Blackbanded Sunfish

Last updated: 6/21/10

This literature review includes resources which discuss blackbanded sunfish (Enneacanthus chaetodon). Abstracts are included when available. 

Ardnt, R.G. 2004. Annotated checklist and distribution of New Jersey freshwater fishes, with comments on abundance. Bulletin of the New Jersey Academy of Sciences 49:1–33.

Bock, B. 2001. The Black-banded Sunfish, Fragile Jewel of the East. Potomac Valley Aquarium Society, Delta Tale 33(2). Available online at

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.

Brown, B. L. and J. M. Epifanio. 2002. Genetic assessment of blackbanded sunfish in Virginia. Phase II completion report. Ecological Genetics Laboratory, Virginia Commonwealth University. Available online at

Burkhead, N. M., and R. E. Jenkins. 1991. Fishes. Pages 321-409 in K. Terwilliger (coordinator). Virginia's Endangered Species: Proceedings of a Symposium. McDonald and Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, Virginia.

Cooke, S. J. and D. P. Philipp (Eds.) 2009. Enneacanthus chaetodon (Baird). Pages 394-396 in Centrarchid Fishes: Diversity, Biology and Conservation. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, U.K.

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

Darden, T. L. 2008. Phylogenetic Relationships and Historical Biogeography within the Enneacanthus Sunfishes (Perciformes: Centrarchidae). Copeia 2008(3):630-636.

The phylogenetic relationships within the Centrarchid genus Enneacanthus and the role of regional historical biogeography in their radiation was examined. Based on complete mitochondrial (mt) control region sequences, E. chaetodon is a monophyletic taxon that is sister to an ‘E. gloriosus + E. obesus’ clade. However, the current data indicate that E. gloriosus and E. obesus are not monophyletic taxa and appear to demonstrate either incomplete lineage sorting or a polyphyletic E. obesus. Based on molecular clock divergence estimates, the hypothesis of Pleistocene glacial cycles promoting speciation was not supported for either E. chaetodon or E. gloriosus, but is supported in having been a factor in the origins of E. obesus. Even though not a common force in terms of speciation, the Pleistocene oscillations do appear to have promoted subsequent diversification and dispersal (range expansion) for all three of these species.

Gonzalez, R. and W. Dunson. 1989. Differences in low pH tolerance among closely related sunfish of the genus Enneacanthus. Environmental Biology of Fishes 26(4): 303-310.

Three closely related sunfish in the genus Enneacanthus were examined to determine if differences existed in their tolerance to low pH that could explain their contrasting distributions. Na fluxes of E. obesus, E. gloriosus , and E. chaetodon were measured during 12 h exposure to pH 4.0 and 3.5 (all species), and 3.25 (former 2 species only). All experienced ionic disturbances upon acid exposure resulting from inhibition of active Na influx and stimulation of passive Na efflux, but E. gloriosus and E. chaetodon experienced greater disturbances than E. obesus at all pH's tested. The results show that there are marked differences in low pH tolerance among closely related species of Enneacanthus , which could affect their distributions and competitive interactions.

Graham, J.H. 1993. Species diversity of fishes in naturally acidic lakes in New Jersey. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 122:1043–1057.

Fish communities in acidic lakes of New Jersey have fewer species than do those in more alkaline lakes of comparable size. This conclusion is based on a multiple regression analysis of published data on fish communities, area, and pH in 85 lakes. Some interesting patterns emerge, however, when species are partitioned into introduced and native species. As expected, diversity of introduced species declines with increasing acidity. The number of native species in a particular lake, however, is independent of pH (range of 4.1 to 9.1). Although diversity of native species is not influenced by pH, species composition changes. The lack of a significant relationship between species diversity of native species and pH can be attributed to the replacement of acid-intolerant species by tolerant species. The smaller number of introduced species in acidic lakes is attributable to both fewer species stocked and a greater frequency of failure for those that were stocked. Species introduction records for largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides and bluegill Lepomis macrochirus, which are not native to New Jersey, reveal far more failed introductions in acidic waters than in neutral or alkaline waters.

Graham, J. H. and R. W. Hastings. 1984. Distributional patterns of sunfishes on the New Jersey coastal plain. Environmental Biology of Fishes 10(3): 137-148.

Sunfishes of the genera Lepomis and Enneacanthus are characteristic inhabitants of quiet waters on the New Jersey coastal plain. In southern New Jersey, E. chaetodon and E. obesus are now almost totally restricted to the Pine Barrens region of the Outer Coastal Plain. In contrast, E. gloriosus is widely distributed. Lepomis gibbosus and L. macrochirus are also widespread, but have established few populations in the more acidic waters of the Pine Barrens. Factor analysis was used to determine underlying patterns of distribution among these 5 species, using 6 habitat variables, measured over 54 collection sites in New Jersey. Two general factors account for 41% of the distributional variation. Habitat variables most strongly associated with factor 1 suggest an underlying trophic gradient (dystrophy to eutrophy) with its associated species. Factor 2 suggests an underlying current-bottom gradient. The basis for the scarcity of Lepomis spp. from acidic waters was explored by examining the tolerance of recently hatched embryos to reduced pH. No increase in mortality was observed at pH 4.25 for L. gibbosus eleutheroembryos and pH 4.5 for L. macrochirus eleutheroembryos. The two species appear to be poorly suited to dystrophic habitats; young Lepomis are primarily planktivores, a dietary niche that is conspicuously reduced in dystrophic waters. Fish of the genus Enneacanthus glean invertebrates on substrate or vegetation, a behavior well suited for dystrophic habitats where most primary and secondary production is associated with aquatic macrophytes and substrate.

