Crenicichla Species Groups

By Vinny Kutty

There are over a hundred species and this genus is second in number and diversity only to Apistogramma. Difficulty involved in identification of these species has led to the creation of species groups, mostly by KULLANDER, LUCENA and PLOEG. While a species’ identity may often be unclear without knowing its collection locality, all species can be placed in their respective groups with only rudimentary knowledge of the characteristics of each species group. See below for a list of species belonging to each group and their shared physical characteristics.

Saxatilis Group (41 species): these fish are known as Spangled Pikes for the numerous white to gold spangles found along the sides of males and some females. They all possess a humeral blotch (shoulder spot) that may or may not have a ring around it.

  • albopunctata, Pellegrin 1904
  • alta, Eigenmann 1912 (syn. C. cardiostigma)
  • anthurus, Cope 1872
  • britskii, Kullander 1986
  • coppenamensis, Ploeg 1987
  • frenata, Gill 1858
  • hemera, Kullander 1990
  • hummelincki, Ploeg 1991
  • inpa, Ploeg 1991
  • isbrueckeri, Ploeg 1991
  • labrina, (Spix & Agassiz 1829)
  • lepidota, Heckel 1840
  • lucius, Cope 1871
  • menezesi, Ploeg 1991
  • nickeriensis, Ploeg 1987
  • pellegrini, Ploeg 1991
  • proteus, Cope 1872
  • pydanielae, Ploeg 1991
  • santosi, Ploeg 1991
  • saxatilis, (Linnaeus 1758)
  • semicincta, Steindachner 1892
  • sipaliwini, Ploeg 1987
  • sp. “Approuage”
  • sp. “Arapiuns”
  • sp. “Belem”
  • sp. “British Guyana I”
  • sp. “British Guyana II”
  • sp. “Casiquiare”
  • sp. “False anthurus”
  • sp. “Inirida I” (sp. Bocon)
  • sp. “Inirida II”
  • sp. “Inirida III”
  • sp. “Jurua Eirunepe”
  • sp. “Madeira”
  • sp. “Orinoco Puerto Ayacucho”
  • sp. aff. britskii “Sao Francisco”
  • sp. Tocantins I
  • sp. Tocantins II
  • sp. Tocantins III
  • sveni, Ploeg 1991
  • vaillanti, Pellegrin 1904 (syn. alta?)

Lugubris Group (16 species): these are the largest of all pikes. Adults have a salami-like appearance. Possessing very small scales, they look smooth. Juveniles of these species have a unique spots-and-stripe pattern on their heads that they lose as they mature.

  • adspersa, Heckel 1840
  • cincta, Regan 1905
  • johanna, Heckel 1840
  • lenticulata, Heckel 1840
  • lugubris, Heckel 1840
  • marmorata, Pellegrin 1903
  • rosemariae, Kullander 1997
  • sp. “Arapiuns lugubris”
  • sp. “Aripuana”
  • sp. “Atabapo”
  • sp. “Uaupes/Negro Multispot”
  • sp. “Venezuela”
  • sp. “Xingu I”
  • sp. “Xingu II”
  • sp. “Xingu III”
  • strigata, Gunther 1862

Acutirostris Group (9 species) : these rarely imported species are similar to lugubris group members but they all are more slender and have pointy heads. Juveniles of these species do not exhibit the spots-and-stripes pattern.

  • acutirostris, Gunther 1862
  • multispinosa, Pellegrin 1903
  • percna, Kullander 1991
  • phaiospilus, Kullander 1991
  • sp. aff. acutirostris Madeira
  • sp. “Tapajos Red”
  • sp. “Trombetas”
  • ternetzi, Norman 1926
  • tigrina, Ploeg 1991

Reticulata Group (13 species) : these fish were members of the genus Batrachops and are now considered Crenicichla. C. cyanonotus, C. reticulata, C. semifasciata and C. stocki have extremely large, round heads and are often referred to as Froghead Pikes. The others are specialized and inhabit swift flowing waters and have compressed heads. They do not have a shoulder spot (with one exception) but possess a distinct caudal spot and the females exhibit a red to orange bar on their flanks and dorsal fins during breeding. In the rheophilic species, the red bar on the dorsal fin is restricted to the upper half of the soft rays.

  • cametana, Steindachner 1911
  • cyanonotus, Cope 1871
  • cyclostoma, Ploeg 1986
  • geayi, Pellegrin 1903
  • jegui, Ploeg 1986
  • reticulata, (Heckel 1840)
  • sedentaria, Kullander 1986
  • semifasciata, (Heckel 1840)
  • sp. “Belly Crawler”
  • sp. “Tapajos Shoulder spot”
  • sp. aff. geayi
  • sp. aff. jegui
  • stocki, Ploeg 1991

Wallaci Group Species (11 species) : these are dwarf pikes. They rarely exceed 5 inches. Females of some species have ringed black spots on the dorsal fins.

  • compressiceps, Ploeg 1986
  • heckeli, Ploeg 1989
  • notophthalmus, Regan 1913
  • regani, Ploeg 1989
  • sp. aff. heckelii “Cumina”
  • sp. aff. notophthalmus “Maici-Mirim Madeira”
  • sp. “Orinoco Dwarf”
  • sp. “Xingu Dwarf”
  • urosema, Kullander 1990
  • virgatula, Ploeg 1991
  • wallaci, Regan 1905

Lacustris Group (13 species) : this group is under revision and does not have a clear diagnosis but they are all found in Southeast Brazil. Females often have a ringed black spot on the dorsal fin and both sexes often have a diagonal stripe under the eye. They do not have a shoulder spot. Most of these are large species, with a possible exception of C. jupiaensis, a reputed rapids-dwelling dwarf species.

  • celidochilus, Casciotta 1987
  • dorsocellata, Haseman 1911
  • haroldoi, Luengo & Britski 1974
  • iguassuensis, Haseman 1911
  • jaguarensis, Haseman 1911
  • jupiaensis, Britski & Luengo 1968
  • lacustris, (de Castelnau 1855)
  • mucuryna, von Ihering 1914
  • niederleinii, (Holmberg 1891)
  • punctata, (Regan 1905)
  • sp. Iguassu I
  • sp. Iguassu II
  • vittata, Heckel 1840

Scotti Group Species (3 species) : these are large gray species with suborbital stripe, dorsal fin spot in females and rows of horizontal lines along the sides.

  • scotti, (Eigenmann 1907)
  • gaucho, Lucena & Kullander 1992
  • prenda, Lucena & Kullander 1992

Missioneira Group Species (7 species) : these Rio Uruguai endemics are characterized by an unusual suborbital marking, consisting of only a few spots, a prominent post temporal spot and spotting on the body. Some females possess a dorsal fin spot. C. punctata of the lacustris group may actually belong here.

  • igara, Lucena & Kullander 1992
  • jurubi, Lucena & Kullander 1992
  • minuano, Lucena & Kullander 1992
  • missioneira, Lucena & Kullander 1992
  • sp. Giraffe
  • sp. aff. missioneira “Rio Forquilha”
  • tendybaguassu, Lucena & Kullander 1992

Other (1 species): macrophthalma, Heckel 1840.
This unique fish has enormous eyes and is nocturnal. It is shaped like a wallaci group species but grows to about 8 inches. This ill-fitting species is ironically the type species of the genus.