Banded Sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus) - Native

7 cm banded sunfish.

A 3-inch mature banded sunfish. Note the light spots and dark band through the eye.

Identification. Stout-bodied. Tail fin rounded. 8-9 faint vertical bands on sides, the first one passing through center of eye. Typically brownish on back, somewhat lighter on sides, and tan on belly. Profuse yellowish spots on body and dorsal, anal, and tail fins (sometimes faint). Spawning males become very dark with bright spots. Look for “stubby” appearance and rounded tail in juveniles.

6 cm banded sunfish.

A 2-inch banded sunfish.

Size. Commonly 1 to 3 inches. State survey max. size 3.9 inches. Max. reported size 4.2 inches.

Distribution. Atlantic coastal plain of the United States from New Hampshire to Florida. In Connecticut, banded sunfish are limited to the eastern coastal plain in scattered sites along the lower Connecticut River Valley and eastward to Rhode Island and also north in ponds and streams along the Quinebaug River Valley. They are typically uncommon in abundance.

Banded sunfish distribution map.

All maps created in 2009. See CT DEEP Fish Community Data for updated distributions.

Habits. Prefer shallow, weedy backwaters of acidic swamps, ponds and streams.

Comments. The banded sunfish is listed as a Connecticut State Threatened Species. Their small size makes them vulnerable to predation by bass and other large gamefish, so they thrive only in protected, backwater areas. Since the 1950s, they may have disappeared from a few larger lakes, but it is unclear whether their populations are declining elsewhere in Connecticut.


Text and images adapted from Jacobs, R. P., O'Donnell, E. B., and Connecticut DEEP. (2009). A Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. Hartford, CT. Available for purchase at the DEEP Store.