If you’re looking for a large aquarium fish and have plenty of space for a supersized tank, the majestic Peacock bass might be just what you want!
Although more commonly associated with freshwater angling, Peacock bass are rapidly becoming popular with experienced aquarium hobbyists.
Read this comprehensive guide to learn how to care for these spectacular apex predators in your home tank.
What Is a Peacock Bass?
|Peacock Bass Info|
|Common name:||Peacock Bass, Butterfly Bass, Pavon, Tucunaré|
|Scientific name:||Cichla sp.|
|Origin:||South America, Amazon Basin, Orinoco River Basin|
|Adult size:||Up to 30 inches|
|Ease of care:||Moderate|
|Minimum tank size:||100 gallons|
|Water hardness:||5 to 12 dGH|
|pH range:||6.0 to 7.0|
Although some species of Peacock bass are found in tropical locations across the US, where they have been introduced as game fish, these predatory carnivores are native to South America, including Brazil and the Guyanas. You can also find these fish in Panama and parts of Singapore.
Peacock bass are popular with recreational anglers for their hard-hitting, feisty fighting style when hooked. However, these awesome fish are huge, carnivorous predators that can wreak havoc with local native fish species if not controlled.
These fish are voracious eaters and are not opposed to preying on each other if food becomes scarce.
These beautiful fish inhabit freshwater and acidic blackwater areas, although they can tolerate brackish conditions, provided that the water is warm enough.
Peacock bass need slow-flowing bodies of water, thriving in canals, lakes, and ponds, beneath culverts and bridges, and in rocky pits.
These tropical fish cannot live in water temperatures below 60oF and salinity above 18 ppt. Bass need lots of heavy cover in their habitats, such as fallen trees and overhanging vegetation.
Peacock Bass Care Guide
In this section of our guide, you’ll learn how to care for these spectacular fish, including tank setup, tank mates, diet, and more.
The Peacock bass is actually quite easy to care for in captivity. That said, some planning is required before you dash out and buy one!
The main issue with these fish is that they need a very large, spacious tank. Some Peacock bass species are simply unsuitable for life in a fish tank. For example, take the Speckled Peacock bass (Cichla temensis). These massive fish can reach over three feet long and weigh almost 30 pounds when fully grown!
The Butterfly Peacock bass (Cichla ocellaris) is the most commonly kept aquarium species; even these can reach giant adult size. A few species, such as Cichla intermedia and Cichla kelberi, grow to between 12 and 14 inches in length, making them suitable for life in a 100-gallon aquarium or larger tank.
Take care when buying Peacock bass! Identifying the species when the fish are juveniles is difficult and can lead to costly errors. If you end up with the wrong species, you might find that your 75-gallon tank needs upsizing to a monster 500-gallon aquarium!
These fish grow very fast, too. You can expect your Peacock bass to grow around 1½ inches every month until it reaches 6 to 8 inches long. After that, the growth rate slows to approximately one inch per month until the fish reaches its full size.
One final thing to remember when choosing a tank for Peacock bass is that these fish have aggressive feeding tactics, darting from one end of the tank to the other at crazy speeds in pursuit of a meal. And if the fish are spooked, they can easily be injured if kept in a small aquarium without sufficient swimming space.
Peacock bass are also jumpers, so you must have an aquarium with a tightly fitting lid to prevent accidents.
As long as Peacock bass have plenty of space, they are relatively undemanding fish regarding water conditions, although high levels of pollutants are not tolerated.
The fish prefer the conditions they enjoy in the Amazon Basin, i.e., soft, acidic water. However, you can keep bass in slightly alkaline or neutral conditions, and they will even tolerate slightly brackish water.
The correct aquarium water temperature range is crucial for Peacock bass. Ideally, the fish need warm water temperatures in the upper range of 80 to 86oF. If the temperature is too low, the fish’s growth rate slows down, and the disease risk increases.
Water hardness must be between 5 and 12 dGH with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.0.
Adult Peacock bass are large carnivores that create a lot of waste. So, you’ll need an efficient filtration system in your fish tank to keep the water clean and safe for the fish.
Because of the fish’s habit of darting around the tank at high speed, an external filtration system is preferred. Take care that the current in the tank is not too strong, as the fish cannot tolerate too much water movement.
Thanks to the bass’s long, protruding jaw, they tend not to attack plants or dig like most large cichlids tend to.
These impressive fish are primarily open-water swimmers; you need to keep most of the center of the tank clear so that the fish can swim freely without bumping into things. Use a sandy substrate, and decorate the tank with rocks, overhangs, driftwood, and twisted roots to create a natural look.
Dense planting is also a good idea for these fish, replicating their natural environment. Use broad-leaved species, such as Amazon Swords, and plant dense clumps of Vallisneria at the back of the aquarium.
To encourage a blackwater aquarium habitat, consider adding Indian Almond leaves and bogwood to your setup.
The main problem with choosing tank mates for Peacock bass is that these are large, predatory carnivores that will quickly make a meal of anything small enough to fit in their gaping mouths.
