Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis Gibbosus)

Pumpkinseed sunfish

Last updated on September 8th, 2022 at 01:10 pm

The pumpkinseed sunfish, also known as the bigmouth, high-crown, or Lepomis gibbosus, is a species of freshwater fish in the Centrarchidae family native to the Mississippi River basin in North America. While they are not as popular as some other fish species, they are easily cared for and make great pets.

Pumpkinseed sunfish are great aquarium fish and can add color and activity to any freshwater community aquarium. However, they have special needs that need to be met if you want them to thrive in captivity and live long lives.

The pumpkinseed sunfish is an extremely popular species with aquarium owners, and it makes a great addition to community tanks in both fresh and saltwater environments. A beautiful fish with a brilliant green back and white belly, the fish is an ideal addition to your freshwater aquarium if you’re looking to add some color and personality to your home. However, this little gem comes with some unique care requirements that can be challenging if you don’t know what you’re doing.

They are small fish that typically do not exceed 6 inches in length, but their lifespan often exceeds 8 years when properly cared for in captivity.

They can make an excellent addition to any backyard pond or aquarium, as long as they are properly cared for and kept in the right conditions.

Origin and descriptions

Pumpkinseed sunfish

The pumpkinseed sunfish is a warm-water fish from North America, primarily in the Midwest region of the United States and Canada. They are normally found in lakes and ponds, usually around vegetation or other structures where their eggs can attach.

They have a lifespan of about three years, but if conditions are favorable, they can live up to eight years. They tend to grow between 4-12 inches long and rarely exceed 1 pound in weight. The pumpkinseed sunfish has been thought of for many years to be one species, known as Lepomis gibbosus.

Genetic studies showed that it is actually two different species. The form more common to northern waters has been classified as Lepomis gibbosus while those fish living in southern waters of Texas and Florida (and sometimes as far north as South Carolina) are called Lepomis megalotis, with which they share almost no resemblance.

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Species profile

Pumpkinseed sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus) is a popular game fish in North America. It is a member of the true sunfishes family Centrarchidae. They are small, brightly colored, medium-sized fish that can reach up to 30.5 cm (12 inches) in length.

Females grow larger than males, however, both sexes have slender bodies and orange/red stripes along their sides.  They are often mistaken for largemouth bass by anglers as they share a similar coloration pattern.

Pumpkinseeds, however, lack an olive green lateral line running down their flanks on each side and instead have 6–8 dark vertical bars further back on each side where bass would have its lateral line.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the Pumpkinseed sunfish is Lepomis gibbosus

Pumpkinseed sunfish size

This species can grow up to 4-12 inches (10-30.5 cm) in length.

Pumpkinseed sunfish tank size

Due to their large size (up to 12 inches), the minimum recommended tank size is 30 gallons (114 liters) for a single fish, although bigger tanks (up to 75 gallons) are better.

Tank requirements

This sunfish lives in a tank that’s 30 gallons or larger. Water temperature should be between 76 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit. The water should have moderate to high levels of dissolved oxygen and moderately hard water (3 to 5 dH).

If you keep your Lepomis gibbosus with other fish, they’ll do best in an aquarium that’s at least 50 gallons. They won’t get along well with another member of their species unless it’s a mated pair; if there is more than one pumpkinseed sunfish in your tank, consider getting two pairs to improve their chances for survival. In addition to gravel or sand for digging and rocks for hiding spots, provide them with live plants, and decorate sparingly, to make them feel less exposed.

Your pet may also enjoy an occasional treat of bloodworms or brine shrimp. Keep in mind that although pumpkinseeds are undemanding about tank conditions, any change can stress them out. Plan ahead and create a stable environment before adding new pets to your tank so as not to disrupt their routine too much.

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Pumpkinseed sunfish tank mates

Pumpkinseeds are territorial and may fight with other fish in their tank. They are best kept singly or in groups of six or more, but if you do decide to keep only one pumpkinseed, consider adding lots of rocks and plants to provide lots of hiding places.

If your pumpkinseed is being bullied by larger fish (such as aggressive danios), it’s better to remove it than leave it to endure repeated attacks. Similarly, avoid housing pumpkinseeds with highly active fish that will frighten them into darting around wildly, your poor little guy might get injured from banging into things.

