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             THE BANDED SUNFISH (Enneacanthus obesus)
                        By Peter R. Rollo
                         2308 Cedar Lane
                           Secane Pa,
            North American Native Fishes Association
In  their  native  habitat in South Central New Jersey,  spawning
generally  begins in May or when the water temperature approaches
70  F.   On July 21, 1994 ten adult Banded Sunfish were collected
from  the  same  body  of  water as  the  Blackbanded  Sunfish  I
collected.  The water conditions found at this time of collection
were no measurable hardness, pH of 6.0 and a temperature of 75 F.

>From  the  literature  the spawning process proceeds  in  typical
sunfish fashion.  The males construct a nest in the substrate and
await  a  ripe female.  With the approach of a female,  the  male
begins to display with fins fully extended.  The pair circle each
other  and after a short time the pair stops circling, the female
releases  her  eggs and the male simultaneously fertilizes  them.
The males then remain on their nests to fan and guard the eggs.

The  adult Banded Sunfish are housed in a 20 gallon high aquarium
and  spent  their  summer in my shed.   It  is  equipped  with  a
thermostatically controlled exhaust fan to prevent heat buildups.
Filtration  is provided by an internal power head attached  to  a
sponge filter  and an air driven corner box filter.  Lighting  is
provided  by a florescent tube situated on top of the  tank.   By
pushing the light to the back of the tank the light intensity can
be  lowered to appropriate levels.  An inch and a half of  gravel
is  provided  along with a flower pot turned on its side.   There
are  no plants in this tank.  To aid in the wintering process and
to  insulate  it from the summer heat the tank is enclosed  in  a
plywood box with a removable lid insulated with styrofoam. An air
space  of about 4 inches surrounds the sides and top of the tank.
In  the  winter  minimal  heating is  provided  using  a  voltage
regulator connected to heat tape.  The heat given off by the heat
tape  warms the air space.  This warm air is pumped into the tank
by  the air pump and effectively prevents freezing or major drops
in  temperature.  The heat is manually controlled and  used  only
when excessively cold.

Initially  I  tried  to acclimate the Banded Sunfish  to  my  tap
water, which is hard and has a pH of about 6.8.  They started off
doing  well but within two weeks their health started to decline.
Their appetites decreased and the most noticeable change was that
they lost most of their color.  Since it was clear they would not
thrive on my terms I went to work turning their tank water into a
close  duplicate of their natural habitat.  The first problem  to
solve  was  how  to soften the water with the  least  effort.   I
decided  to  use  a  rechargeable ion exchange softening  pillow,
which is placed in the filter box.  Using a five gallon container
and  an  extra power filter, I softened the water to levels  that
could  not  be measured by my test kit.  I also added  Blackwater
Extract to the softened water.  The softening process takes about
one and a half to two hours per five gallons.  Prepared water  is
stored in five gallon bottled water containers with lids.  When I
had  prepared enough water, I changed the water and observed  any
changes.   Within 48 hours the fishes natural color returned  and
they became active and hungry again.  Softening the water appears
to be a very important factor for maintenance of healthy fish.

The  next  problem was how to acidify the water.  While softening
the  water, I added pH Down to the water till I reached a  pH  of
6.0  to  6.2.  The fish were slowly acclimated to this new water.
Once  completely acclimated I sampled the tank water pH and found
it to be 6.8 instead of 6.0.  I had neglected to consider that my
tap  water has a high buffering capacity and the pH will  rebound
to higher levels unless you exhaust the buffering capacity of the
water.  The next time I made water and adjusted the pH to  6.0  I
waited  several hours and checked the pH again.  It had rebounded
as  it had in the tank.  The pH was adjusted again and let to sit
overnight.  This time the pH remained the same.  As an aid to the
acidification and conditioning process, I also filter  the  water
through peat for 24 hours prior to storage or use.  The completed
water is tea colored, as it is in their native habitat, and takes
a  day to make five gallons of water, but with the results I have
gotten it is worth the trouble.

In the summer the sunfish are fed moderately every other day, and
in  the  winter they are fed sparingly every three or  four  days
whenever the water temperature rises above 50 F. Below 50  F  the
food  in  their stomachs digests so slowly that it  can  actually
spoil before digestion is complete, killing the fish.  Besides, I
am  trying  to  recreate their natural environment,  and  minimal
feedings in the winter is part of it.  The foods offered  in  the
summer   include  frozen  and  freeze  dried  bloodworms,  frozen
glassworms, small live crickets, small live cut up garden  worms,
live   daphnia,  frozen shrimp, live mosquito larva,  live  black
worms and any other small insect I can catch. The winter diet for
these fish will be the same as that in the summer except for some
of  the  live  foods that cannot be cultured indoors,  caught  or

As  with  my  experiences with breeding Green Sunfish,  the  fish
endured  an  average summer temperature of about 80  F  and  will
experience  average winter temperatures of about 40  F.   Thirty-
three  percent water changes are made once a week spring,  summer
and  fall.  Twenty-five percent water changes are made about once
a  month  in the winter (when water temperatures are consistently
below 55 F). Don't be lax with water changes.  These fish may  be
small  but  they have big appetites and produce large amounts  of
waste.  It  is  extremely important that all water added  to  the
aquarium  during  water changes be the same temperature,  pH  and
hardness  as  the water in the aquarium or you run  the  risk  of
stressing or killing the fish.