Graham, J.H. 1978. Factors affecting the distribution of sunfishes (Centrarchidae) in southern New Jersey. M.Sc.Thesis. Rutgers University, New Brunswick NJ.

Hoedeman, J.J. 1974. Naturalists Guide to Freshwater Aquarium Fish. Sterling Publishing Company, New York, NY.

Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland. xxiii + 1079 pp.

Jenkins, RE, Revelle, LA, and Zorach, T. 1975. Records of the blackbanded sunfish, Enneacanthus chaetodon, and comments on the southeastern Virginia freshwater ichthyofauna. Virginia Journal of Science 26: 128-134.

The blackbanded sunfish, E.chaetodon, is recorded for the 1st time in Virginia, from the inner Coastal Plain of the Chowan system. Additional records, notably for the Roanoke, Tar, and Neuse drainages of North Carolina, supplement those of Sweeney (1972) from other parts of its range. Some of the broad gaps in its overall distribution and localization of populations probably relate to ecological factors and prehistorical changes in sea level. The freshwater ichthyofauna of southeastern Virginia contains {approx} 70 spp. Ecological and physical barriers in the Chowan Fall Line zone apparently are not as sharp or extensive, or so restricted to that physiographic province, as in certain other Atlantic slope drainages. Thus many spp typical of either the adjacent Coastal Plain or the Piedmont provinces occur on both sides of the Fall Line. The richness of the Chowan fauna (69 spp), compared with that of the Dismal Swamp (25 spp), reflects in part its greater age, closer proximity to richer faunal sources, and access to a much greater diversity of habitat.

Kazyak, P.F., J.V. Kilian, S.A. Stranko, M.K. Kurd, D.M. Boward, C.J. Millard, and A. Schenk. 2005. Maryland Biological Stream Survey 2000–2004. Volume 9. Stream and riverine biodiversity. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Publication DNR12-0305-0106. 489 pp. Available online at 

Kercher, D. M. 2001. Genetic Assessment of Rare Blackbanded Sunfish (Enneacanthus Chaetodon) Populations in Virginia. Virginia Commonwealth University : Masters of Science thesis. Available online at

Enneacanthus chaetodon, the blackbanded sunfish, has become increasingly rare throughout its distribution in the Eastern United States. In Virginia, E. chaetodon maintains an endangered status and individuals persist in six populations. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and microsatellite data were assessed to determine the genetic characters and gene diversity of the Virginia populations. The results of these analyses were then compared to five additional populations; four from New Jersey and one from North Carolina that were known to have relatively good fitness and were not impacted severely by habitat alteration. The results of this study are relevant to selection of proper management techniques and strategies for this species. Mitochondrial DNA analyses detected no variation in the Virginia populations but significant (P F > 0.2) of inbreeding. The New Jersey and North Carolina populations demonstrated lower amounts of inbreeding than populations in Virginia. New Jersey displayed a significant (P < 0.05) amount of subdivision among populations compared to Virginia. Hypothesis testing supported the contention that the regions are significantly different from one another and that Virginia populations may have gone through one or more population bottlenecks in the past, explaining the low levels of diversity observed and significantly high inbreeding coefficients. Captive breeding programs could be implemented as a management measure to increase population numbers and restore fish into areas where they have been known to inhabit in the recent past. From a proper management perspective, habitat protection and maintenance are more important than supplementation to population survival. Success of either approach with Virginia populations would provide a useful model for managing small populations of blackbanded sunfish in other regions.This project was supported by a grant from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), grant #ED0817BB.

Kilian, J. V., S. A. Stranko, R. L. Raesly, A. J. Becker, and P. Ciccotto. 2009. Enneacanthus chaetodon (Blackbanded Sunfish): An Imperiled Element of Maryland's Coastal Plain Ichthyofauna. Southeastern Naturalist 8(2):267-276.

In 2002 and 2006, we conducted a survey of historical collection localities for Enneacanthus chaetodon (Blackbanded Sunfish) in Maryland. Blackbanded Sunfish were detected at only one of six historical localities. This locality consisted of 17 quarry ponds, but the Blackbanded Sunfish was collected in only three of these. These ponds were characterized by low pH (<4.9), dense submerged and overhanging vegetation, and the absence or low abundance of non-native piscivores. The acidic nature of these ponds may provide refuge from predation for Blackbanded Sunfish by limiting numbers of non-native piscivores such as Micropterus salmoides (Largemouth Bass) and Pomoxis nigromaculatus (Black Crappie). As a result of the surveys described herein, the Blackbanded Sunfish state status in Maryland was elevated from Threatened to Endangered.

