The Kelberi Peacock Bass (Cichla kelberi) is one of the smaller species of Peacock Bass available within the hobby, with a max size of around 18" in length, but more commonly only reaching about 10" to 12" in length within the aquarium environment. Even the largest Kelberi Peacock Bass is quite reasonable in size compared to many of the other species of Peacock Bass who routinely reach lengths upwards of 28" or more.
Cichla kelberi are collected from the Rio Araguaia drainage and the lower Rio Tocantins drainage located within the Brazilian Amazon. These areas tend to be lower flow and with less overall water volume than the main stems of the Amazon River where many of the larger Peacock Bass like Cichla monoculus are collected from. More narrow, slower moving and more highly vegetated water ways has most likely played a large part in the Kelberi Peacock Bass evolving into a smaller Peacock Bass species in order to better ambush prey in their native environment.
Cichla kelberi is distinguished from all other species of Cichla by presence in adults of small light spots on the pelvic and anal fins, and lower lobe of caudal fin. Cichla kelberi have similarities to C. monoculus and C. pleiozona in that they both have three dark vertical bars on their sides, a pronounced occipital bar in larger specimens, absence of black or ocellated markings laterally on head, and presence of irregular dark blotches on anterior abdominal side and typical absence of bar 4.
Dominant or breeding males will exhibit yellow or golden coloration on their side, vertical black bars, a greenish head without black spots, white chest, abdomen and ventral aspect of caudal fin base. The yellow coloration on the sides is interspersed with numerous small black spots dorsally. Additionally, they will exhibit prominently a dark grey nuchal hump.
Dominant or breeding females tend to exhibit yellowish to golden coloration on their sides and yellow on the cheek and gill covers. Their lower jaw, chest, abdomen and the ventral side of caudal peduncle will be white or light yellow in color. They will generally have light spots along their sides, a light caudal eyespot and spots on anal fin yellow.
Kelberi Peacock Bass (Cichla kelberi) is probably the most suitable of all Peacock Bass species for aquarium life due to its smaller size of 12" on average. Their smaller size makes them suitable for more hobbyists as they do not require a massive aquarium like many other Cichla species. Additionally, their smaller size means that they have a smaller mouth and corresponding aggressiveness, which allows them to be kept with a larger variety of tank mates than say a full grown 30" plus Temensis Peacock Bass.
Peacock Bass are accustomed to an environment with high quality water with low levels of pollutants and high levels of dissolved oxygen. Kelberi Peacock Bass aquariums need to replicate this environment as much as possible through strong mechanical, chemical and biological filtration along with medium to strong water movement. They are a little less sensitive to lower oxygen levels partly because of the slower flowing tributaries where they originate and partly due to their smaller overall size.
While Peacock Bass are large fish that eat equally large meals, they can do well in aquariums with excellent filtration capable of removing the excess food and waste products produced from such a large species. The adult size of the Peacock Bass is also an important factor in choosing the right aquarium to house them, with the size and shape of the aquarium being very important. With adult Kelberi Peacock Bass reaching between 10" to 18" in length, they can be suitably housed as an adult in aquariums of 180 gallons or larger. Smaller specimens can be raised in smaller aquariums if they are moved to larger tanks as they grow, with a general rule of tank being at least 4 times as long and 1 1/2 times as wide as the length of the fish.
The aquarium decor should be designed to provide plenty of swimming room, while also providing some areas of cover using driftwood, floating or well rooted plants and rocks with a sandy or gravel substrate.
Tank mates are an important consideration when housing adult Peacock Bass with other New World Cichlids due to their large size and aggressive temperament. A good rule of thumb is that anything that can fit in the mouth of the Peacock Bass eventually will. Tank mates should consist of other large aggressive New World Cichlids, large Catfish species and freshwater rays.
Kelberi Peacock Bass can be kept as the only Peacock Bass species or mixed with other species of Peacock Bass. They also do well in good sized groups and will work out a dominance structure amongst themselves, which will lower aggression between fish once their social hierarchy is in place.
Feeding & Nutrition
Wild Kelberi Peacock Bass feed on a wide variety of live foods living in their river tributary ecosystem, which include: insects, smaller fish, worms, crustaceans and amphibians. Kelberi Peacock Bass kept within the aquarium environment will readily feed on the same variety of live foods that they feed on in nature, but it is often more desirable to ween them off of live foods.
Live foods are typically more expensive, require holding tanks, more frequent trips to the aquarium store, can bring diseases and can create excess pollution in the aquarium water. Hobbyists generally ween their Peacock Bass to commercial food preparations in order to simplify their care and avoid the pitfalls or live foods.
However, it is not uncommon for Peacock Bass enthusiasts who have weened their fish to commercial foods to provide the occasional live feeding to enjoy the prey drive and aggressive feeding technique of the Peacock Bass. Suitable commercial foods for Peacock Bass include: worms, pellet foods, food sticks, frozen meaty foods like krill, silver sides or similar fare.
Peacock Bass will also consume a variety of dead meaty foods like raw shrimp, raw prawns, raw fish and similar meaty items. Individual specimens will often have their own preferences, with some specimens eating most anything while others will be more picky about their diet.