Pygmy Sunfish

Discussion in 'Freshwater Aquarium Builds' started by Jameseyy, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. Jameseyy

    JameseyyValued MemberMember

    I'm planning on setting up a Gulf Coast Pygmy Sunfish tank in the near future. Apparently there are very few people who have experience with these fish and I'm struggling to find consistent information on them. So if anybody has experience with these fish could you please answer a few questions?

    What size tank would be ok? I'm planning on having a small aquarium if possible as they only get to a very small size, but I want enough space for a few dominant males.

    Should I keep them in a heated or cold water tank?

    And how much are these fish to buy? I don't ever see them in fish shops near me and I can't find any prices on the web.
  2. NavigatorBlack

    NavigatorBlackFishlore VIPMember

    I have kept and bred them. More people have than you'd expect.

    There are several species, all of which are similar to keep. I had my best success with unheated 15 gallon tanks, heavily planted with guppy grass (Najas). Males hate each other, and it isn't a fish you will see every time you look in the tank. They are secretive. But man, are they beauties.

    You used the common name for Elassoma gilberti. I don't know how you would get that other than by by going fishing in its habitat.I kept Elassoma okeefenokee, and E evergladei.

    There was a native fish breeder/dealer in Saint Augustine Fla who sold pygmy sunfish online a couple of years ago. An online check using their Latin name may find the seller. He didn't use trade names. It will never be in a pet store for one simple reason - they do not like non living food. Mine would take decapsulated brine shrimp (but never flake or pellet) and pick at frozen food if it was tiny, but these micro-hunters needed me to hatch brine shrimp every day.

    I had some beautiful okeefenokee a few years ago that I caught in Orlando, Fla, and they made it to a second generation here. The babies all turned out male, so that was that.

    Beware of the tank size myth. They are tiny, true, but they have large fish aggression and behavior, and each male needs space. Many will see a one inch adult and figure a 5 gallon will do. Don't ask me how I learned that was wrong... They have big personalities. Plus, even though I caught my last ones in a city (the Econlockhatchee River in Orlando), they seem to need very clean water.

    It's a tricky fish, but worth it. If I am ever in the south again, I expect I'll go fishing for them again (I dragged a net along the underside of logs and sorted the fish out of the plants and muck that got me - the same river had Heterandria formosa, a micro livebearer and ghost shrimp galore around the logs, and lot of Poecilia latipinna mollies, and Gambusia affinis in the open water). There are some stunning North American aquarium fish, especially in the south east of the USA.
  3. chromedome52

    chromedome52Fishlore VIPMember

    No heat, and keep them near the floor so they stay cool, unless you live in the Great White North, where it's always cold :p. Lots of thick plants, like Guppy Grass or Hornwort. There are several native fish enthusiasts in the Michiana area (SW Michigan, Northern Indiana around South Bend) who have bred several species of Elassoma in recent years.

    While I was in the Navy, I used to collect considerable numbers of Elassoma around Jacksonville, FL, and air mailed them (yes, I'm that old!) back to friends in Michigan. At the time I referred to them as evergladei, but with recent developments, I'm not sure exactly which species I was getting. When I got out of the Navy, I asked some of those friends for fish to stock my new fishroom, and while several had bred the fish, no one had any remaining.

    Several years later I was shocked to find some in a store in Kalamazoo (also as E. evergladei), and set up a pair in a 2.5 gallon "Critter Keeper" plastic tank. It was stuffed with Najas/Guppy Grass, and had no substrate. They spawned, the fry ate the same brine shrimp nauplii as the adults, and when they got big enough, I sold them. Seemed very easy at the time, but that was city water from Lake Michigan. I will swear to my dying day that there is something in the waters of the Big Lake that makes fish want to breed.

    Elassoma evergladei.jpg

  4. toolman

    toolmanWell Known MemberMember

    Jonah's aquarium had info and fish for sale, google them it's been a long time since I used the site.

  5. OP

    JameseyyValued MemberMember

    Thanks for the replies everyone! From this I feel the most challenging aspect of keeping them would be getting hold of them. I live in the U.K. so catching them is out of the question. I could ask my local fish shop to try and order some in but I doubt he will get hold of them.

    As far as feeding goes, I've been looking into starting a Grindal Worm culture, as it looks fairly small, simple and apparently, not smelly!

    @NavigatorBlack Of the species that you have kept, which were most colourful? As the beauty of the fish combined with their personalities is why I'm so interested in keeping them.
  6. NavigatorBlack

    NavigatorBlackFishlore VIPMember

    I found them very similar.

    The UK thing complicates it. I am 36 hours' drive and a border from the habitats, but I wouldn't need a submarine feature on my car!