It  is now early November and all is going well.  I noticed  that
some  of  the  Banded Sunfish appeared heavier than  normal,  but
thought  it a result of regular feedings. Several days  later  on
November  6,  1994 at about 10 AM I noticed that one  fish,  with
colors  more  intense  than normal, was  hovering  over  a  small
depression  in the gravel, but not allowing any other  fish  near
it.  Upon closer examination I noticed another fish in the act of
spawning  with  the  hovering fish.  I was not  lucky  enough  to
witness the entire spawning sequence but I imagine their spawning
ritual is similar to that of the Blackbanded Sunfish.  Apparently
the  dominate  male  had spawned with all ripe  females  and  was
guarding  the eggs.  All fish that appeared heavy the day  before
were  now  thin.   The  fertilized eggs are  adhesive,  perfectly
round,  colorless  and  between 1/32  and  1/16  of  an  inch  in
diameter.   The male constructed a shallow circular nest  typical
of sunfish.

I  quickly removed all the fish and put them in a reserve tank  I
had  set up in the house.  The spawning females were a bit ragged
with  torn  fins but otherwise in good shape.  The  power  sponge
filter  and corner box filter were removed and replaced  with  an
air  driven sponge filter to ensure that none of the eggs or  fry
would  be  sucked into the filters.  Air flow was high enough  to
cause a light current in the aquarium.  The current prevents  any
harmful material from settling on the eggs and wigglers.   A  25%
water change was also made.

I  now anxiously waited for the eggs to hatch.  No chemicals were
added for egg protection.  Clean, well filtered and aerated water
is sufficient.  Based on my reference books the eggs of this type
of  sunfish  hatch  in  3-5 days depending  on  temperature.   On
November  9,  1994 the Banded Sunfish eggs finally  hatched.   It
only  took 3 days at a water temperature of 65 F and a pH of 6.0.
There   were  no  apparent  problems  with  bacterial  or  fungal
infestations of the eggs as evidenced by the number of eggs  that
hatched.   The wigglers  were entirely clear, no visible markings
could be seen.  Within 24 hours eye spots became apparent and the
wigglers  started to take the form of fish 24 hours  after  that.
Twenty-five percent water changes are made every week and so  far
all is well.

With  regard to how long it takes for the wigglers to become free
swimming,  my  references estimate a few days to about  one  week
depending on water temperature.  On November 12 I noticed  a  few
fry  making  their first attempts at swimming on their  own.   By
November  14,  five days after hatching, all wigglers  were  free
swimming.   I offered a very small quantity of brine  shrimp  but
none were taken.  Two days after all fry were free swimming brine
shrimp  were again offered and accepted.  Generally, one  to  two
days  after  the  fish are free swimming they will  accept  newly
hatched  brine shrimp.  Feedings began twice a day, once  in  the
morning  and once in the evening.  The feedings require that  the
aeration  and  filtration be turned down to a minimum  or  turned
off.   This  prevents  the  shrimp from  being  sucked  into  the
filtration  system  and aids the somewhat  uncoordinated  fry  in
catching  their food.  The young fry cannot successfully  capture
the  moving  shrimp in moving water.  With still water  it  takes
them  several attempts before they can capture the shrimp.   This
will  quickly  pass  as  the  fish  grow  and  become  proficient
swimmers.  It is easy to determine which fry are feeding.   Since
their bodies are still transparent, consumed shrimp give the  fry
orange bellies.  For variety the fry are also given
microworms.  I estimate that I have about 50 Banded Sunfish fry.

Once the adult fish are transferred to their winter quarters  any
chance  of  additional spawnings will be eliminated as the  water
temperature drops.  This will be a welcome relief because all  my
available  tank  space is devoted to the rearing  of  the  Banded
Sunfish fry and the Blackbanded Sunfish fry at various stages  of
Several  months have passed and the fry are about a 1/2  inch  in
length.   The  fry  are  still  dependent  on  brine  shrimp  and
microworms.   Attempts will be made to wean these  fish  off  the
live foods as soon as they are large enough.  I was successful in
doing  this  with the Green Sunfish and hope I will  be  able  to
succeed with these fish.

As  they  have  aged,  the young sunfish are  beginning  to  show
physical attributes of adult fish.  The Banded Sunfish have clear
fins  and  a  golden  straw body color.  No other  coloration  is
visible as yet, but are expected to color up more as they age.

>From  my experiences with breeding Green Sunfish, cannibalism  of
the  smaller fry by the larger fry began at about this time.   So
far  the larger fry have not attacked the smaller fry, as did the
Green Sunfish.  My feeling is that their mouths are too small  to
cause  any  damage at this age, let alone swallow  their  smaller
tankmates.   The  Green  Sunfish were much  more  aggressive  and
equipped  with  large mouths capable of easily  swallowing  their
smaller tankmates.

This  group of fish will be overwintered as naturally as possible
in  my  shed as described earlier, and I look forward  to  spring
when  I  hope  to experience additional spawnings of  the  Banded


1.   Thompson,   Peter.  1985.  Thompson's  Guide  to  Freshwater
     Fishes. Houghton Mifflin Company. 205 pp.

2.   Quinn,  John  R.  1990.  Our  Native  Fishes.  The  Aquarium
     Hobbyist's Guide to Observing, Collecting and Keeping  Them.
     Countryman Press. 242 pp.

3.   Raasch,  Maynard  S. & Altemus, Vaughn L.  1991.  Delaware's
     Freshwater  and  Brackish Water Fishes. A  Popular  Account.
     Claude E. Phillips Herbarium. Delaware State College. Dover,
     DE. and Society of Natural History of Delaware. 166 pp.