Everglades Pygmy Sunfish (Elassoma evergladei)

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Everglades Pygmy Sunfish

Pygmy Sunfish, Elassoma evergladei.jpg
Everglades Pygmy Sunfish

Elassoma evergladei

19 Litres (5 US G.)

3-4 cm (1.2-1.6")




6 - 8

10 -30 °C (50-86°F)

3-15 °d

1:1-3 M:F

Live Foods

1-3 years




Native to the southeastern united states from southern North Carolina to Florida, including (as its scientific and common names both imply) the everglades. In the southern parts of its range, it also ranges west to Alabama. They are typically found in areas with soft substrates, slow flow, and large amounts of cover, often in the form of plants and often in the shallows; it also turns up in blackwater habitats with some frequency.


Dominant males are unmistakable, possessing black bodies adorned with iridescent blue spangles and courting females with a distinctive 'dance'; subdominant males are very difficult to distinguish from subadult females, though adult females are far plumper than males of any age. These fish breed almost constantly as adults, and while the adults and juveniles may eat small fry, a substantial fraction of the fry often manage to grow up alongside the parents if enough plant cover is available. For high fry production, a pair of adults are best placed in a small, densely planted tank, fed well for several weeks to a month, then removed; they will almost always breed under these conditions. The fry are quite small and will need infusoria or greenwater for the first week or two before they will take microworms and baby brine shrimp.


Strictly carnivorous and almost never takes dry food in captivity. Best fed small live foods like baby brine shrimp or grindal worms in aquariums, though they will often learn to take frozen foods with time; baby snails and shrimplets will also be eaten and can be a valuable supplemental food source if shrimp or snails are abundant in the tank. Should not be fasted for long periods due to their small size.


Quite shy fish that will lose all their color if housed with anything larger than themselves. Best kept in a species tank; very small fish like least killifish can be mixed with pygmy sunfish, but neither species is likely to successfully breed under such circumstances unless the tank is quite large. Male pygmy sunfishes are quite territorial; in a small tank only 1 male will display color, with the other males showing female colors to avoid being harassed by the dominant male. Larger tanks with more cover can support multiple territories and thus multiple brightly colored males.

Tank setup

Best kept in a heavily planted tank with a lot of cover to allow these fish to establish territories; pygmy sunfishes in general have no need of a heater and are quite flexible with water parameters. Flow is best kept relatively low, and air powered filters are recommended if fry production is desired. The substrate should be sand, dirt, or other soft substrates, as eggs and young fry can get stuck in the gravel and subsequently die. Pairs or trios could be kept and bred in tanks as small as 2.5 gallons, but keeping such a small tank reasonably clean could be a challenge; a 5 gallon or larger would be a good size for general care.


Pygmy sunfishes are regularly available from vendors who specialize in native fishes, as well as from other hobbyists. Though perhaps not ideal for beginners due to their exacting dietary needs and their near requirement for species tanks, they are excellent spawning projects for hobbyists with some experience and are quite hardy if their dietary requirements can be met.


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