    The Dutch and German aquarists with the fancy planted tanks used to like them, and it was a longtime joke that if you wanted US fish, you had to go to Europe. My first pair of evergladei were bought in Germany and brought here to Canada as a gift.

    They could be very expensive though. I have seen them on Czech farm lists, but I don't recall the prices.

    elassomagoodshot (640x584).jpg

    E. okeefenokee from Orlando. I skipped Disney and went fishing...
  7. Piaelliott

    PiaelliottWell Known MemberMember

    Well, you were right. There is no shortage of Elassoma (all three) in Germany :) Just checked and they are easily available from hobby breeders all over eBay. Prices range from Euro 5 to 10 per fish,   has them in their sortiment, not currently available though.

    They have everything over there, when I did research on Heterandria formosa, the best I I figured d on German website sites :)
  8. NavigatorBlack

    NavigatorBlackFishlore VIPMember

    Many of my US friends don't find native fish attractive. They have wondrous species down there, but this is usually a blood parrot/flowerhorn type hobby...
  9. Piaelliott

    PiaelliottWell Known MemberMember

    I know, it is sad. I wonder why.

    Keeping fish that only eat live food is no big deal in Germany. From what I gathered, you can buy live food at every pet store. Makes things a lot easier.
  10. chromedome52

    chromedome52Fishlore VIPMember

    There are currently 7 species in Elassoma. I had some zonatum about two years ago, but the male was old and they never had a chance to spawn. I would love to go to the Carolinas and collect E. okatie, a zonatum type that is very attractive. I tried to get some gilberti when Ken Normandin brought some to Chicago for the Chicago Killifish Association's spring special meeting. They were going $50-$75 a pair in the auction. I may contact him and see if he has any Elassoma available right now. (He came up to talk about collecting killifish in Colombia, but Ken has been collecting Florida natives many years now and does ship fish on occasion.) I can also check a couple of local native enthusiasts who travel south to collect almost annually. We have several in the immediate area. Local clubs hold collecting trips in area lakes and streams in the spring to get Darters, Minnows, and other interesting natives.

    If you get into the serious hobby here in the US, most are using live food as well, and they have great disdain for those Frankenfish. Hatching shrimp nauplii is not hard, when I can afford eggs. I will likely have a hatcher going when I start buying fish again. Microworms, white worms, grindal worms, Daphnia, Vinegar worms, all relatively easy to culture. Serious hobbyists generally don't have time to waste on the internet; I'm old, my fishroom is down, and I have too much time on my hands. For now.
  11. Piaelliott

    PiaelliottWell Known MemberMember

    I think the original poster is from the UK and wants Elassoma.

    Those are expensive fish, probably because they are not popular.

    I will look into 'growing' my own food :)
  12. Cold&warm

    Cold&warmValued MemberMember

    I started off a year ago with Elassoma evergladei aka Everglades pygmy sunfish. If you are still searching, this breeder, Mr Lothar Hermann has them currently available on "Meine Fischboerse":   . He has also other types of Pygmy sunfish.
    If I understand correctly, they are a stable part of his catalogue: ( ). He sells them in pairs: 15 euro per pair. Postage and handling from Germany (Horka beyond Dresden in the former DDR, the Polish border must be visible on the horizon) to Italy came at an additional 22 euro . Very importantly, Mr Hermann sells to private people. You can ask him to ship on a Monday.
    Elassoma evergladei.
    He is about 27mm.
    Females are precious, for as mentioned by NavigatorBlack they are rare. She was 25mm.
    IMG_0095  STOLONE+Musetto-sequence  28nov16 76KB.JPG
    Please never put a heater in their tank. They need low temperatures in winter (10 C is perfect) to be able to "sustain the reproductive pressure" they'll face in March.
    Please be very careful when changing the water with a hose...
    Stronger males harass weaker ones in a painful manner, easily to sickness and death.
    They are interesting intelligent fish, but easily outcompeted for food. At feeding time, they look and think and think and in the end take a bite. Other fish in the tank are likely to have eaten all the food by then.
  13. Cold&warm

    Cold&warmValued MemberMember

    Oh yes, as far as temperatures go, they are incredibly hardy. Range 5-30C and they can take considerable and sudden fluctuations - they live in water that is generally a mere 30 cm deep. Poor beautifully-coloured males, any hungry waterbird can see them..

    In summer when the water came too close to 30C I would cool it with frozen water bottles:
    IMG_2569 Ice-crystal-show with inquisitive E.e..JPG

    IMG_2594 July-August 2017 was HOT.JPG
    You won't need to in the UK.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2017

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