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

Updated: December 17, 2022

The Spotted Sunfish is a freshwater fish that is native to the southeastern United States.

This fish is a member of the Centrarchidae family, which includes other popular sunfish such as the Bluegill and the Pumpkinseed.

The Spotted Sunfish gets its name from the spots that are present on its body and fins. These spots are usually black in color, but can sometimes be dark brown.

The body of the Spotted Sunfish is oval-shaped and compressed. It has a small mouth that is located underneath the snout.

The Spotted Sunfish is a popular fish for aquariums and ponds. It is a peaceful fish that gets along well with other fish.

Species overview

Spotted sunfish (Lepomis punctatus) are a small freshwater fish that are found in a wide variety of habitats throughout the southeastern United States.

They prefer slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation, but they can also be found in fast-moving streams and even ponds.

Spotted sunfish are omnivorous, meaning they will eat both plants and animals. In the wild, their diet consists of insects, crustaceans, and small fish.

These fish are popular among aquarists because of their bright colors and patterns. They are also relatively easy to care for, making them a good choice for beginner fishkeepers.


Spotted sunfish

The Spotted sunfish is a small but beautiful freshwater fish. As the name suggests, these fish are mostly covered in spots. The spots are black and quite prominent on the upper half of their bodies.

The spots tend to be a bit more faded on the lower half and their belly area.

The background color of the Spotted sunfish can be a bit difficult to describe. It’s somewhere between yellow, green, and brown. This color can also vary depending on the fish’s environment and diet.

The fins on this fish are also spotted (to some degree). The dorsal fin is tall and begins about halfway back on the body. The anal fin is much shorter and starts closer to the fish’s ventral area.

Both of these fins have a black margin that really makes the spots pop. The caudal fin is forked and symmetrical.

The Spotted sunfish has a rather long and thin body shape. This gives them a lot of speed and agility in the water.


Spotted sunfish have a typical lifespan of 4 to 6 years.

As with most fish, their lifespan will be greatly impacted by the quality of care they receive. If they’re kept in a well-maintained tank with good water conditions then they’re likely to live towards the upper end of this range.

Conversely, if they’re kept in poor conditions then their lifespan will be considerably shorter.


Spotted sunfish generally only grow to be about 4-5 inches long.


Tank Size

The recommended tank size for a spotted sunfish is 10 gallons. This is the bare minimum and you will need at least a 20 gallon tank if you want to keep more than one fish.

The main reason why you need a larger tank is because of the size of these fish. They can grow up to 12 inches in length and need a lot of space to swim and explore.

Water Parameters

The spotted sunfish is a freshwater fish that is native to the southeastern United States. They are most commonly found in ponds, lakes, and streams with slow to moderate currents.

Spotted sunfish are a hardy fish and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. However, they prefer water that is clean and well-oxygenated with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.

The following are some ideal water parameters for keeping spotted sunfish:

  • Water temperature: 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 7.0 to 8.0
  • Water hardness: 4 to 10 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up the inside of an aquarium for Spotted Sunfish you can be as creative as you want. There aren’t any specific things that this species NEEDS to have, which gives you plenty of options.

We recommend some of the standard decorations that you find in a lot of freshwater tanks. There are a ton of great plants you can include (like hornwort or water wisteria). You can even throw in some floating aquarium plants too!

Rocks, driftwood, and caves are all suitable as well. It’s important to avoid going overboard with this since these fish like some room to swim.

Also, if you’re keeping your Spotted Sunfish in a smaller tank then it’s going to be difficult to include a lot of this stuff anyway.

A classic gravel substrate is always a good choice, but you can do with something soft and sandy if needed too (use other species you keep as a guide with this).

Common Diseases

The spotted sunfish is a hardy fish that isn’t prone to too many illnesses. However, there are a few potential diseases that you should be aware of.

The most common disease that these fish experience is ich. This is a parasite that can affect freshwater fish of all types, and it’s especially common in sunfish.

The most obvious symptom of ich is the presence of white spots on the body of your fish. If you notice this, it’s important to act fast. Ich can spread quickly and it can be fatal if left untreated.

The best way to prevent ich (and other diseases) is to maintain clean and stable water conditions in your tank. This will help to keep your fish healthy and reduce the chance of them getting sick.

Behavior & Temperament

Spotted sunfish are peaceful fish that prefer to stick to themselves. They are not known to be aggressive, and they will usually only interact with other fish if they are feeding.

These fish are mainly bottom-dwellers, but they will occasionally swim up to the surface to grab a quick gulp of air. They are not strong swimmers, so they will usually just drift back down to the bottom after taking a breath.

Spotted sunfish are not known to be very active, so don’t expect to see them swimming around a lot. They will usually just stay in one spot unless they are looking for food.

When they are looking for food, they will use their long fins to help them glide through the water and find something to eat.

Tank Mates

Spotted sunfish are generally compatible with other fish that occupy the same water column. In other words, fish that stay near the top of the tank are good choices.

These fish are also pretty mellow, so you don’t need to worry about them being too aggressive.

With that in mind, here are some compatible tank mates for spotted sunfish:

  • Neon Tetras
  • Cardinal Tetras
  • Ghost Shrimp
  • Guppies
  • Platy Fish
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails


The spotted sunfish is a relatively easy fish to breed. They are livebearers, so the female will give birth to fry (baby fish). You don’t need to do anything special to trigger spawning. The fish will breed on their own when they’re ready.

You will, however, need to provide them with the right environment. Spotted sunfish prefer to live in ponds and other slow-moving bodies of water. They like to hide in aquatic plants, so make sure to include plenty of vegetation in their tank.

The water temperature should be between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.

When ready, the female will give birth to anywhere from 10 to 100 fry at a time. The fry are very small, so you’ll need to take care when feeding them. Baby brine shrimp and other live foods are the best option.


The Spotted Sunfish is a great fish for beginner aquarists. They’re relatively easy to care for and are very peaceful, making them a great addition to community tanks.

They’re also very pretty fish, with their bright colors and distinctive spots.

If you’re looking for a fish that’s easy to care for and will add some beauty to your tank, the Spotted Sunfish is a great choice!