Lepomis macrochirus (Bluegill)

Lepomis macrochirus

Last updated on August 31st, 2022 at 12:02 pm

Leopomis macrochirus, commonly called the bluegill, and sometimes referred to as brim fish, is a freshwater fish native to North America. It has been introduced to several other countries due to its popularity as a game fish, and it lives in lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and brackish water throughout much of the United States and southeastern Canada.

Bluegill Lepomis macrochirus are a beautiful species of freshwater fish found in rivers, ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water around the world.

It is a freshwater fish belonging to the sunfish family Centrarchidae of the order Perciformes. It has an orange-blue color on its back and sides with white underneath. The adult bluegill fish typically has an overall length of 8 to 16 inches, with some growing up to 24 inches long. The most recognizable characteristic of the bluegill fish, other than its brilliant coloration, are its sharply upturned mouth and jaw that makes it appear to be constantly smiling or smirking at you!

Though bluegills are typically thought of as being found in large lakes and ponds, this actually only applies to their natural habitat—they can also be found in rivers, streams, and even golf courses! Like other sunfish, the bluegill has a reputation as being one of the most aggressive fish in the water, but with proper care and maintenance, it can make an excellent pet for both new and experienced hobbyists alike.

This popular species in the Sunfish family is one of the most popular game fish in North America and many other places around the world.

Bluegill description


A species of sunfish, family Centrarchidae, of North American origin, Lepomis macrochirus has the common name is bluegill; it gets its name from its yellowish ventral surface, which is similar to that of Perca flavescens (yellow perch). It has many other names, including bream and brim. It has a long dorsal fin with 10-12 spines and 11-13 soft rays.

Bluegills are sometimes confused with redear sunfish (Lepomis microlophus), but can be differentiated by habitat, coloration, and age. Lepomis macrochirus have an olive-green back while redears have a golden back. They tend to live in faster water than redears do, but both occur in rocky or sandy shoals or weedy areas near shore in lakes or large rivers.

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In general, Lepomis macrochirus are smaller than redears, with larger mouths and small eyes set far back on their heads. Their scientific classification for Lepomis macrochirus is:

  • Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
  • Order: Perciformes (perches)
  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Lepomis (sunfishes)
  • Species: Lepomis macrochirus
  • Subspecies: L. m. Macrorhynchos: M =Macro, meaning large!

Species profile

Lepomis macrochirus

The Lepomis Macrochirus or Bluegill is a fish native to North America that inhabits ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. It gets its name from the distinctive blue coloration of its scales.

They are members of the Centrarchidae family commonly known as Sunfishes.

They have an average size of about 2 pounds with a maximum length of around 6-8 inches for males and 4-6 inches for females but can grow larger in optimal conditions. In some parts of their range, they have been observed to reach up to 8 pounds and 9+ inches. They are sometimes mistaken for their close relative Lepomis cyanellus which is often called green sunfish or blue bream due to its lighter-colored scales.

Bluegill habitat

Freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams in North America. Found from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick south to Florida and west to Minnesota. Also found in parts of South America. Lepomis macrochirus prefers clear waters with abundant aquatic vegetation for cover.

Colder temperatures help increase their metabolism which allows them to grow larger than warmer water fish of their species. Lakes that are warm all year long tend to have smaller bluegills because they never experience winter cold snaps that can trigger growth spurts.

For example; a 6 inch long adult male may weigh 1/2-1 pound while a 3 inch adult male is around 1/4 pound. In waters where there is no cold winter period; an 8-inch long large female will likely weigh just over 2 pounds while a 3-inch fish is close to half a pound.

Bluegill size

Lepomis macrochirus are one of the smallest sunfish species with a size of 7.5 inches (19.1 cm). They have a maximum reported size of 16 inches (41 cm).

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Lepomis macrochirus tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for adult bluegill is 75 gallons.

Tank set up

A planted tank will reduce aggression and make a peaceful community tank possible. Bluegills are omnivores; they eat both animal and plant material. In nature, they feed primarily on aquatic insects, small fish, crayfish, snails, frogs, and plant matter. Offer a varied diet of commercial foods including algae wafers and bloodworms as well as live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, and tubifex worms.

