M. polyacanthus is a widespread species present in many South American countries from Bolivia up to the Orinoco River, in southern Venezuela.

Welcome to the amazon

I turn my head left and see hundreds of cardinal tetras shoaling on the river bank. Small sections of my ears are raw due to many tetras, Copella and Anostomus that are constantly biting and nibbling on them. Even though their teeth are small, the mass number of them do damage to your skin, after days of snorkeling in their habitat. 

Scouting the area, I spot a good-looking, medium sized peacock bass swimming towards me. He is far enough to let me prepare for a possible amazing picture. I hyperventilate a bit and take a deep long breath. As I sink towards the river bottom, I relax my muscles and try to concentrate by ignoring the painful “skin peeling” going on in my ears. 

I do a smooth landing on the river bed with minimum debris stir. The Cichla still unaware of my presence gets closer as I lay motionless, five feet underwater. I try to anticipate its trajectory, fine tune the camera settings, and start to locate him on my cameras back screen. Twenty seconds have passed; I can hold my breath for about a minute so everything is looking o.k. as long as the bass does not stop for a rest along the way. All of a sudden a brown “thing” comes up the front of my mask. It rises and parks itself so close to my left eye mask glass that I cannot even focus. By experience, I know what it is and try to ignore that, too. The Cichla keeps on swimming until he is two feet away and then spots me.