Fun Spotted Sunfish Facts For Kids

Sonali Rawat
May 09, 2023 By Sonali Rawat
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Fact-checked by Abdulqudus Mojeed
Discover spotted sunfish facts about their variety, color, spots, and food habits.

Spotted sunfish (Lepomis punctatus) are aquatic warm-water native fish of North America, commonly found in slow-moving streams, ponds, and lakes. Their habitat may also include swamps, shallow waters, or rivers with debris and gravel substrates.

They have a characteristic body that is olive-green to brown with an orange bottom and rows of dots at the base of each scale.

Spotted sunfish (also known as stumpknocker fish) are insectivores and they feed on a variety of insects, small plants, snails, crayfish, and insect larvae. They are a part of the sunfish family which includes longear sunfish, Redear sunfish, green sunfish, warmouth, and redbreast sunfish.

Spotted sunfish have the conservation status of Least Concern and have a stable population. As they show high sensitivity to habitat changes, they are considered to be a good indicator species to monitor the effects of pollution in their habitat.

A spotted sunfish can grow up to 4-7 in (10-17.7 cm) long, with a weight record of 13.2 oz (376.4 g). They are eligible for the FWC's Big Catch Program with a minimum entry size of 7 in (17.7 cm).

If you enjoy reading about spotted sunfish, you can also try checking out our redbreast sunfish and pumpkinseed sunfish facts.

Spotted Sunfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a spotted sunfish?

Spotted sunfish (Lepomis punctatus) are a type of fish most commonly found in the southeastern United States. Their name comes from the rows of dots at the base of each scale on their reddish-brown bodies. They have various names and species like red-spotted sunfish and black-spotted sunfish.

What class of animal does a spotted sunfish belong to?

The spotted sunfish belongs to the class of fishes with the Lepomis genus of the Centrarchidae family and the scientific name of Lepomis punctatus.

How many spotted sunfish are there in the world?

The exact population of spotted sunfish is unknown. As their conservation status is Least Concern, we can presume that their population is stable.

Where does a spotted sunfish live?

Spotted sunfish, like most of the sunfish family, reside mainly in the rivers or freshwaters of North America at latitudes of 41°N - 26°N. Southeastern parts of the United States which include the Gulf Slope, Cape Fear River, Nueces River, Lake Okeechobee, and the Mississippi River are common sighting spots.

What is a spotted sunfish's habitat?

Spotted sunfish have versatile habitat choices, although they do have certain preferences. They can be found in forest swamps, slow-moving river streams, and water bodies with thick vegetation or gravel substrates. Spotted sunfish can also be found in rivers with submerged logs, mud, sand, and stumps.

Who do spotted sunfish live with?

Lepomis punctatus spotted sunfish tend to be one of the only solitary nesters in the sunfish family. This means they live, mate, and breed in a nesting area with their monogamous partner. Males are nest builders while females lay eggs and protect the territory.

How long does a spotted sunfish live?

The average lifespan of a spotted sunfish is between five and eight years.

How do they reproduce?

Spotted sunfish spawn in rivers and slow streams during late spring to early summer, once the water has reached a stable temperature of 70 F (21 C). Lepomis punctatus males avoid the river bottom and reside in shallow water instead, where they act as nest builders.

To guard their nests, males can get very aggressive and will attack any fish or predator in the vicinity of their nesting area.

The average size of a nest can go up to 15,000 eggs. After the eggs hatch, spotted sunfish juveniles also have brown spots at the base of each scale and can reach sexual maturity in two years.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the olive green spotted sunfish is Least Concern and this subspecies has a stable population. They are small in size and have a very limited food value, making them a not-so-valuable catch.

Spotted Sunfish Fun Facts

What do spotted sunfish look like?

Spotted sunfish have a body with scales that are olive green in color, with rows of dots at the base of each scale that are brown. Like the appearance of their cousin species, the redbreast sunfish, they have a noticeable orange bottom. They do not have a jaw or teeth on their tongue or the roof of their mouth.