Some good tank mates are larger peaceful fish such as hatchetfish, larger tetras, and characins like silver dollars. Avoid housing pumpkinseeds with other territorial sunfish; they may not tolerate each other in an aquarium setting.


Pumpkinseed sunfish

Like many sunfishes, pumpkinseeds are difficult to sex, but males typically grow larger and have larger heads. When they reach a length of 5–7 inches, pumpkinseeds can be bred in captivity. Egg spots appear on their sides at about 3 months old, when you should separate them into individual male and female tanks. The fish will spawn from April through June; after spawning, remove the parents to prevent them from eating their young.

Use gentle filtration and slightly acidic water with a pH of 6.0-6.5 and temperatures between 68 ̊F-77 ̊F (20 ̊C – 25 ̊C). A tank size of 50 gallons is sufficient for 2-3 adult pairs, while 75 gallons is required for each additional pair added beyond that point. Add hardwood or driftwood decor to provide breeding sites like hollow logs or crevices where they can lay eggs unobserved by predators.

Move mating pairs to a breeder net or set up artificial nesting material to encourage spawning. Make sure there’s space under the nesting material for fertilized eggs, which hatch within 24 hours of laying. Feed newly hatched fry infusoria until they’re ready to eat micro pellets and other food types, around 2 weeks later. Fry develop quickly and may reach 1 inch long after just 6 weeks; transfer large batches of juveniles to other growing tanks at 4 weeks so as not to crowd them as they develop.

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Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Pumpkinseeds are peaceful fish, but males are sometimes known to be aggressive towards each other. If you have more than one male, keep a close eye on them; if you notice fighting, separate them immediately and use dividers. Also, make sure that there’s enough room for your Pumpkinseed to swim without bumping into its tank mates always. Provide plenty of hiding places, otherwise, they may become stressed out and irritable.

Pumpkinseed sunfish care information

Pumpkinseed sunfish

Pumpkinseed sunfish are not hard to care for as long as their environment is kept clean. Because they naturally live in stagnant water, like swamps and puddles, they are used to living in dirty conditions. To keep your pumpkinseed from becoming stressed or sick, change 50% of their water once a week or so.

You can also add a bit of aquarium salt to their water if you want them to breed; be sure you do plenty of research on what types of foods fish need when breeding before you try. These fish prefer small, heavily planted tanks with open spaces since they need room to swim around and explore.

This makes most community tanks an ideal home since there will always be space available for another playful visitor. If you choose to add other species of fish into your tank with your pumpkinseed, consider keeping similar-sized species together – anything much smaller than them will likely end up being eaten! Also, make sure that none of these other fishes have long dorsal fins since longer fins will get caught on plants easily.

Pumpkinseed sunfish diet

Pumpkinseeds are omnivores and are not picky eaters. They will gladly accept a wide variety of live and prepared foods. In nature, they primarily eat crustaceans and insect larvae; in captivity, most experts recommend feeding freeze-dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, blackworms, Daphnia, or grindal worms as a staple diet.

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They will eat anything they can catch and swallow. Thus, you should feed them several times a day to keep their metabolism operating properly. You must provide them with quality food (live or frozen brine shrimp) to make sure that their beautiful red coloration is present at all times.

Pumpkinseed sunfish lifespan

Pumpkinseed sunfish

In captivity, they typically live between 6 to 8 years with good care and proper water parameters.

Parasites and diseases

Pumpkinseed sunfish are relatively disease-free. They can be a host for Ich, which is treated with salt or aquarium salt mix. Tapeworms and flukes can also infect them if they have access to infected fish in their environment. To prevent parasites from entering your tank, make sure that you treat your fish’s water with either malachite green or formalin before adding them to your tank.

If your pumpkinseed sunfish has visible parasites such as worms, then you should isolate it immediately. If one fish gets sick, then chances are good that others will get sick soon thereafter. You should perform a 90% water change on all of your tanks if one of your fish becomes ill; it could save both lives and money!

Many diseases (bacterial infections) are contracted when a fish is stressed because its immune system weakens when under duress.

Do Pumpkinseed sunfish make good pets?

They can make good pets, but they are a lot of work. They are very active fish and will require at least a 30 gallon tank with plenty of hiding places and sturdy decor. You can keep more than one in a tank as long as you provide them with enough space and clean water. Pumpkinseeds should be kept in schools (3 or more) and fed small amounts of varied food several times a day.