You sir are a lucky man, that is primo trade bait and a fun fish to work with. I have the ozark longears near to me (like 20 minutes) when I do get out and collect the longears and darters get me loaded for trading.
I thought Id written an article a decade or so back on these fellas and here it is:
The Orangespot Sunfish (Lepomis humilus) As an Aquarium Species
Lately in the aquarium trade a little guy from North America has begun to make a big splash. This fellow has nabbed the interest of cichlid fans and coldwater purists alike. His color, durability and ease of care have made him a big hit in Europe. Meanwhile in his home land he is relegated to bait species status. Virtually ignored by those who should know him best. What’s the problem? Did this guy commit some horrible crime? Is he unsuitable for American aquarists? The answer is of course no. This fellow is the OrangespotSunfish. This prophet’s crime is having no honor at home. For those of you unfamiliar with the Orangespot sunfish let me take a moment to fill you in. The Orangespot is a small (less than six inches maximum, usually less than four) sunfish who inhabits a great deal of the country. It's tolerance to poor conditions and breeding colors are famous with those of us who collect regularly. He can be found thriving in the most unpleasant of ponds living on less oxygen (1.7 PPM) than most fish could even dream of. The thing that fascinates aquarium buffs is his look. His breeding colors are beautiful beyond definition and he adds to this some fascinating territorial behaviors year round. So for the sake of objectivity I'll give you the description Plieger gives in his "Fishes of Missouri" pg.267. Life Colors: back and side’s greenish with silver-blue reflections, belly white or yellow. Lower sides marked by numerous reddish-brown spots. Ear flap black with a broad whitish margin. Fins plain, without prominent spots or blotches. Breeding males are among the most brilliantly colored of Missouri Fishes. The spots on the lower side are red or reddish-orange; the belly and fins mostly reddish-orange; and the pelvic and anal fins.
In their native range (most of the eastern half of the country) they are often the most common sunfish available. They will colonize new waters at surprising rate and can stand up to temperature extremes that would kill most other fish. They are voracious mosquito larvae eaters and most likely beat the gambusia in that role. I have found many local strains with a high amount of blue vermiculations in their gill flaps. This makes them all the more beautiful as an aquarium species. They are without a doubt one of the nicest fish you can own bar none.
In the aquarium they are hardy and make an excellent single species tank. As a community fish they are good but not excellent as they either become too aggressive or to shy depending on conditions and tank mates. They will eat all types of food and lots of it. They are easy to rear and to spawning a captive environment. When the temperature hits 75 degrees F these fellas are usually trying to spawn. I have seen them spawn in set ups as strange as2 gallon tanks and 5 gallon buckets. Research shows a reproductive rate of2.9 kg/ha (Whiteside and Carter 1973) which is very high and lends to their credibility to their role as a pond raised species for research or the aquarium. George Becker in his "Fishes of Wisconsin" notes on page 842....a69 mm female held 1.159 eggs...The transparent amber eggs are 0.5 mm in diameter and slightly adhesive and cling to stones, pebbles and sand grain son the floor nest where they are constantly fanned by the male.
Dr. Becker also notes that the Orange spot sunfish produce courtship sounds that are species specific (as per pers. com). I find them to be one of the most fascinating of our Native Sunfish. To see males display in all their color with their gill flaps flared is an exciting sight that one does not soon forget. Since they are usually classified as a bait fish they are easy collect with suitable seine or dip net. If you come across a spawning bed and pull up a spawning aggregation in a seine the intensity of color is literally breathtaking.
As you can see I strongly believe the Orangespot Sunfish is very well suited for the Aquarium and its popularity in Europe supports my position. Yet somehow we here at home have not given them a second look (or in many cases not even a first look). I find it ironic that every year I get calls from overseas asking me if I know someone who can get them Orangespotsunfish in large numbers. I usually send them to friends of mine who breed Orangespots as a forage fish for Bass ponds. Meanwhile totally ignoring the more lucrative pet market here in the States.
So with all that going for them why the cold shoulder? I believe the main reason is as American aquarist we have been conditioned to believe that anything from somewhere is better than everything from here. Unfourtunatly that is as far away from the truth as a statement could be. In a practical sense is there any difference between Cichlids, Discus or American Sunfish for the aquarist .They has many things in common. They differ morphologically but they do have similar niches in their native environments. They also share similar strengths that make them excellent aquarium species. Last but not least all are species that are generally considered at best as food fish in their countries of origin but are prized as aquarium species by the rest of the world.
Take a moment and consider what role the aquarist should play in the preservation of native species. What if local aquarist would get involved? What if they took the time and effort to know just a few species from a few bodies of water from their area? Imagine 500 aquarist in a mid size city, each of them aware of the local bodies of water and their inhabitants. Who would notice a problem first, the 10 Department of Natural Resources Employees or an aquarist out looking for shiners? With the sheer numbers of aquarist out there they could be a strong voice for what I call "Rational Naturalism". "Rational Naturalism" is simply the understanding that there is nothing wrong with hunting, fishing, or development or any of the other wonderful uses our Natural resources provide. However when our stewardship of those resources is so bad that we threaten the existence of species or the environment necessary to support that species then we have a problem. We must, in those circumstances act quickly and decisively to fix the problem or that problem will overwhelm us.
There are many types of sunfish, darters and shiners that make excellent aquarium species. So next time you consider setting up a new tank or just get tired of the same old same old try something new, something native. Instead of a trip to local fish shop you could make a quick trip to Europe or the pond down the street whichever one is easier and pick up some OrangespotSunfish you won't be disappointed.
You have no idea how long ive waited to see you two get together on here. Keep him talkin Devil, If you can keep Mr. Rices attention for 5 minutes he will tell you a story worth reading, as is witnessed by the one on O-spots above. Thanks Robert
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