Lepomis gibbosus
Pumpkinseed Sunfish

Pumpkinseed Sunfish

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Lepomis, from the Greek, "scaled gill cover"
  • gibbosus, from the Greek, "wide margin"
  • Common Name
  • Other common names include: Punkinseed


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
    • Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Acanthopterygii,
        • Order Perciformes, the perch-like fishes
        • Suborder Percoidei
          • Family Centrarchidae, the Sunfishes
            • Genus Lepomis, common and eared sunfishes


  • A small, extremely colorful sunfish, probably the most beautiful of all sunfishes, and among the most beautiful of all US native fishes.
  • Length to 9"
    • typically 5"-6" in length
    • some may approach 10"
  • Weight
  • Coloration
    • body golden brown; covered with iridescent blue-green irregular spots
    • stomach usually a creamy white or yellow
    • pectoral and pelvic fins sometimes colored with translucent white or blue. Remaining fins grey, occasionally with various shades of yellow.
    • head marked with horizontal light-flourescent stripes
    • black "ear" flap like the Bluegill
  • Body
    • typical sunfish shape
    • moderately compressed, deep
    • spiny frontal dorsal fin
    • long cadual peduncle
  • Head
    • mouth is small, typical of non-predatory sunfish.


  • Field Marks
    • horizontal stripes on face
    • red-tipped gill cover



  • Still, warm waters with abundant vegetation. They seem to prefer weedy, warmwater lakes and ponds, using weed patches, docks, and logs for cover and usually staying close to shore. Present in the calm pools of most rivers.
  • More likely to be found in moving waters than other sunfish.


  • Aquatic and terrestrial insects, mollusks, small fish, and occasionally small pieces of aquatic vegetation.


  • Minnesota Record: 1 lb.3oz, from Leech Lake (Cass County)


  • Pumpkinseeds share many of the characteristics which make their larger cousins so popular on the line and on table, save only one -- their diminutive size limits their angling appeal to children and as panfish, it would take a great many to fill a pan.
  • Easy to maintain in aquaria as long as they have a roomy tank with cool, well oxygenated water and nutritious food.


  • Male digs a pit in the substrate in which the eggs are deposited. The parents, particularly the male, guard the offspring until they are free swimming and able to take care of themselves.
  • Hybridizes with other sunfish making identification difficult in the wild where more than one species may be found.



Boreal border

Last updated on 15 October 1999