a common parasite that most hobbyists eventually encounter. Even if you follow quarantine procedures, you may at some point find yourself having an infected fish. Also known as “white spot disease,” it appears on the body and fins as tiny white dots resembling grains of salt and these white spots may join together to form patches. These spots are called trophonts.

Other signs of infestation include:

  • Excessive rubbing against the substrate, tank walls, or decorations
  • Clamped fins
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy or reclusive behavior
  • Loss of appetite

If left untreated, Ich can become fatal, as the ever-growing number of parasites will continue to weaken the ailing fish — especially when secondary bacteria and fungi have gained a foothold. Eventually, the trophonts on the gills enlarge and hinder oxygen flow. The good news is that if handled correctly, this disease can be easily and permanently eliminated. Ich medications are readily available.

Tank Mates

When choosing tankmates, you will want to go for species that are equally large and aggressive so these large cichlids cannot bully them. Here are a few options that will make good tankmates for your Peacock Bass:

– Arowana

Arowanas and Peacock Bass can get along perfectly. The large cichlid cannot intimidate the mighty Arowana as it is more than capable of defending itself. As these two fishes have identical growth rates, you also won’t have to worry that the Peacock Bass might prey on the other fish and vice versa.

  • Average size: 3 to 4 feet
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Lifespan: 20 years
  • Strata: Middle to top

– Redtail Catfish

Apart from their long whiskers, the Redtail Catfish sport many colors and markings that make them fun to watch. While this species is incredibly strong and resilient to disease, it is recommended only for the experienced aquarist due to its enormous size. Should you wish to keep this massive catfish with a Peacock Bass, you will need a tank of astronomical size to make both species comfortable!

  • Average size: 3 to 5 feet
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Strata: Bottom

– Freshwater Stingray

Freshwater stingrays are classified as dangerous creatures due to their whiplike tail. These fish have the ability to harm any human or fish that mean them harm. Regardless, these critters are not aggressive by nature albeit purely carnivorous. Freshwater stingrays are docile when they get settled in their new home. Likewise, these creatures stay at the bottom of the tank, giving your Peacock Bass ample room to swim above them.

  • Average size: 18 inches in diameter
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Lifespan: 5 to 10 years
  • Strata: Bottom

– Oscar

It is hard to imagine that the Oscar is one of the most aggressive fish as it swims so gracefully. The Oscar is a species of cichlid that goes by many common names including Tiger Oscar, Velvet Cichlid, and Marble Cichlid. Albeit aggressive, many hobbyists love Oscars as they are spunky and energetic. Their personalities are unlike that of most fish and, besides that, these fish are considered to be one of the most intelligent species in the hobby.

  • Average size: 18 inches in diameter
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Lifespan: 10 to 20 years
  • Strata: Middle to top

– Silver Dollars

Silver Dollar refers to a number of fish species belonging to the family Characidae, which is closely related to the piranha. A group of at least six adult Silver Dollars makes good dither fish for your tank. While these fish are not very aggressive, they can grow up to 10 inches and they have sharp teeth that can cause serious injuries if need be.

  • Average size: 10 inches
  • Diet: Vegetarian
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Strata: Middle to top

Peacock Bass are notorious for reducing many species of fish in the wild, including tilapia. Not only do these predators devour anything smaller, but they will also attempt to eat fish that are nearly the same size as themselves! So keep this in mind when housing the South American Peacock Bass with other fish species.

Tank Setup

Read ahead to find out how to set up the ideal aquarium for the Peacock Bass.

– Tank Size

Whether you need a 200-gallon tank or a 500-gallon aquarium will depend on the species. Identifying the species is unfortunately difficult when the fish are still fingerlings. The best you can do is to trust the importer of your local fish store. Better yet, create a backup plan just in case you got one of the enormous species of Peacock Bass.

Large species of Peacock Bass, such the C. ocellaris and C. temensis, will need a 500-gallon tank accommodation. On the other hand, smaller species, such as the C. kelberi and C. intermedia, may find a 200-gallon tank sufficient but it is wise to opt for a larger tank so you can add compatible fishes. A cramped space will limit their growth and trigger negative behaviors.

– Substrate, Plants, and Decorations

In Brazil, their native region, these fish go by the common name Tucunare. This Brazilian name is derived from the word Tupi, which translates to “friend of the tree.” The fish are called as such as they often lurk behind submerged roots, either waiting for prey or to protect their nests.

That said, you will want to add driftwood and other similar decorations to mimic their natural habitat. The tannins stemming from the submerged wood also help buffer the water towards acidity.

If you don’t have space for driftwood, you may add Indian Almond leaves to ensure the water stays close to their preferred range of acidity. You may also add dense thickets of Vallisneria and broad-leaved plants like Amazon Sword in the background.

Peacock Bass are much easier on decorations than most large cichlids. These predators have a long, protruding jaw made for latching onto fish, thereby they don’t do much digging or tearing up plants, except when spawning. But because these fish have a tendency to jump, you should always cover your tank.

– Equipment

An optimal filtration system is imperative when rearing Peacock Bass. Experts recommend installing a sump or external filtration system because the fish will produce an immense bioload in the tank as they grow. The tank water will otherwise get polluted rather fast. Likewise, Peacock Bass need high levels of dissolved oxygen and you can achieve this by increasing water movement using a powerhead or a wavemaker.


In the wild, Peacock bass spawn during the summer months, between April and September. A single female can lay over 4,000 eggs. The favorite spot for spawning is usually a large flat stone in shallow water. As typical of cichlids, both parents guard their young. Be careful, though: the parents become excessively territorial and combative when they are guarding their eggs and fry.

Peacock Bass have been successfully bred in hatcheries but there are no reports of success in captivity. Some hobbyists tried showing off their techniques on social media but there are no reports of success to date.


If you are still here, then I am betting you are really interested in the South American Peacock Bass. But as you can imagine, the Peacock Bass is not for the faint-hearted.

  • These large cichlids demand a humongous tank in order to handle their naturally territorial and aggressive behaviors. As for the exact tank size, it will vary depending on the species but usually, you will need something no smaller than 100 gallons.
  • The water condition in your fish tank should reflect the natural habitat of the Peacock Bass for them to be comfortable. These large cichlids prefer soft, acidic water with temperatures between 76 to 86 F.
  • Aggressive feeding tactics of live foods may not be a practical concept for all fishkeepers, but these foods are what these predators prefer. Feeder fish, shrimp, worms, insects, and rodents are welcome.
  • As for tankmates, your options are mostly limited to equally large and aggressive fish.
  • These large cichlids produce a ton of waste and therefore, optimal filtration is essential. A sump filter is most ideal.

If you are interested in keeping large and exciting predatory fish, they might be worth your time and effort — assuming you’re willing to provide your fish with a 100-gallon or 300-gallon tank accommodation.

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