Dollar sunfish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: November 26, 2022

The dollar sunfish is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that is perfect for beginner aquarium hobbyists. They are very easy to care for and can live in a wide range of water conditions.

Dollar sunfish are also very peaceful fish and get along well with other tank mates. They are a perfect addition to any community aquarium.

In this guide, we will go over everything you need to know about caring for dollar sunfish. We will cover their diet, tank requirements, and more!

Species overview

Dollar sunfish (Lepomis marginatus) are a type of freshwater fish that is native to the southeastern United States. They are most commonly found in the states of Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.

These fish prefer habitats with plenty of vegetation, such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers. They are relatively easy to care for and are a popular choice for beginner aquarists.

Dollar sunfish are named for their large, round bodies and their silver-dollar-like markings. They are a popular food fish and are often used in aquaculture.


Dollar sunfish

The dollar sunfish is one of the more unique looking freshwater fish out there. They have a very round and disk-like body shape that is almost flat from top to bottom.

This flatness gives them a very wide appearance and their large fins make them look even wider.

The coloration on these fish is also very unique. They are a silver color with a few dark spots on their body. The spots are usually on their dorsal side and they have a dark vertical bar that goes through their eye.

The fins on the dollar sunfish are also quite large. The dorsal fin is tall and triangular and the anal fin is almost as tall.

Their caudal fin is forked and their pectoral fins are large and round.


The average lifespan of a dollar sunfish is 5 to 8 years. These fish are relatively long-lived for their size and are not particularly susceptible to disease.

As with any animal, the lifespan of a dollar sunfish can be impacted by the environment it lives in and the care it receives. Poor water quality and diet can lead to a shorter lifespan, while good care can prolong their life.


The average size of a dollar sunfish is about 6 inches, but they can grow up to 12 inches in length.


Tank Size

10 gallons is the minimum recommended tank size but, as with most fish, the bigger the tank the better. A 20 gallon tank would be much better and provide more space for a school of fish or other tank mates.

Dollar sunfish are fairly active fish and will often swim in the middle and top areas of the tank. They also like to dig in the substrate so you’ll want to make sure you have a good quality gravel or sand that won’t be easily disturbed.

Water Parameters

The dollar sunfish is a tropical species, so it requires warm water to thrive. They’re also very sensitive to changes in water parameters.

You should do your best to maintain a consistent environment for your dollar sunfish. That means regular water changes and testing to ensure the water quality is where it should be.

Here are some general guidelines for keeping your dollar sunfish happy and healthy.

  • Water temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.8 to 7.8
  • Water hardness: 4 to 10 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 2-12 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

Dollar sunfish are one of those species of fish that can really help to liven up a tank. They’re known for being very active and playful, which means they’re always on the move.

To accommodate this, you’re going to want to make sure there’s plenty of open space in their tank for them to swim around. This means avoiding anything that’s going to impede their movement or block their line of sight.

Decorations are always a tricky subject with active fish. They can often times end up being more of a nuisance than anything else.

That being said, we still think there’s a place for them in a dollar sunfish tank. Just be sure to choose things that are on the smaller side and won’t get in the way.

Plants can be a great addition to their tank as well. Since these fish are known to be a bit on the nippy side, you’ll want to go with something that can withstand a little bit of abuse.

We recommend sticking to hardy plants like Hornwort, Water Wisteria, or Java Moss. These are all great choices that will add some much-needed color and texture to the inside of their habitat.

Common Diseases

The dollar sunfish is a hardy fish that doesn’t often fall ill. However, there are still a few diseases that you should be aware of if you plan on keeping these fish.

The most common disease that affects the dollar sunfish is ich. This is a fairly common freshwater disease that is caused by a parasite. The most obvious symptom of ich is the presence of white spots on the body of your fish.

If left untreated, ich can be fatal. However, it is fairly easy to treat if you catch it early. There are a variety of ich treatments available, so consult your vet or do some research online to find the best one for your situation.

Another disease that can affect the dollar sunfish is hole-in-the-head disease. This is a rather gruesome looking illness that is caused by poor water quality and the presence of activated carbon in your tank.

This will present itself as one or two pits/holes in the skin of your fish’s head. While it’s almost always curable (fixing your water quality and removing activated carbon is usually all you need to do), it will usually leave some scarring on your poor fish!

As with ich, the best way to prevent these diseases is to maintain clean and stable water conditions in your tank. A healthy environment will lead to healthier fish who are more resistant to disease.

Behavior & Temperament

The dollar sunfish is a peaceful fish that does well in a community tank. They are not aggressive and will not bother other fish. The only time they may become aggressive is if they are kept in a tank that is too small.

These fish are very active and love to swim. They are constantly moving around the tank and exploring their environment. They are also very curious and will often approach humans when they are near the tank.

Dollar sunfish are not the best swimmers and may have trouble keeping up with other fish in the tank. They also prefer to stay near the bottom of the tank and may not venture to the top very often.

Tank Mates

It is best to keep Dollar sunfish with other small, peaceful fish. They are not aggressive, but can be nippy, so tank mates that are fast and agile are best.

Some good tank mates for Dollar sunfish include:

  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Corydoras catfish


The dollar sunfish is a fairly easy fish to breed in captivity. They are known to be good parents and will take care of their fry without much intervention.

The first step is to set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 20 gallons and have plenty of hiding places. Floating plants can also be helpful.

Next, you need to sex your fish. Males have a deeper body and longer fins. The anal fin is also more pointed. Females are a bit more plump and have shorter fins.

When ready, add two females for every male. Then, begin changing out about 50 percent of the water each week.

Within a few weeks, the female will lay her eggs on a plant leaf or piece of driftwood. The male will then fertilize them.

After that, the male will guard the eggs until they hatch. This usually takes about a week.

Once the fry have hatched, you can remove the adults and begin feeding them baby brine shrimp.


The Dollar Sunfish is a beautiful and unique fish that is perfect for the beginner fish keeper. They are easy to care for and will add a splash of color to your tank.

We hope you enjoyed this guide on the Dollar Sunfish. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.