7 Interesting Redbreast Sunfish Facts

redbreast sunfish

Last updated on August 29th, 2022 at 11:25 pm

The redbreast sunfish is a beautiful and delicate fish. They are a species of freshwater fish that live in eastern North America and can be found in some parts of Central America as well. These beautiful red-throated fish have many interesting facts associated with them that make them an alluring addition to any aquarium or pond.

They live primarily in the Mississippi River basin and eat mostly aquatic insects and small crustaceans, but they will also feed on other fish in large groups when necessary.

Origin and descriptions

redbreast sunfish

The Redbreast sunfish is native to North America, only occurring in the United States and Canada. It can be found near large rivers throughout much of its range but tends to stick close to slower-moving bodies of water. They are most common at depths under 18 feet (about six meters) where they prefer hiding among rocks or aquatic vegetation, although they can be found in shallower water as well.

They are one of the largest sunfish, with a maximum recorded size of about twenty-two inches (56 cm) and ten pounds (four kilograms). Males will have brighter coloring to their scales while females tend to be duller brown or grayish-green. The redbreast sunfish is named for the male’s redbreast.

Female redbreast sunfish are larger than males, although both feature a dark spot at their gills and have seven or eight vertical bars on their sides that fade as they age. Their mouths contain an upper jaw with two rows of teeth to crush food items like mollusks, while the lower jaw has a single row of teeth for grinding.

They eat large quantities of insects, crayfish, and snails which they crush in their mouth with their strong jaws. They also prey on other fish including young sunfish as well as frogs, mice, and aquatic plants when available.

Species profile

redbreast sunfish

The Redbreast sunfish is native to the United States and lives in medium-sized rivers. They are also found in lakes, ponds, reservoirs, marshes, sloughs, and impoundments. It prefers areas with abundant aquatic vegetation for cover. These fish can be seen at depths of up to 25 feet during the day, but usually, stay in shallower water at night.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the Redbreast sunfish is Lepomis auritus.

Color and appearance

Redbreast sunfish have bright crimson backs and sides. They have a golden belly with a red breast that gives them their name. Their scales are very shiny, giving the fish a coppery appearance in some lighting conditions.

They can grow up to 13 inches long, but most of these fish only reach about seven inches when fully grown. They have rounded tails and stocky bodies. They are deep-bodied with large heads, thick lips, and wide mouths that give them the appearance of bulldogs. Their teeth are small and sharp.

Their dorsal fin is greenish-yellow in color while their anal fins are orange or red near the base but pale at the tips. The pectoral fins on both sides are usually white or yellow with black tips.

The dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are all clear in coloration but have blue edges that can be seen when the fish move quickly through the water. They also produce an orange secretion on their gills when they breathe which is thought to attract prey species like crayfish.

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Their colors change as they age. The male fish are brighter than the female fish, but both sexes turn duller with each passing year until their color is almost completely gone by ten years of age.

Redbreast sunfish range and habitat

Redbreast sunfish are native to the United States and can be found throughout most of their range. They live in many areas east of the Rocky Mountains, including Eastern Texas, over to New Jersey, and all the way up into Canada along both coasts.

They prefer fast-flowing rivers with rocky bottoms where they have abundant vegetation for cover. They also like to live in deep, clear lakes and reservoirs where they can find aquatic plants for cover. They do well in warmer waters up to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and prefer water with a pH of around six and a half.

They are found throughout the south-eastern United States from New Hampshire all the way down into Florida as well as Eastern Texas. They occur as far north as New York and Pennsylvania but are not found in the Rocky Mountains or west of Oklahoma and Texas.

They prefer clear water with aquatic vegetation for cover where they can feed on insects like mayflies and midges along with small fish, snails, crayfish, and other invertebrates that live in the water.

Redbreast sunfish are considered to be a game fish and they can provide good sport for anglers who know how to catch them. They usually do not jump out of the water when hooked, but put up a strong fight once pulled from the depths where they live.

