The Pygmy Sunfish “Elassoma Evergladei”

pygmy sunfish

Last updated on July 23rd, 2022 at 07:49 am

The pygmy sunfish is a small species of freshwater fish that can be found in freshwater streams, rivers, and lakes throughout the central United States. They are commonly called pygmies because they grow to about 3 inches long.

Some pygmy sunfish live for up to seven years, but most only live two or three years due to their size. These little guys are known for being very territorial and will fight with other sunfish if they come too close!

The pygmy sunfish looks like a small version of the North American sunfish. It is oval in shape and has dark green to brown coloring with yellow spots on its dorsal side.

Origin and descriptions

pygmy sunfish

The pygmy sunfish is a type of freshwater fish that originates from Africa. They are omnivorous and small, averaging around 20mm in size. While they have not been studied extensively in the wild, their behavior can be inferred by examining similar species within the same family (e.g., Elassoma zonatum). They likely exhibit benthic habits, feeding on small invertebrates and detritus that they sift from the substrate.

They are easily distinguished by their deep red coloration and lack of scales on the body (they possess naked skin). The dorsal fin is located relatively far back on the body and is continuous with the caudal and anal fins.

They are distributed along a wide range of habitats, from lowland floodplains to small forest rivulets at elevations exceeding 2000m. This broad habitat distribution has made them difficult to classify as they show high levels of morphological plasticity (variation in traits among individuals of the same species).

They are popular in the aquarium trade and can be found for sale at pet stores. They make hardy captives and will eat a wide variety of foods, including frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small pellets.

Species profile

pygmy sunfish

The pygmy sunfish (elassoma evergladei) is a small fish that typically inhabits slow-moving streams and creeks in the southeastern United States. This species can be distinguished by its deep, compressed body shape and numerous dark spots on its dorsal surface. They typically reach a maximum size of around two inches.

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This species is an active forager that eats small aquatic insects and other invertebrates. They are usually found in areas with dense vegetation or overhanging structure like logs.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the pygmy sunfish is elassoma evergladei

Color and appearance

Pygmy sunfishes are generally gray to brown in color with large dark spots on their dorsal surface. They also have a faint lateral stripe running along each side of their body. The pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins are usually transparent or yellowish-orange in coloration while the caudal fin is slightly rounded.

This species has a deep, compressed body shape indicating that it’s an active swimmer and strong forager capable of capturing prey in fast-moving water habitats where other sunfishes cannot thrive.

They are small fish, generally reaching around two inches in length at maturity with the maximum size being four inches long. This makes them one of the smallest sunfish species in North America.

They are usually found in areas with dense vegetation or overhanging structure like logs. They use these features for cover and as ambush points to prey on small aquatic insects and other invertebrates.

Range and habitat

Pygmy sunfishes are generally found in the southeastern United States, inhabiting slow-moving streams and creeks. This species is endemic to Alabama where it’s found throughout most of the state except for some areas along its northern border.

They occupy a wide range of habitats but prefer slower moving water with dense vegetation, overhanging the stream banks. This provides them with good cover and ambush points for capturing prey. Pygmy sunfishes are also commonly found around logs or other large objects that provide refuge from predators and a place to rest.


This species is generally around two inches long at maturity and four inches maximum.

Tank size

A 20 gallon tank is the minimum size required to house the sunfish.

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Pygmy sunfishes make excellent community fish and can be housed with other small, non-aggressive fish species. They are active foragers and will spend most of their time exploring the aquarium looking for food.

Life cycle

Pygmy sunfishes reach sexual maturity at around two inches in length. Spawning typically occurs from late spring to early summer, with the female depositing her eggs in a protected location on the underside of a submerged object. The male then guards and fertilizes the eggs until they hatch.

The fry will stay close to their spawning site, hiding among the aquatic vegetation for around two weeks before becoming free-swimming. Once they reach about one inch in length, their parents will stop protecting them and the young fish must learn how to survive on their own.

It can be difficult to rear pygmy sunfish fry since this species is very susceptible to disease when kept in an aquarium. Many people breed pygmy sunfish in outdoor ponds or stock tanks that receive adequate sunlight and are large enough to support the fry after they emerge from their protective spawning site.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Sunfish are generally considered to be peaceful fish. They aren’t an aggressive species and they can actually make great community tank mates with other non-aggressive species of similar size. The only real issue is the potential for them to eat smaller, more delicate, or slow-moving tankmates so you need to keep that in mind when deciding on their companions.

Pygmy sunfish care

pygmy sunfish

Pygmy sunfish require a moderate level of care. They need clean water and plenty of space to swim in. A tank that is at least 30 gallons in size is recommended for keeping sunfish. They also need a diet that is high in protein.

What they eat

In the wild, sunfish eat a variety of foods including insects and insect larvae. In an aquarium environment, they need to be fed live or frozen brine shrimp as well as bloodworms.

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Sunfish can also eat small fish, so it is important not to keep them with other smaller species of fish that will likely end up on their menu!

Pygmy sunfish tank mates

Sunfish can be kept with other sunfish as well as some other types of fish. However, it is important to do your research before adding any fish to an aquarium containing sunfish. Some species of fish are known for being aggressive and may not get along well with the sunfish.

Water conditions

The ideal water conditions for pygmy sunfish are a pH of about six to eight, and a temperature of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate slightly higher or lower pH levels and temperatures, but they will not thrive in extreme conditions.

They require plenty of dissolved oxygen in the water and a filter that can remove particles from the water column. The tank should be planted densely to provide shelter for the fish, and there must be space between plants so they have room to swim.

There should also be areas of open water where fish can rise to the surface for air without being out in the open or harassed by other fish.


pygmy sunfish

Pygmy sunfish are bred by separating the males and females into separate tanks, then adding a male to the tank with several females. The male will start courting one of the females, and they will mate.

The female will then release her eggs, which the male will fertilize. The eggs will sink to the bottom of the tank, where they will incubate and hatch.

The fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp or micro worms. They should be moved to their own tank when they are large enough to avoid being eaten by the adults.


Pygmy sunfish live around three to five years in the wild and four or more years in captivity.

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Parasites and diseases

Pygmy sunfish are susceptible to a variety of parasites and diseases, including ichthyophthirius (ick), costia, trichodina, chilodonella, and vibrio.

They can also get bacterial infections, fungal infections, and protozoan infestations. They can be treated with antibiotics and chemical solutions, such as methylene blue.

They are also sensitive to copper-based medications. They cannot be exposed to any metal in their water, including salt mixes that contain metals like iron or zinc.


Pygmy sunfish are preyed on by a variety of predators, including larger fish, birds, and raccoons.

They should be kept in a tank with a lid to prevent them from being eaten.

Does it make good pets?

Pygmy sunfish can make good pets for people who understand their needs and are willing to provide the care they require. They need a large tank with plenty of space, as well as plants and open spaces where fish can rise to the surface for air without being harassed by other fish.

They also live in warm water, so owners must be prepared to keep the tank at a temperature of 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.


The pygmy sunfish is a small species of fish that has the ability to survive in sub-tropical climates. They are mainly known for their breeding habits where they lay eggs on submerged objects, such as rocks and logs. This makes them hardy but also very common due to this trait which means they can be caught easily with a hook.