Lawler, S. 1989. Behavioural responses to predators and predation risk in four species of larval anurans. Animal Behaviour 38(6): 1039-1047.

Tadpoles of four anuran species show interspecific behavioural differences that could explain differential predation on these species in artificial ponds. Replicated observations of tadpoles in aquaria revealed that the spring peeper, Hyla crucifer , is quiescent and benthic; Fowler's toad, Bufo woodhousei , is active and benthic; the grey treefrog, Hyla versicolor , is active and pelagic; and the Pine Barrens tree frog, Hyla andersonii , is intermediate in activity and microhabitat position. Species with high activity levels survived poorly in independent artificial pond predation studies, relative to less active species. Costs of low activity level may include poor competitive ability, and/or slow development with increased risk of death from pond drying. Comparisons of tadpole behaviour in aquaria with and without predators present demonstrate that all four species decrease activity with a salamander, the red-spotted newt, Notophthalmus viridescens , and a fish, the black-banded sunfish, Enneacanthus obesus.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina. i-x + 854 pp. Available from the DNR Library (DNR employees only). 

McIninch, S.P. 1994. The freshwater fishes of Delmarva Peninsula. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Maryland, Eastern Shore., Princess Anne MD.

Monks, N. 2007. The Subtropical Aquarium: A cooler kind of fishkeeping. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 55(12): 110-117. Reprinted online at

NatureServe. 2009. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available online at

Nelson, J. S., E. J. Crossman, H. Espinosa-Perez, L. T. Findley, C. R. Gilbert, R. N. Lea, and J. D. Williams. 2004. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 29, Bethesda, Maryland. 386 pp.

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. Available from the DNR Library (DNR employees only). 

Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program. Blackbanded sunfish (Enneacanthus chaetodon).  Available online at

Raesly, R.L. 1995. Status and distribution of freshwater fishes along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Final Report submitted to Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Annapolis, MD.

Raesly, R.L. 1996. Status and distribution of freshwater fishes along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Year 2. Final Report submitted to Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Annapolis, MD.

Resetarits, W.,Jr, and H. Wilbur, H. 1991. Calling site choice by Hyla chrysoscelis : Effect of predators, competitors, and oviposition sites. Ecology 72(3): 778-786.

The authors examined the effect of predators, competitors, and conspecifics on the choice of calling sites by male gray treefrogs, Hyla chrysoscelis , and the correlations between choice of calling sites by males and choice of oviposition sites by females. Male and female treefrogs avoided pools containing conspecific tadpoles and pools containing adult black-banded sunfish, Enneacanthus chaetodon . Females also avoided pools containing larval spotted salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum . Correspondence between calling sites and oviposition sites was examined in response to treatment, block (consisting of a location and a time), and location. Correspondence between male choices and female choices was weak. Both males and females chose sites based on the species present, and both showed preferences in regard to location and time. The differences between male and female choices indicate that the potential choices have different values to each sex, or that different criteria are used to rank potential choices.

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 Publishing 20. 183 pp.

Scheinberg, A. 1968. The centrarchidae: North Americas rival to the cichlids. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 16(9):12, 84-89.

Schwartz, F.J. 1961. Food, age, growth, and morphology of the blackbanded sunfish, Enneacanthus chaetodon, in Smithville Pond, Maryland. Chesapeake Science 2:82-88.

Schwartz, F.J. 1964. Several Maryland fishes are close to extinction. Maryland Conservationist 39(3):8-11.

Shute, J. R., P. W. Shute, and D. G. Lindquist. 1981. Fishes of the Waccamaw River drainage. Brimleyana (6):1-24.

Smith, RK, Pinder, MJ, Walter, KE. 2000. Survey of distribution and assessment of habitat requirements of blackbanded sunfish (Eneacanthus chaetodon) in Virginia. Final report to Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Wildlife Diversity Division, Blacksburg, VA. 63 pp.

Smogor, R.A., P.L. Angermeier, S.A. Bruenderman, R.T. Eades, G.C. Garman, M.D. Norman, M.J.Pinder, R. Southwick, and T. F. Wilcox. 1999. Blackbanded sunfish (Enneacanthus chaetodon) recovery plan for Virginia. Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Richmond, VA. 19pp.

Sternburg, J. G. 1986. Spawning the Blackbanded Sunfish. American Currents.  Available online at

Sweeney, E.F. 1972. The systematics and distribution of the centrarchid fish tribe Enneacanthini. Ph.D. Dissertation. Boston University, Boston, MA.

Tate, W.B., and S.J. Walsh. 2005. Distribution and ecological requirements of the Okefenokee Pygmy Sunfish and the Blackbanded Sunfish in Florida. Final report. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Tallahassee, FL. Available online at

Warren, M. L., Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H. L. Bart, Jr., R. C. Cashner, D. A. Etnier, B. J. Freeman, B. R. Kuhajda, R. L. Mayden, H. W. Robison, S. T. Ross, and W. C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, distribution, and conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries 25(10):7-31.


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