CCAC Meeting October 2nd, 2014

October 2nd, 2014
Jim Reed
The Elassoma genus for beginners

Elassoma is a genus of freshwater fish, the only member of family Elassomatidae and suborder Elassomatoidei of order Perciformes. The type species is E. zonatum, the banded pygmy sunfish. The Elassomatidae are known collectively as pygmy sunfishes, but are not true sunfishes, which are members of family Centrarchidae. Some researchers believe they are related to sticklebacks and pipefishes (order Syngnathiformes) rather than Perciformes.

The pygmy sunfishes grow to a maximum overall length of 3 to 4 cm (1.25 to 1.5 in). They occur mostly in temperate and subtropical swamps, marshes, and other shallow, slow-moving, and heavily vegetated waters, across an area of the American South stretching from the Coastal Plain of North Carolina to central Florida, west along the Gulf Coast to eastern Texas, and north up the Mississippi River Valley to southern Illinois. The bluebarred, Carolina, and spring pygmy sunfishes have small localized populations and are considered Vulnerable.

The pygmy sunfishes are too small to be game fish, but are popular as aquarium fish because of the males’ iridescent colors and fascinating breeding behaviors. Eggs are laid on or beneath dense vegetation, and the male guards the nest area until the fry hatch and scatter. They adapt well to small aquaria and are easy to care for, but require small live worms, insects, or crustaceans as food. Most individuals will not eat prepared fish foods.