Pygmy sunfish

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Elassoma sp.jpg
Unidentified species
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Elassomatoidei
Family: Elassomatidae
Genus: Elassoma
Type species
Elassoma zonata
D. S. Jordan, 1877

See text.

Everglades pygmy sunfish, Elassoma evergladei
Okefenokee pygmy sunfish, Elassoma okefenokee

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 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.


The generic name Elassoma derives from the Greek ελάσσων (elasson) meaning smaller and σώμα (soma) meaning body, in reference to the fishes' diminutive size compared to the true sunfishes.


The currently recognized species in this genus are:[1]

See also[edit]


  • North American Native Fishes Association (NANFA) Elassoma forum [1]
  • Duzen, Bill. "The Pygmy Sunfish." The Native Fish Conservancy Website.
  1. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2013). Species of Elassoma in FishBase. April 2013 version.