Information Central (c) Larry Larsen
Sexual Maturity and Spawning
Peacock bass are substrate spawners capable of reproducing more than once per year. In most
tropical areas, some peacocks can be found breeding each month of the year. The masses, however, will usually breed once or twice a year. This is often just before and during the
rainy season in areas that have such, according to biologists reports.
According to some fishery research, given sufficient food, young butterfly peacocks grow
to sexually mature sizes between 11 and 13 inches in less than 12 months, while the speckled peacock take three years to become sexually mature. According to other fishery research, females of both common species
mature at about the same rate. In many South American rivers, peacocks reproduce once a year; in reservoirs, they may spawn three times a year.
The sexually ripe male is normally identified by a pronounced forehead "hump" of fatty tissue that
is stimulated by sexual maturity. Recent scientific evidence also exists that some females may exhibit
a small "hump" as well. The hump is reabsorbed within several weeks after spawning. The male will
cruise an area for up to several days while searching for "display grounds." A prominent courting
location near a suitable spawning site is selected to present himself to females that pass by. He will aggressively defend his territory from other males.
When a female stops, the male will intensify lateral displays and begin digging a bed area. The
female will leave and return to the spot several times before the pair will bond and the male (who is generally much larger than the female) will lead the female to a specific nesting area. Once the pair
has bonded, spawning will occur in about two weeks.
After bonding, both fish will help dig one or more shallow beds for newly hatched larvae. They will
also clear an area for egg deposit near the depression beds. Any external disturbance (predator) coming toward the nest areas will cause both fish to quickly depart.
The size and depth of the depression bed varies depending on type of bottom material. In soft
clay or sand, the shallow depression may average six inches in depth and 18 inches in diameter. The depth of such beds will vary due to the water clarity and other predatory factors present, but the
sides are steep which helps to contain the larvae once they are deposited. The natural depressions in fallen trees, stumps and other firm submerged objects often serve as nest areas for deeper
spawning peacock bass.
Spawning normally takes place on a flat surface that has been cleared (or is bare to begin with)
of algae or other debris during the fanning movements of the parents. This could be on the top of a stump or the bark of a fallen tree that lies horizontal below the surface, yet near to the depression
beds. The female moves over the bed and deposits neat rows of eggs as the male follows and exudes sperm which drifts down over each row. This effort usually takes several hours. Reports
state that peacocks may lay an average from 3,000 to 10,000 eggs, with an average being about 5,000.
The color of the eggs reportedly change from a white to a yellow as they develop.
Underdeveloped eggs accumulate a fungus and are normally removed from the bed by the parents. Ultimately, less than one percent of the eggs will hatch and reach adulthood. The eggs, while being
constantly fanned by the female, develop into larvae in about two days.
Some males periodically take part in the fanning to remove foreign materials from the eggs, but
their time is often consumed by defending against egg predators. From time to time, the male will leave the female to fend off a threatening intruder. By the time the eggs hatch, the female exhibits
very aggressive behavior toward any intrusion, while the male offers aggressive lateral displays and circles the area.
As the eggs hatch at the spawning site, the male (and sometimes the female) takes them into his
mouth and deposits the fry in the nearby small depression beds. The larvae have a mucous-like adhesive at their head which allows them to stick to the bottom of the nest. They wiggle their tails,
making the floor of the bed resemble a writhing mass of undulating worms.
At night, the parents lower themselves over the bed to discourage nocturnal predators from
attacking the larvae. Both parents stand vigil and guard the brood which mill about their nest deriving nutrition from the remnants of their yolk sacs.
As the fry become free-swimming, which occurs about three days after the hatch, the parents
herd them around the canal. The fry stick together in a cloud near the surface of the water. They feed throughout the day on zooplankton, growing rapidly and becoming stronger.