They’ll also eagerly devour plants such as lettuce, zucchini, and spinach. Keep your aquarium well-filtered with moderately hard water that has been treated with an aquarium salt mix for bluegills. Use a tight-fitting lid to prevent jumping out of your tank! Tankmates should be chosen carefully since all sunfishes are predatory.

The exception is Western Mosquitofish and Eastern Mosquitofish who prey exclusively on mosquito larvae; these can be excellent companions in a bluegill tank. Remember, never introduce two species from different continents into your aquarium at once, as many fishes carry diseases lethal to other species.

Lepomis macrochirus tank mates

Bluegills are territorial and aggressive, so tank mates must be selected carefully. Because of their territory-protecting nature, they are best kept in groups of one male to two or three females. They do best when kept with other hardy species like white bass, walleye, largemouth bass, and hybrid striped bass; avoid keeping them with smaller fish species like guppies and killifish.

Lepomis macrochirus breeding


Bluegills can become sexually mature at 1 year of age and spawn during spring through fall. Because they live in warm lakes, spring is their primary spawning season. Bluegills are cavity nesters, which means they lay their eggs inside cavities found on lake bottoms. They will also nest in plant roots and under rocks for protection from predators.

After spawning, they tend to guard their young until they hatch. The survival rate of bluegills varies by species, but only one to two percent survive over a period of one year. The larval period lasts 2–3 months, depending on water temperature and available food resources.

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During that time, fish consume mostly zooplankton as well as insects that fall into deep water when they’re still larvae. Young bluegills must then undergo another molt before becoming juvenile fish; once they do, they start feeding on other small organisms such as daphnia. Juvenile fish begin eating larger insects along with crayfish, snails, and small worms.

Are Lepomis macrochirus aggressive or peaceful?

Lepomis macrochirus are considered to be peaceful fish. However, they can become territorial when crowded or frightened. Therefore, you should place them in an aquarium by themselves. If you want to keep other small fish with them, do not put more than three or four bluegills into your tank. Although they’re not aggressive, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Lepomis macrochirus care


If you’re an avid angler who enjoys spending a lot of time in your local lake, then lepomis macrochirus are a popular species to target. They’re colorful, fun to catch, and excellent table fare. They prefer shallow lakes with plenty of food, so they should be provided with ample places to hide during feeding time. Furthermore, there are very few diseases that infect bluegills, but if one does strike there is medication available at most pet stores.

What do bluegill eat?

Lepomis macrochirus are omnivores, but their diet mainly consists of smaller organisms such as insects and zooplankton. They have also been known to eat tadpoles, frogs, small fish, mollusks, and aquatic vegetation. They can survive for up to a year without food. This ability is due to their slow metabolism. It allows them to consume only a little at one time. Thus allowing them to stay alive until they find food again.

Water parameters


Freshwater conditions vary widely, depending on geography. Most species prefer soft water with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5 and temperatures ranging from 50 to 75°F (10 to 24°C). They do better in slightly alkaline water than some other species of sunfish.

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They need oxygen-rich water; most species will not survive long if kept in stagnant waters. All bluegills are sensitive to silt or sediment; they should never be housed where their habitat is disturbed by muddy runoff or soil erosion.

Bluegill lifespan

The average lifespan of bluegill is 5-6 years

Parasites and diseases

Lepomis macrochirus gets sick and can die from bacterial infections, ichthyophthirius, and other diseases that are spread by contact with other infected fish or by lice. If you have an outbreak of these conditions in your pond, consider treating your fish with medications such as Maracyn Two or Jungle Fungus Eliminator.

When treating bluegills for disease, remember to treat both the water and all of your fish to prevent spreading a condition between them. Make sure you follow directions closely when using the medicine on fish. Some antibiotics should not be used when treating ponds with koi or goldfish, as they are very sensitive to many treatments.


Bluegills are often considered a sport fish. However, several predators including largemouth bass, walleye, northern pike, and bigmouth buffalo have been known to devour them.

Do Lepomis macrochirus make good pets?

Lepomis macrochirus make great starter fish for beginning aquarists. They are hardy and inexpensive, and many pet stores offer baby bluegills that have been captive-bred and acclimated to aquarium life. Even so, some leopomid specimens may prove too delicate for home aquaria. Be sure to ask your local pet store proprietor about any species-specific problems before you buy one of these fish!