Redbreast sunfish size

Redbreast sunfish reach an average adult length of seven inches but can grow as large as 13 inches. They usually weigh less than three pounds when caught and rarely exceed five pounds in weight. Males are generally smaller than females of the same age group since they stop growing at a younger age.

Tank size

Redbreast sunfish do well in a community tank, but they should be kept with larger fish that are not small enough to fit into their mouths. Most of these fish will only reach about seven inches when mature and can make good companions for other species like bluegill or catfish.

They require at least 20 gallons of water or more per fish depending on the size of their tank and how many fish are in it. They do well with other sunfish species like green sunfish, longear sunfish, orangespotted sunfish, and bluegill as they usually only grow to be about seven inches when full-grown.

Life cycle

Redbreast sunfish spawn from late spring to early summer when the water temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They come together in groups at this time of the year, but only the male fish tend to be brightly colored while females are duller in coloration.

Males attract females by displaying their fins and scales along with bright colors on their bodies. They do this to attract females and warn other males away from the area where they are gathered.

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When a female is attracted by one of these displays, she will lay her eggs in his nest before moving on to another male’s territory for breeding with him as well.

Once spawning has occurred, there isn’t much that can be done to prevent the eggs from being eaten by other fish in the tank. The male will usually guard his nest until they hatch, but once that happens, he won’t do much of anything except swimming away and leave them on their own.

Once hatched, these young fish only grow about an inch each year which is slower than most other sunfish species.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Redbreast sunfish are a peaceful species that only become aggressive when they feel threatened or during the breeding season. They can be kept with other fish as long as they aren’t small enough to fit into their mouths, but will likely attack them if given the chance.

Redbreast sunfish care

redbreast sunfish


Redbreast sunfish care is not very hard to do, but it is important that you know what you are doing before getting one.

The care starts with providing the right habitat for your fish. To take nice care of redbreast sunfishes, provide an aquarium which has a lot of plants and rocks in it. Make sure there are no sharp edges as this can hurt your sunfish.

They like acidic waters and you should make sure that the water pH is between six and seven, with a temperature of twenty-eight to thirty-two degrees Celsius. You also need to provide them with plenty of food because these fish eat constantly!

Redbreast sunfish diet

They like snails, insects, and even small fish! They are omnivores so you can give them meat as well but it should not make up more than thirty percent of their diet.

Great food for your red-breasted sunfish would be earthworms. Just leave them in the aquarium for your fish to catch. You can also give them pellets or flakes, but only when they are young.

Redbreast sunfishes grow very quickly, so do not be surprised if you see that they have outgrown their tank within a year! If this happens, it is best to release them back into the wild.

They will eat much of their food during the day and they are not picky about what type of meat-based foods they receive, so it’s best if you feed them sinking pellets or flakes, bloodworms, brine shrimp, or even small crayfish.

Tank mates

Redbreast sunfish are aggressive fish and should only be kept with tank mates that can hold their own. They will eat the smallest fish, snails, shrimp, and slow-moving crayfish.

Larger fish such as tetras or cichlids may make it through a fight without injury but the redbreast sunfish will usually win.

Large cichlids are not a good choice unless the redbreast sunfish is smaller than them or they have already been established in your tank for some time and you know there aren’t any problems between the two fish.

If you plan to keep more than one red-breasted sunfish, it’s best if their tanks are not near to each other.

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If you plan on putting them in a large tank, provide hiding spots and areas where they can set up territories so the fish will not fight between themselves.

Water conditions

Redbreast sunfish do best in acidic and soft water. They can survive just fine in hard or alkaline conditions but they won’t breed as readily unless the pH is below seven. If you plan to breed them, consider using rainwater to fill your tank, adding peat moss, bogwood, or driftwood that has been pre-soaked to lower the pH.

If you choose to use tap water, let it sit for a few days so chlorine and other chemicals will dissipate before adding the fish.

The sunfish have been known to live up to three years in home aquariums but they usually only live between one and two years because of their aggressiveness toward one another.


redbreast sunfish

Sunfish are not easy to breed in the home aquarium. If you want to try, consider having more females than males or they will all go into breeding conditions at once and may fight with each other.