Slim fish can also become targets for the bass. So, we recommend you choose tank mates that are either raised with the bass or are too large to be eaten, such as Spiny Eels or Bichirs.
Good tank mates for Peacock bass can include the following species of fish:
Other Large Cichlids
Provided they are well-fed, you can keep groups of Peacock bass together in a very large aquarium.
Arowanas are massive fish that can grow as quickly as the bass and are also carnivorous predators.
Although the two species get along great, you’ll need an enormous fish tank to accommodate multiple 3-foot-long fish!
Freshwater stingrays are carnivorous but peaceful, keeping themselves out of trouble at the bottom of the tank. That means your Peacock bass will have the whole swimming space to themselves, preventing conflict.
The main drawback to keeping stingrays is that they are very fussy and demanding regarding water quality.
Tinfoil Barbs and Silver Dollars
Full-grown Tinfoil sarbs and Silver Dollars are too big for Peacock bass to eat, so they can make suitable tank mates in a diverse community fish tank.
Tiger Fish (Datnoides)
These large predators need the same water conditions as the bass but cannot tolerate brackish water. These thick-bodied fish are too large for the bass to eat and can defend themselves when required.
Large species of catfish are also suitable for life as tank mates for Peacock bass.
Catfish spend their lives cruising around the substrate, keeping out of the way of the bass. However, some very large catfish might try to eat juvenile bass, so make sure your bass are growing quickly!
Unsuitable Tank Mates for Peacock Bass
Remember that the Peacock bass is a carnivore and a predator. These fish will actively hunt down prey items and devour them. So, you cannot keep any fish species that are smaller or slimmer than the Peacock bass, or they will probably get eaten.
It’s amazing what size of fish the bass can gobble up! Even deep-bodied species, such as Red rainbowfish, can make a welcome dinner for a determined Peacock bass.
Diet and Nutrition
As well as providing sufficient space for these large fish, feeding them a correct diet and large amounts of food are crucial if your Peacock bass are to thrive.
Bass need a lot of high-quality meaty protein to fuel their growth. Wild bass feed primarily on small fish. However, they also consume insects, worms, and baby birds and small mammals that fall into the water.
Aquarium-kept Peacock bass should be fed live, fresh, and frozen meaty foods. Prepared pellet foods are not generally a success with bass. These fish respond primarily to movement, but the smell of freshly chopped fresh shrimp and fish is usually accepted once you’ve trained the fish to recognize it.
Feeder fish are a good option, provided you obtain them from a reliable source, and you can be sure that you’re not introducing infected fish into your aquarium. Therefore, we recommend that you keep any feeder fish in quarantine for a couple of weeks before offering them to your bass.
Breeding Peacock Bass
Peacock bass are relatively easy to breed, as long as you give them sufficient space.
Breeding pairs of bass must be able to form a territory that they can defend; otherwise, the pair won’t spawn in a busy aquarium.
Boys or Girls?
Sexing Peacock bass is virtually impossible while the fish are juveniles. Both sexes are pretty much the same in appearance, although males can be slightly larger than females when fully grown.
Often, the male bass has a slight nuchal hump that becomes more prevalent during the breeding season but is not as obvious as that of Flowerhorns. However, getting a breeding pair of Peacock bass is really just a matter of luck.
Generally, you have the greatest chance of producing a breeding pair and a successful spawn if you keep a group of Peacock bass in a very large aquarium.
Bringing Peacock Bass Into Breeding Condition
The best way to trigger spawning is to provide the fish with a very large aquarium, lots of food, and pristine water conditions. The water temperature needs to be between 84 and 86?.
Equip the aquarium with lots of flat rocks and spawning mops, where the fish will deposit up to 3,000 eggs per spawn. It’s crucial that you leave plenty of space between potential territories, as the fish won’t spawn if they feel overcrowded or threatened by their tank mates.
Once the bass pair off and spawn, you can expect the eggs to hatch within 72 hours.
The fry remains attached to the egg sac at first, using that as their food source. After around ten days, the fry will begin to accept baby brine shrimp and other tiny live foods.
The fry grows fast, typically reaching about 1½ inches long in just under two months! At that point in the juveniles’ growth, you can upsize the food to adult brine shrimp, guppies, and bloodworms.
As soon as the fry is free-swimming, remove them from the tank, so they don’t end up as a meal for the adult bass. Like the parent fish, Peacock bass fry is cannibalistic, the largest fish eating on the slowest growers in the brood.
So, be sure to offer the fry plenty of food, ideally giving them several feeds each day.
So, is the Peacock bass the right fish for you?
You need a very large tank with an efficient filter system to accommodate these fish. That said, these cichlids are not especially aggressive, and they can be kept with other large semi-aggressive species quite safely.
If you have the space in your home, you could create a spectacular community tank featuring the beautiful Peacock bass.
Do you keep Peacock bass? Tell us about your setup in the comments section below.