Banded Sunfish

Enneacanthus obesus (Girard, 1854)

Enneacanthus obesus, banded sunfish

Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
Centrarchidae (sunfishes and freshwater basses)
State Protection
Listed as Threatened by New York State: likely to become Endangered in the foreseeable future. For animals, taking, importation, transportation, or possession is prohibited, except under license or permit. For plants, removal or damage without the consent of the landowner is prohibited.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

Of all the sunfish species in New York, the Banded Sunfish is the smallest (Smith 1985).

State Ranking Justification

The Banded Sunfish is found in the Peconic River system on eastern Long Island, making this species vulnerable to environmental catastrophes (Keeler 2006).

Short-term Trends

Banded Sunfish populations appear to be stable on eastern Long Island but fluctuations can occur during dry years (Carlson 2005; Keeler 2006).

Long-term Trends

Historically, Banded Sunfish were found in 30 bodies of water, including two ponds in the Hudson Highlands where they haven't been observed since the 1930s (Smith and Lake 1990; Carlson 2005; Keeler 2006, New York Natural Heritage Program 2008). Now there are about 12 extant occupied bodies of water.

Conservation and Management


The restricted distribution of this species makes it vulnerable to environmental stochastic events. Groundwater withdrawal may threaten populations during drought conditions (Carlson 1998).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Monitor water levels during droughts and groundwater pumping activities so as not to adversely affect Banded Sunfish (Carlson 2005; Keeler 2006).

Research Needs

A better understanding of habitat requirements is needed to guide future restoration and protection of Banded Sunfish (Carlson 2005; Keeler 2006).



Banded Sunfish inhabit darkly stained and sluggish waterbodies including ponds, lakes, backwaters of streams and rivers, and bogs with abundant vegetation and substrates consisting of sand and mud (Smith 1985; Carlson 1998, NatureServe 2010).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Coastal plain pond (guide)
    The aquatic community of the permanently flooded portion of a coastal plain pond with seasonally, and annually fluctuating water levels. These are shallow, groundwater-fed ponds that occur in kettle-holes or shallow depressions in the outwash plains south of the terminal moraines of Long Island, and New England. A series of coastal plain ponds are often hydrologically connected, either by groundwater, or sometimes by surface flow in a small coastal plain stream.
  • Coastal plain stream
    The aquatic community of slow-moving, often darkly-stained streams of the coastal plain of Long Island.

Associated Species

  • Bluespotted Sunfish (Enneacanthus gloriosus)
  • Swamp Darter (Etheostoma fusiforme) (guide)


New York State Distribution

Currently, Banded Sunfish are found in 10-15 ponds along the Peconic River drainage system in eastern Suffolk County. Historically, it was found in two ponds in the upper Ramapo River drainage system in the Hudson Highlands as well (Carlson 1998, 2005).

Global Distribution

Banded Sunfish are found in the coastal plains along the Atlantic coast from southern New Hampshire to central Florida and west along the Florida panhandle (Lee et al. 1980; Smith 1985).

Best Places to See

  • Ponds in the Otis Pike Preserve Wildlife Management Area (Suffolk County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Banded Sunfish are small, reaching a maximum of three to five cm in length in New York (Smith 1985). The body is laterally compressed and deep. The coloration of the body can vary, but is typically greenish beige with iridescent flecks. Six to seven dark bands run vertically along the body. The pectoral and tail fins are round. The anal fin has three spines. The gill cover has a dark spot edged in white that is bigger than the pupil. There is a teardrop-shaped line below the eye (Finley 1983; Smith 1985; Carlson 1998).

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The dark vertical bands and round tail are the most useful characteristics in identifying banded sunfish.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

The adult stage is the the best stage to properly identify a banded sunfish.


Little is known about the behavior of the Banded Sunfish. Females can begin spawning after one year. In the spring, the males construct nests made of sand and gravel in aquatic vegetation in which the female will lay her eggs (Smith 1985; Carlson 1998).


The diet of the Banded Sunfish has been poorly studied, but assumptions have been made as to a diet consisting of small aquatic insects and invertebrates (Smith 1985).

Best Time to See

The fish are present throughout the year. Spawning typically runs from April to July.

  • Active
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Banded Sunfish active and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Bluespotted Sunfish (Enneacanthus gloriosus)
    Both of these fish have a rounded tail and three anal spines but they differ in color as adults. Juvenile Bluespotted Sunfish resemble Banded Bunfish but the former loose their vertical bands as they age. The spot on the gill cover of the Bluespotted is smaller than that on the Banded Sunfish (Smith 1985).

Banded Sunfish Images


Banded Sunfish
Enneacanthus obesus (Girard, 1854)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Craniata
      • Class Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
        • Order Perciformes (Perch-like Fishes)
          • Family Centrarchidae (sunfishes and freshwater basses)

Additional Resources


Breder, C.M., Jr. and A.C. Redmond. 1929. The bluespotted sunfish: a contribution to the life history and habits of Enneacanthus with notes on other Lepominae. Zoologica 9(10): 379-401.

Carlson, Douglas M. 1998. Species Accounts for the rare fishes of New York. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. Bureau of Fisheries, Endangered Fish Project. 95pp.

Carlson, Douglas M. 2005. Species Accounts for the rare fishes of New York. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. Bureau of Fisheries, Endangered Fish Project. 75pp.

Cooper, E. L. 1983. Fishes of Pennsylvania and the northeastern United States. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park. 243 pp.

Finley, L. 1983. An introduction to Enneacanthus obesus (Girard), the banded sunfish (with special reference to Rhode Island distribution). American Currents. May. Available: (accessed 29 October 2008).

Keeler, S. 2006. Species group report for banded sunfish. Pages 2-4 of Appendix A3, Species group reports for freshwater fish in: New York State comprehensive wildlife conservation strategy. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina. i-x + 854 pp.

NatureServe. 2010. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Data last updated August 2010)

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2008. Biotics Database. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.

Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The Inland Fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 522pp.

Smith, C.L. and Thomas R. Lake. 1990. Documentation of the Hudson River Fish Fauna. American Museum Novitates. Number 2981, 17 pp.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: July 1, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Enneacanthus obesus. Available from: Accessed June 21, 2024.