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list fishey stuff..

           The Central Longear (Lepomis Megalotis)
                    As An Aquarium Species
                         Robert Rice
                    2213 Prytania Circle
                    Navarre Florida 32566

      With  the increased interest in Natives over the  past
decade  a  great  many  of  our  native  species  are  being
rediscovered as an aquarium species.
     Not since the 1920's have so many people inquired about
and  begun keeping natives. The writings of people like John
Quinn  ( A Netfull of Natives) and Larry Page   (  Petersons
Field  Guide to North American Fresh Water Fish  )  and  the
many  excellent State books have helped to get out the  word
and people are listening !
      Many  an  avid  aquarist, who is unfamiliar  with  our
natives  is  surprised to learn that our own humble  Natives
have intense color, interesting temperament and a variety of
body  types that surpasses many tropicals. When you  combine
these  with  their ease of care natives are a class of  fish
every aquarist should consider.
      Not  surprisingly the sunfishes are usually the  first
Native  fish  people  keep. The sheer number  and  types  of
sunfish make them an excellent first native. They are easily
collected  with  hook and line or dipnet or seine.  Not  all
states allow netting of Sunfish so check out your local laws
for the who's and what's of your area.
       As  a  rule they are very durable, tolerant  of  most
anything and tough as nails. In temperament they are usually
one  or  two  notches  below an Oscar  (Aggressive  but  not
completely  intolerant of other fish). They range  from  the
gentle  Black  Banded Sunfish (Ennecthaseus Chatedon)  whose
graceful  fins,  angel  like coloring,  slow  movements  and
delicate temperament are a hit with the Discus crowd. To the
positively  brutal Green Sunfish (Lepomis  Cyanellus)  whose
large mouth and pugnacious attitude make the Oscar lover  in
us all smile!
      The  Central Longear is in my opinion the best sunfish
for   the  novice  to  keep.  It's  combination  of   color,
manageable   size  (under  6  inches  in  most  cases)   and
personable  mid  range temperament make it the  ideal  first
fish  for the aquarist new to native fish. Its overall  body
shape  varies from region to region and sub species  to  sub
species.  It  can go from long and angular to   rounded  and
slightly reminiscent of the Discus shape. However it is  its
life  colors,   that  make  this  fish   nothing  short   of
spectacular and the must see of the Sunfish family.
      Here is how Bill Plieger describes them in his "Fishes
of Missouri" pg. 268.
       "Life Colors: Back and sides blue-green speckled with
yellow  and emerald; belly yellow and orange. Side  of  head
olive or light orange with emerald-blue vermiculations.  ear
flap  black, often with a narrow white border. Fins  without
prominent spots or blotches. Breeding males have all  colors
more  intense, with the under surface of the head and  belly
bright orange-red."
      With that definition you can see why I am confident to
place  them  in  any  aquarium contest  in  any   freshwater
     When finally in the aquarium Longear's quickly adapt to
captivity  and will take in a variety of foods.  I  do  mean
VARIETY, I have seen them fed everything from flake food  to
cat chow, including all the standard frozen and live foods.
      They are a natural for those who keep garden ponds and
don't  want to keep Koi or any of the more standard  species
of  pond  fish. They will thrive in an outdoor pond and  can
often  be  over wintered with no ill effects. They  will  of
course  spawn  in such an environment and  are  a  very  low
maintenance fish. They  thrive on insects that fall  in  the
water and mosquito larvae.
      I  have  even known people who have kept ponds outside
near  a bug zapper. Their Longears have thrived on the  near
misses and half shocked insects! Now that's an easy to  care
for fish!
           If  you are interested in aquarium breeding  this
fascinating  sunfish it's a snap. They behave in  a  similar
fashion to many tropicals in that the male will make a  nest
attract a female and spawn on the site. He will then  remain
on  site  guarding the eggs and fry until they  become  free
      The  Longear Sunfish's must be excellent parents.  One
several occasions while observing nesting sites. I have seen
various  types of darters and shiners  rushing in  when  the
male  Longear is distracted and laying their own  clutch  of
eggs  beside those of the Longear. The eggs are  then  cared
for  by the Longear male along with his own. He is of course
none  the  wiser and the survival rate of the other  species
shoots up dramatically.
    In the laboratory with the proper diet, a temperature of
77  F., and an extended photo period they have spawned every
10-14  days for over a year! Now that is prolific, of course
in the wild those conditions are usually only met a few days
or   weeks  out  of  the  year.  So  therefore  the  natural
reproduction rate is much lower.
     Here's What Dr. George Becker in his classic state book
"Fishes  of  Wisconsin  page 839" says  about   the  Longear
     "The  Longear sunfish adjusts well to captivity. It  is
not  susceptible  to  injury from  handling  is  not  unduly
aggressive and appears to be a promising species for use  as
a  laboratory test fish (Ward and Irwin 1961,   W.E..  Smith
1975).  In  the laboratory, W.E,.Smith was able to  get  the
species to spawn, to raise the young to maturity in 22 weeks
(males  10-12 cm, females 7-9 cm.) and to produce successive
generations under conditions of long photoperiod and a water
temperature  of 25 degrees C (77F). The adults continued  to
spawn with regularity every 6-10 days for 14 months."
      With  that information even an inexperienced  aquarist
has a good shot at  successfully spawning  these gems.
      I  have  found  that the Longears  from  Missouri  and
Arkansas  are the most colorful and make the best  stock  to
start  from.  However You may find a different local  strain
that catches your eye with just the right color and size mix
for you. If so, go for it. That is one of the great  joys of
collecting  is finding that local strain that  catches  your
eye. Let me know what you find!
      One  of the nicer things about the Central Longear  is
its  abundance  and  extensive range. If  you  live  in  the
eastern third of this country from Canada to Florida you are
in  Longear country! So collection of suitable specimens  is
not  terribly  difficult. They are easy to  collect  from  a
suitable  sight with seine, hook and worm or dry  fly.  When
you  get  one  they are easy to identify. Their unmistakable
ear  flap  is  up to 1/3 or their body  length in  size  and
black  as tar. I strongly recommend taking individuals under
4 inches as at that size they seem to adapt best to domestic
           If  you  like  the Cichlid family I promise  you,
you'll  love the Central Longear. With his twisting  palette
of  colors   he  is  as Colorful as any Cichlid  and  is  as
personable as a fish can get .They are as easy to  care  for
as  any  fish I've ever kept. Why once I left some  in  a  5
gallon  bucket after a collecting trip for over a week  only
to find a male guarding a fresh batch of eggs! Mine commonly
eat out of my hand and will allow me to pick them up with my
hand! So if you thinking about going Native I have just  the
fish for you.
      If  you are interested in keeping Native fish  in  the
aquarium I recommend you start with your local Department of
Natural  Resources or your local North American Native  Fish
Association  regional  chairperson (I  am  one).  I  can  be
reached at 2213 Prytania Circle Navarre Florida 32566 if you
need further information.