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Mayan Cichlid Mayan cichlids (invasive species), first reported in 1983, are established and abundant in southern Florida as far north as Lake Okeechobee. Native to Central and South America, Mayan cichlids thrive under a variety of environmental conditions and they have adapted to Florida canals, rivers, lakes and marshes and tolerate a wide range of salinities.
The Mayan cichlid bears a strong resemblance to the North American sunfishes, having a “pan fish” shaped body and spines on the first dorsal and anal fin. The tail fin is slightly rounded. Mayan cichlids are distinctly colored with a broken lateral line and turquoise ring on the tail. They often have bright red on the chin, throat, and breast and sport six to eight bars that can be faint or dark. Mayan cichlids can live seven years in the wild and can grow over a foot in length and a couple pounds in weight.
Mayan cichlids are known to spawn in the spring and early summer. They are believed to build nests and provide parental care, although little is known of its breeding habits.
These aggressive feeders are omnivores, feeding on grass shrimp, small fish, snails, and insects along some vegetative matter.
Mayan Cichlid in Florida
Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Appearance: A broken lateral line and turquoise ring on the tail are diagnostic. Color varies greatly in intensity sometimes with bright red on the chin, throat, and breast; the 6-8 bars can be faint or dark.
Habitat: Mayans are illegally/ accidentally established nonnative fish. First recorded in Florida Bay in 1983, they are abundant in south Florida as far north as Lake Okeechobee. Native to Central and South America, they have adapted to Florida canals, rivers, lakes and marshes and tolerate a wide range of salinities.
Behavior: Consumes grass shrimp, small fish, snails, and insects along with some incidental detritus and vegetative matter.
Fishing Tips and Facts: Referred to as "atomic sunfish;" they take natural baits including worms, grass shrimp, crickets, and most small artificial lures. Jigs, fished on light tackle, or wooly worms and popping bugs used by fly fishers are taken aggressively. Good eating fish; take as many as you like, but do not live release them.