How to Succeed with Your New Longear Sunfish
  Inside scoop from Steve Knight on Lepomis megalotis species

 
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 Longear Sunfish Factoids

Origin

North America

Sexual Differences

Males more colorful and longer "eared"

Temperature

60 to 75 Fahrenheit

Temperament

Central subspecies most aggressive, semi-territorial

Tank Size

30 gallons for the smaller subspecies

Size

5.5 to 9 inches depending on species
Other Populations variable in color

General:
 The longear sunfish is highly variable in color throughout its range, and has a pretty good size range as well, from the small Northern longear at 5 ½”, to the largest of the subspecies, the Central longear at 9” max. They’re natural range goes from as far south as Florida, all the way up to Quebec, Canada. These guys also tend to like streams more than other sunfish.
 

RW
A picture of a nice male longear. Provided by  Ray Wild

Tank Size:  For one of the smaller subspecies, such as the Northern, a 30 gallon could work for one or a pair. More than one or a pair or trio of the larger species need more like a 55g. Sunfish like their space.

UT
Another nice male Central longear. Picture provided by Uland Thomas.

Relatives:  As for other sunfish species, many of them are commonly known to fishermen and children that have gone fishin’ with the parents. There’s bluegill, green sunfish, warmouth, red-ear (shellcracker), bantam, pumpkinseed, redbreast, spotted, redspotted, dollar, and orangespotted sunfish. That’s just one genus.  I don’t think I’ll go into any others. They all range in size from 3” bantam sunfish to 13” red-ears, also known as shellcrackers by fishermen.

C
A young dollar sunfish. When full grown, these look a lot like longears. Provided by Chad.

C
An adult green sunfish for comparison. Provided by Chad.

C
Here is a small warmouth (Lepomis gulosis) with a green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) in the back. Same genus as the longear sunfish.

Food:  To begin with, you’ll probably have to feed your longear something natural, like earthworms or feeder minnows (if they can fit in its mouth). After it associates you with food, it may start taking small pellets, like Hikari Soft Pellets made for cichlids. Young ones can be trained to dry food easier than older ones, but you can teach an old fish new tricks. If you feed the rosy reds you buy at the store, be sure to quarantine for a week and feed high-quality flakes. Many of those fish carry parasites and diseases from poor water quality and cramped conditions. Or you could buy worms used for bait or go dig up your own. Just be sure to collect your worms from places that haven’t been infected with pesticides.

SK
One of my male Northern longears when he was younger: 2”.

Growth:  If fed well and kept at temps in the 75+ range, they can grow up to an inch a month. This will also depend on competition in the tank. Of two longears kept in the same tank, one will likely become dominant and be the one that gets most of the food, therefore growing much faster.

Sexing
: After they hit about 3 inches, sexing these fish is pretty straight-forward. Males get much more colorful and have longer “ear flaps,” the black flap connected to the gill cover.

SK
Here is another picture of one of my male longears at about 3”.

Breeding: Although I have not yet bred them, they breed like all other sunfish, in that the male will construct a bowl-shaped nest and will court females into the nest to lay eggs. Male sunfish guard the young until 2 days after they become free swimming. If you want to breed them in captivity, separate the male and female for conditioning and feed them live foods and keep them at a higher temperature than usual, around 75-78F. When the female becomes fat with eggs in about 2 weeks or so, add her to the male’s tank and breeding should take place.

SK
A female longear to show difference in color and “ear” size.

SK
And a current picture of my male coming into breeding condition at 3.75.”

More info: If you want to learn more about sunfish or other native species, visit the Native Fish Conservancy at www.nativefish.org for some great articles, or NANFA at www.nanfa.org, which has even more great articles. NANFA also has a forum for native fish keepers, at www.forum.nanfa.org.

Last words
: Why keep them? They’re easy to keep, beautiful, and can be found locally. Just make sure you check your game fish laws to be sure you aren’t taking under-sized or illegally collected fish. In most states, these are considered game fish, and must be caught with a hook and line to be kept legally.

Thanks to:Brian Zimmerman, James Wetzel for providing info on these marvelous sunfish and to all who provided pictures for this page.  SK

 

LA
Green sunfish -- Lepomis cyanellus

 

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© 2007  Steve Knight
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