To induce spawning, lower your tank water temperature between 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit during the night so the fish thinks it’s spring.

If you see them chasing each other and building nests, add a few hardy live plants like java fern or Anubias. Sunfish will usually eat the eggs but at least some of them should hatch into fry.

Add micro pellets or baby brine shrimp if they don’t seem interested in eating their own eggs.

The fry will usually be about an inch long when they are born and can be fed microworms or brine shrimp nauplii. They don’t need to eat much, so only feed them what they’ll consume in two minutes once a day. If you see any rotting egg sacs, remove the parents immediately because sunfish will eat their own eggs.

Breeding sunfish in the tank is not easy, but it’s a fun challenge and you may get lucky if your redbreast sunfish choose to mate. Sometimes, they will even lay their eggs on an item of human clothing so be sure to remove them quickly or place some fake plants in the area where they choose to spawn.

In the wild, redbreast sunfish will lay their eggs on a fallen log or other hard structure but in an aquarium, they will usually use an object that has been decorated with java moss. If you’re using real plants for spawning, remove them once the fish have laid their eggs so they do not eat them.


Redbreast sunfish usually live between one and two years in the home aquarium. The males will fight with each other, making them short-lived pets unless you have more females than males or they are separated into different tanks.

Parasites and diseases

Redbreast sunfish are susceptible to ich, fin rot, and cottonmouth. If you see white spots on their fins or body, check your tank water for parasites.

They can be treated with an aquarium salt bath but make sure the temperature is between 75-78 degrees Fahrenheit because anything below that may stress them out too much.

If they develop cottonmouth, which is an infection caused by the herpes virus, add aquarium salt to your tank at a ratio of one tablespoon per gallon and increase the temperature between 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit for three days. Never medicate with copper, unless it’s part of a treatment plan from your veterinarian because redbreast sunfish are very sensitive to it and can die as a result.

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Your redbreast sunfish should recover after the three days but if they do not, move them into another tank with clean water at 80 degrees Fahrenheit for one month so their wounds will heal.


If you want to keep your redbreast sunfish in the same tank as other fish, make sure they are all well fed and larger than them. If a big predator like an oscar or bass is hungry enough, it will eat smaller aquarium residents, including your sunfish.

They can also be attacked by parasites and diseases, so keep their water clean and don’t overcrowd them.

Does it make good pets?

Redbreast sunfish are not the best pets, because they will eat your other fish and can live for two years at most. However, if you enjoy challenges or want to make a beautiful aquarium with lots of plants, give them a try!

7 interesting facts (Summary)

redbreast sunfish

If you are looking for an interesting fact about the redbreast sunfish, then this article has you covered! Here are 7 facts that will get your mind racing and teach you more about these fascinating creatures.

  • Redbreast sunfish are hardy fish that lay their eggs on java moss and other plants.
  • They can be induced to spawn with lower water temperatures in the night and will eat micro pellets or brine shrimp nauplii after they hatch.
  • Their lifespan is one to two years long.
  • If you see white spots, add aquarium salt and increase the temperature to treat ich.
  • Redbreast sunfish will eat your other fish if they grow hungry enough, so keep them in a tank by themselves or with larger species that cannot be eaten. If you do decide to get one, enjoy their interesting behavior but don’t expect them to live long!
  • Redbreast sunfish can grow up to 12 inches long and weigh as much as 2 pounds!
  • Male redbreast sunfish usually have more colorful fins than females, adult males develop bright orange coloration on their throat, breast, and belly during the breeding season.
  • The lifespan of a redbreast sunfish varies depending on their environment; those living in polluted water may only survive for six months, while those living in clean water may live as long as two years.


Redbreast sunfish are not the best aquarium fish because they will eat your other smaller species and only live for one to two years. However, if you enjoy challenges or want to make a beautiful planted tank with lots of vegetation, then, give them a try!