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Gulf Coast pygmy sunfish facts for kids

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Gulf Coast pygmy sunfish
Elassoma Gilberti male in breeding colors.jpg
Elassoma gilberti male in breeding colors
Conservation status
Scientific classification

The Gulf Coast pygmy sunfish, Elassoma gilberti, is a species of pygmy sunfish endemic to Florida, United States. This species can reach 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) in standard length.

Elassoma gilberti is closely related to E. okefenokee, and the two species are very similar in appearance. E. gilberti in general has four preopercular canal pores, while E. okefenokee on average has three. The average number of anal fin rays is seven in E. gilberti and eight in E. okefenokee. The female E. gilberti often expresses a blue patch of color behind her eye, while the E. okefenokee does not.


This species occurs in northwestern Florida and southwestern Georgia in the lower Suwannee River drainage and other Gulf of Mexico drainages from the Waccasassa River west to Choctawhatchee Bay, whereas E. okefenokee occurs in central and northeastern Florida and southeastern Georgia in the upper Suwannee River drainage and other drainages east of the Waccasassa River and Suwamnee River. Both species are usually found among dense aquatic vegetation and leaf litter, where they feed mainly on tiny insects, crustaceans, and worms.


Elassoma gilberti will breed in a wide range of water conditions, and spawning has been confirmed in both 0 DH and 20 DH water. Males require a region of dense living or artificial rooted aquatic plants to claim as territory to woo females in to spawn. Each spawning male claims about a cubic foot of volume as his territory. The males spend their time patrolling around their territories and dancing to catch the females' attention. When dancing, they wiggle their dorsal, anal, and caudal fins to show off their bright blue iridescence. Then, suddenly, they do a full stop, holding completely still for a few seconds with no visible motion. After the pause, they continue dancing again, often moving up and down in their eagerness to woo the female into their respective clumps of dense plants. Females swim in and out of the males' territories to spawn. The male then guards the spawn site until the eggs hatch, chasing females and other males away.

It takes about three to four days for the eggs to hatch. At this point, the male stops protecting the spawn site and becomes receptive to spawning again.

  • Breeding and captive care discussion topic hosted by the North American Native Fishes Association:
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