The chanchita is part of the cichlid and tilapia family, and is physically similar to the black acara. It has a stout forebody, more compressed posterior body and is oval to slightly rectangular in shape. The body is usually gray to silver, but some individuals have green or light blue hues on the body and fins. There is a black to green-gray stripe that extends from the eye through a mid-lateral spot, and then extends to a black spot at the upper caudal fin base. The caudal fin is asymmetrically patterned with larger clear spaces in the upper lobe. A dark blotch is present below the eye, and this species has a small and terminal mouth. There are usually three anal spines. Black rimming on scale edges of the nape and upper sides is thick, uneven, and dark. Chanchita can be found in creeks, lakes, canals, drainage ditches, retention ponds, wet prairies and springs.