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Recent article ............

                   Here comes the Sunnies
the temperate sunfishes make a comeback in the home aquarium
                         Robert Rice
                    2213 Prytania Circle
                    Navarre Florida 32566
                 email- robertrice at juno_com
Just  a  few short years ago there were just a few  Aquarist
interested  in the keeping temperate sunfishes.  A  few  old
timers  held the torch. The rest of us were to busy  keeping
Cichlids,  Discus  and  Tetras to consider  the  lively  and
colorful   sunfishes   all  to  seriously.   Slowly   almost
imperceptibly things began to change. Aquarist  like  myself
stumbled  upon  local  species  that  were  stunning  and  a
pleasure to keep. Aquarium magazines  began to pick  up  the
ball  giving temperate species much needed exposure.  Lastly
conservation  organizations like the Nature Conservancy  and
Audubon  Society have begun to realize that the keeping   of
Native   fishes  is  as  legitment  a  use  of  our  natural
resources as bird watching and hunting. So now the  tide  is
turning in favor of our native fishes.  Aquarist  all across
the North American Continent are getting involved locally in
conservation  issues and our waterways and  fishes  are  the
better for it.

The  North American Continent holds 10% of the earth's  fish
species.  So  it  is  only natural that  Aquarist  begin  to
reacquaint  themselves  with  our  continents  fishes.   The
shiners  and  sunfish  are most peoples  first  exposure  to
temperate  fish. They are attractive durable  and  available
with  just  a  bit of sweat ! Unfortunately in America  most
sunfish are only commercially available at bait shops.  That
may  change in the near future but for now we need  to  find
alternative means to stock our tanks. The simplest  way   is
to contact your states Fisheries personnel about keeping and
rearing  sunfish. In most cases you can collect ,  keep  and
rear  common  sunfish  with just a  fishing  license  and  a
fishing pole. Often times the most desirable sunfish are the
smallest ones and they are considered trash or bait fish  by
most states. If  your quarry is classified as a bait species
you can usually use a net or seine to collect which makes it
all  the easier. If that does not work out for you , or  you
desire  a  species  that is out of your range  you  can  try
NANFA's  trading  post at their WEBSITE WWW.NANFA.ORG  often
times  their  members will gladly trade native for  tropical
and  vice  versa.   If  you chose to do a  little  personnel
collecting  I know you will find the experience  a  pleasant
way  to  spend  a few hours. The quite times  spend  in  the
outdoors is my main pleasure in collecting.

Before you get started in setting up a sunfish tank you will
want  to  familiarize yourself with your local species  .  I
highly  recommend you look into Peterson's  Field  Guide  to
Freshwater  Fishes by Brooks M Burr and Larry Page.  It  has
color  plates  range maps and general descriptions  all  the
things  that you will need  to pick your prize. What  it  is
lacking  is rearing and breeding information. The reason  it
is  lacking is that in most cases it does not exist. Here is
a very practical way Aquarist can pitch in. We can breed and
rear  native species then document our results. Sharing that
data  with  local  university and fisheries  will  help  our
fellow  Aquarist and fishes at the same time. The university
and  fisheries folks just do not have the resources to breed
and  rear every species of fish in this country. We Aquarist
do . This shared data would greatly help in the conservation
of our temperate species.

OK  you  say, I am ready to do that Sunfish thing  but  what
species  do you recommend ! Here is my all-star list  in  no
particular order with as much breeding and rearing data as I
have  personally  observed. You will  probably  find  others
outside this list that are excellent aquarium specimens.  If
you have success please let me know.

Central  Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis) -  6-9  inches,
Kansas  to  Ohio south to North Carolina. In my opinion  the
best   of  the  American  Sunfish.  Its  colors  are  simply
stunning.  It is incredibly durable as with all the  sunfish
throw  away  the  heater  they like  room  temperature.  The
Longear   will  take prepared, frozen and  live  foods  with
ease.  Their mouth is small enough that they are  unable  to
prey upon many of the smaller tankmates. To breed this gem I
have  found  a temperature of 72 degrees F. A rich  diet  of
shellfish and insects and a barebottom tank do the trick. In
Dr.  Beckers classic book the Fishes of Wisconsin he reports
that  with  an increased photoperiod , enriched diet  and  a
temp  of 72 degrees F. they were able to spawn the same trio
every  14  days for over 3 years. So this species should  be
very  prolific for a serious minded aquarist.  The  longears
show  an  incredible diversity in color and form over  their
range.  So   no  matter  what your  taste,  with  a  bit  of
searching you will find a strain that fits your taste.

Dollar Sunfish (Lepomis marginatus) - 3 -5 inches, Texas  to
Atlantic  coast  North to Tennessee. Basically  a  miniature
Longear  Sunfish.  They  are  aggressive  insectivores  with
beautiful  gill plate vermiculations . Their  tolerance  for
temperature  changes  and  poor  conditions  makes  them  an
excellent  species  for the pond or home aquarium.  The  are
suitable for community or single species tanks. They have  a
unique  personality in the tank and will commonly  eat  from
your  hand.  They are common in the swamps,  backwaters  and
sloughs where they occur .

Orange  Spot Sunfish (Lepomis humilus) 3-8 inches ,  midwest
south to coastal Florida and Texas. A incredibly interesting
species.  The males show breeding colors as intense  as  any
tropical  fish  out there. They are true  survivors  of  the
aquatic world. I have collected them in ditches that  I  was
sure  would  hold  nothing but mud and weeds.  They  have  a
larger  mouth  than many fishes their size and  are  serious
predators.  Males will often beat each other to  death  when
forced  to  live  together  in an aquarium.  The  secret  to
keeping them together in a tank is either a lower temp or  a
large  group of them. When that temperature tops 74 F.  They
are  ready  to  spawn and males will set up territories  and
defend  it vigorously. So keep that in mind when setting  up
your tank.

Blackbanded  Sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus) 4-8  inches  East
Coast USA New Hampshire to Florida . Imagine a cross between
a  discus and an Angel fish. Close your eyes and think  real
hard  .Wouldn't  it  be  cool ? Well  it  is  ,  it  is  the
Blackbanded  Sunfish.  It is small  ,gentle  and  incredibly
beautiful.  It requires conditions similar to  a  Discus  or
Angel  fish.  With soft , acidic water and  good  food  this
species will thrive in the home aquarium. They, like all the
temperate  species,  do  well  at  room  temperature.  Their
cousins the Bluespotted sunfish and Banded  sunfish make  my
almost made it list and are worthy of serious consideration.
However  for me the Blackbanded sunfish is my choice  .Their
golden body, deep black stripes and red tinted fins are  eye
catching and worthy of a single species display tank.

While  this list is by no means complete it gives  you  some
idea  of what wonderful species are available out there  for
those of us interested in temperate sunfish. So please  take
a  moment  and consider setting up a local species  tank.  I
know  you  will  find  it an exciting  new  aspect  of  your
Aquarium  hobby. European fanciers of temperate species  can
acquire  many  of these sunfish along with many  fascinating
shiners from Keld Hanson via Credo fish, Damsigvej 9 ,  9352
Denmark,  Dybvad,   Denmark. Until next time good  luck  and
good fishing.

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