An ocean sunfish near the water's surface.

*Please note that this is an image of an ocean sunfish, not a spotted sunfish. If you have an image of a spotted sunfish, please let us know at 

How cute are they?

These fish are not particularly cute to look at. Although the brown rows of dots at the base of each scale of this fish are unique, they look like lots of other fish in the freshwater sunfish family, including the redbreast sunfish, Redear sunfish, and the warmouth. Their appearance and color are not very remarkable.

How do they communicate?

Lepomis punctatus fish communicate using body language and motion. They can also use sounds to communicate which is apparent when courting males are heard making a grunting noise.

How big is a spotted sunfish?

Spotted sunfish are 4-7 in (10-17 cm) long and have an average weight of 2-4 oz (56-113 g). A large red-breast sunfish can almost be twice the size of a spotted sunfish.

How fast can a spotted sunfish swim?

There are no studies estimating the speed of the spotted sunfish.

How much does a spotted sunfish weigh?

The weight of a spotted sunfish ranges from 2-4 oz (56-113 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for the males and females of this species.

What would you call a baby spotted sunfish?

Baby spotted sunfish can be called juveniles or youngsters.

What do they eat?

Spotted sunfish are mainly insectivores in nature and they feed on a variety of insects, crustaceans, crab fish, and insect larvae. They can also eat small plants and snails.

As this fish does not have much food value, the spotted sunfish is not typically fished for food and only the larger ones end up in a frying pan. Their predators include tuna, sharks, and swordfish.

Are they invasive?

Spotted sunfish are harmless and only tend to stay around their nesting sites. These fish may get aggressive to protect their nesting site, but otherwise, they have no negative effects on the ecosystem or humans.

Would they make a good pet?

Spotted sunfish might make a good pet but only for larger ponds or aquariums. Maintenance of such large ponds or aquariums and thorough cleaning from the bottom can be expensive though. Spotted sunfish might also fight other fish that come into their nesting site in a pond or aquarium, making them quite mischievous fish to take care of.

Did you know...

Olive green spotted sunfish are called stumpknocker fish because they feed on a variety of insect larvae that are found under submersed logs. They can also survive in salty water or lakes with a pH as high as 9!

A relative of the spotted sunfish, the green sunfish, is an invasive species. This describes the detrimental effect it has on its habitat and environment.

How big do orange-spotted sunfish get?

The state record weight of the orange-spotted sunfish is 0.83 lb (380 g). The longest recorded size is 7.87 in (20 cm). The FWC Big Catch allows participation entry with this fish if its size is more than 7 in (17.7 cm) or 0.5 lb (226 g).

Where to fish for spotted sunfish?

Spotted sunfish can be found in lakes or rivers all around the United States. You can fish for them in the Choctawhatchee River, Holmes Creek, Lake Panasoffkee, Cape Fear River, Nueces River, and the Mississippi River Basin.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including the Congo tetra, or the angelfish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our sunfish coloring pages.

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Written by Sonali Rawat

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali Rawat picture

Sonali RawatBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature, Masters of Art specializing in English and Communication Skills

Sonali has a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University and is currently pursuing a Master's in English and Communication from Christ University. With considerable experience in writing about lifestyle topics, including travel and health, she has a passion for Japanese culture, especially fashion, and anime, and has written on the subject before. Sonali has event managed a creative-writing festival and coordinated a student magazine at her university. Her favorite authors are Toni Morrison and Anita Desai.

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Fact-checked by Abdulqudus Mojeed

Bachelor of Law

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Abdulqudus MojeedBachelor of Law

A versatile professional with a passion for creative writing and technology. Abdulqudus is currently pursuing his Bachelor of Law from the University of Lagos and has experience as a tutor, intern assistant, and volunteer. He possesses strong organizational skills and is a detail-oriented person.

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