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redspotted sunfish

​redspotted sunfish (Lepomis miniatus) [state threatened]
Photo © Uland Thomas

Features and Behaviors

The redspotted sunfish is a small, typically dark olive fish with a pale, yellow belly, and three dark lines behind the eye. Distinguished from other Lepomis species by stiff opercular lopes, a pale spot on the end of lateral line, and dark spots on the lower gill cover. Young fish may have vertical bars or small scattered dark spots along their sides and are most confused for cyanellus, gulosus, marginatus, and megalotis. Breeding adult males are beautifully colored, displaying red and orange spots along most of the body and above the ear flap. They reach a maximum length of eight inches.

The redspotted sunfish is an inhabitant of slow-moving backwaters and swamps. They are highly insectivorous, consuming mostly midge larvae and other larval aquatic insects, amphipods, and cladocerans. Males construct nests in shallow waters near cover and they spawn from May to August. As with other Lepomis species, several females may spawn in the nest of a single male. Females deposit blueish eggs and males guard nests until young have hatched. Red spotted sunfish are known to hybridize with bluegill. 

Illinois Range


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Centrarchidae

Illinois Status: state threatened, native