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Tips on keeping sunfish and Bluegills in aquariums

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I finally got to updating this site textwise,new pics coming soon of my fish, just bigger!
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Thank you for stopping by my website,

I have created this site for several reasons, first off because as of 2008, there were almost no in depth sites like this on what conditions and foods it takes to keep these fishes,and just as importantly, to help inform those who are interested in keeping wild native fishes in aquariums that it is not impossible, just a bigger challenge than domesticated fish.In this site I will cover topics of water quality,foods,settings that wild fish prefer,ect...

First off we should discuss water quality, Ph, etc... Wild fish have different preferences compared to the fish you buy at the store, most domesticated fish prefer a true neutral Ph ranging from 6.8-7.2, any less and the water becomes acidic, any more than 7.2 and the water becomes alkaline.There are benefits to having a low Ph but it is dangerous,when the water is acidic, any ammonia given off from the fish is converted to less toxic ammonium but when you do a water change and the Ph gets bumped it converts all the ammonium to highly toxic ammonia and you can kiss the fish goodbye, thus keeping it a true neutral with weekly water changes and products called "Ph changers" will usually prevent this.These Ph changers are liquid available in about any pet store and are either Ph up, or, Ph down. Use as according with Ph conditions of your water.

In my aquarium I keep 2 green sunfish, 3 Western blacknose dace, 13 various darters, a stonecat madtom catfish and 4 small crawfish. The water Ph they prefered was very alkaline water about 9.0 which I took from the quarry itself, this is very unusual for fish to prefer and live in this water type but these have come from a limestone rock quarry where the minerals and Ph are very high and our tapwater is quite lethal to fish due to our location and sitting on a solid rock slab, so when you decide to get your fish from their natural habitat, be sure to take a Ph reading of their pond/lake water, your tapwater and duplicate those conditions exactly with tapwater if you can(depends on your location and if there are a high abundance of toxic minerals in the ground)if you cannot use your tapwater then use carefully inspected pondwater or the water from where you got them. Once you get your water from a pond, look for hitch hikers like Hydra(small 5 armed critters that look like a tiny palm tree), small leeches and other pests, even though your fish are used to these creatures, you do not want them if you do not have to. Nevertheless, if you use tapwater or pond water, keep the PH where it was from where they came from, if not the fish will become stressed and die if they go from one Ph extreme to the other. Fish are rather hardy and will adapt to changes gradually, but not all at once. If you need to change the Ph either up or down, do it slowly, the Ph changers will have instructions to go by.

Next in line you will need to know what the fish eats in the natural habitat. Bluegills, sunfish, bass, and other N American fish usually prefer worms, insects,tiny crawfish, blood worms, daphnia, mosquito rafts, etc...most of this you can find in any pond, creek, or lake, if you get your fish when they are rather large you will probably have to keep them on this natural diet if they adapt to tank living which is a main concern when starting a wild fish aquarium, usually the full grown fish do not adapt well and become rather inactive and just sulk, mainly from my experience, they sit in a corner and just eat and nothing else. What I did and recommend is get your bluegills, sunfish, bass fingerlings, etc... when they are quite small, they adapt well and fast to tank life and become very active after they settle in, and...the best part is they accept flake foods, blood worms and lean burger very well until they get big, then they still eat it but become extremely fussy and eat it only right out of the can, most will hit the bottom and lay there and that is where your crawfish come in, they eat ~everything~ so keep enough in your tank to do the job. My recommendation is about 3 in a ten gal tank and go from there as you get bigger tanks.

Aggression in your tank and species.

This is a topic that you will inevitably encounter when you keep wild predatory fishes, bluegills and sunfish are both in the sunfish family the difference being that sunfish are usually short stocky bass like fishes with attitudes to match, and bluegills and taller, thin bodied fishes.They are both very close in relation to the African Cichlid family and are quite territorial, especially when they have established their places and an outsider is put in. Mine usually have their bouts of aggression which usually are: fin nipping(the most common and least damaging), descaling and fin laceration. These last two are the usual results from fish who are introduced into a new tank from a smaller one, OR, have had an outsider fish introduced, but sometimes the fish will work things if the tank is big enough for all to find a place of their own. For those who want more fish in a tank, get the biggest tank you can keep from the word go and put the number of fish you want in at that time, if you try to start them out in a smaller tank and transfer to a bigger tank, you are going to have fights, a lot of them and usually a dead fish as well from said fights.

Tank settings and cleaning your tank

These types of fish really like a well set tank with lots of cover(rocks, plants, driftwood) etc... this gives them places to stake out and call their own, once they have established their territories they will usually be less likely to fight unless another fish trespasses, then usually it is a fin nip and small chase.

Cleaning your tank should not be a chore, it should be a once weekly job and that's it. When I was trying to use tapwater I was having to change ALL the water every night and that was a chore. Our water was so bad that it would kill the fish by morning due to not keeping a PH constant, so then, using quarry water I did a 25% water change once a week and it took 10 minutes compared to 1.5 hours to do a complete change. Another tool that makes water changing and crud removal a snap is the gravel vacuum. I modified mine to go from the tank to the sink or out the window to empty water and reverse it from sink to refill the tank when I used tapwater. You can sit and drink a beer while your tank cleans itself!To make this tank drain/refill system get these items: gravel vac, 6'-10' garden hose, and a dishwasher tap adaptor that will screw onto your sink tap and have a smaller end to slide the hose onto.


This is one of the sunfish in my aquarium, it is called a green sunfish, but the bright blue coloration hardly matches the specie name.

The pictures below are in sequence top to bottom. It was a rare chance for me to see and photograph a crawfish molting it's shell. Crawfish almost always molt under the cover of darkness and well hidden due to the fact that after the chitenous shell comes off they are as soft and vulnerable as a child for about 2-3 days. I would have liked to have gotten the molting on video as it was quite a remarkable scene to witness but still shots are better than no shots!


This shot the crawfish was struggling to get the big claws freed from the old shell.


Claws are free and last come the tiny legs. The crawfish starts out by breaking the section between the tail and back, frees the tail first and finishes with the small feet.


Molting is done and old shell is usually eaten by the crawfish for the minerals. Mine always eat the shells. I never have to dip them out.


Please get in touch and let me know what you think of this site. Also feel free to contribute to this site with your own tips.