SCIENTIFIC NAME: Elassoma zonatum

CHARACTERISTICS: Elassoma zonatum is the largest pygmy sunfish in Alabama. Males typically have nine to 11 dark vertical bars separated by narrow, pale yellow spaces along their sides. Fins are generally dark with scattered small light spots. Body colors on males intensify during the spawning season, when the fins and body exhibit flecks of iridescent blue. Females are generally brown on the back, mottled brown and cream on the sides, and cream to white on the venter. Their fins are clear, occasionally with scattered small brown spots. Males, and to a lesser extent females, have two or three prominent black spots in the shoulder region on either side of the body. The dorsal fin has four to five spines. Lateral scales number 31 to 36; a lateral line is absent. See Jordan (1877b) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 1 to 1.5 in (25 to 38 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: Banded pygmy sunfish are more widespread in Alabama below the Fall Line, although a few scattered records do exist above the Fall Line in both the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Like other members in the family Elassomatidae, this species inhabits swamps and backwater areas of moderate to small streams. These environments have little, if any, current; abundant concentrations of aquatic vegetation and mud, silt, and sand substrates. Spawning occurs in March and April. Spawning behavior, embryology, and larval development in aquariums are described by Mettee (1974) and Walsh and Burr (1984). Both studies note that banded pygmy sunfishes, like other Elassoma species, deposit their eggs in aquatic vegetation rather than in cleared nests on the bottom of their habitat, as the centrarchids do. Aquarium-kept individuals readily feed on commercially prepared foods. Small crustaceans, mollusks, and aquatic insects larvae comprise their natural diet (Walsh and Burr, 1984). Banded pygmy sunfishes live for one to two years. Most Elassoma species are solitary except in the spring, when they congregate to spawn in aquatic vegetation.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Jordan described the banded pygmy sunfish in 1877.

Elassoma means small body.
Zonatum means banded.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.