Re: NANFA-- Dollar Sunfishes and other Southern Species

Christopher Scharpf (
Wed, 07 May 2003 22:35:40 -0400

> Maybe someday I'll get into the Bluenose Shiner group. I understand they
> are nest associates with Longear Sunfish- I wonder if Dollar Sunfishes
> would be an acceptable substitute?

In a tributary of Mississippi's Pearl River, aggregations of breeding P.
welaka have been observed over active (guarding male present) longear
sunfish nests (Johnston and Knight, 1999).

In a Louisiana bayou in May, P. hubbsi were observed defending a territory
in a cavity between buttressing roots of a bald cypress tree (Fletcher and
Burr, 1992). When eggs were removed from the cavity and hatched in the lab,
two species emerged, bluehead shiner and warmouth. The shiners were actively
defending their nests, but only before, during and immediately after egg
deposition. Shiners were never observed defending their fry, a task it seems
they entrust to the warmouth. Larvae found at other locations suggests that
P. hubbsi may also spawn among woody plant roots where warmouth nests are
not present.

The $64,000 question facing aquarists who wish to raise P. hubbsi and P.
welaka is: Are they obligate or facultative sunfish nest associates? Based
on the few and rather sketchy reports of captive spawnings available, it
appears that the presence of spawning sunfish is not a requirement,
(although it certainly wouldn't hurt). Instead, anecdotal evidence suggests
that a silt-free substrate (e.g., gravel, or a cleaned-out area of leaves or
other debris) may be a required spawning medium.

One of the first (if not the first) reported spawnings of P. welaka was
published in an early issue of American Currents. Anthony Terceira (1975)
reports spawning two pairs of P. welaka in a 15-gallon aquarium with
"natural gravel," a thick cover of water sprite, and one corner densely
planted with foxtail.

B.G. Granier (1998) reports P. welaka "scattering eggs all over the
substrate of the tank." B.G. later told me that attempts to spawn them in
bare-bottom tanks failed.

David M. Schleser told me that he spawned P. hubbsi in 800-gallon,
bare-bottomed fiberglass ponds each stocked with a pair of pumpkinseeds. In
previous years, P. hubbsi placed into ponds without sunfish colored up but
did not spawn.

In his book American Aquarium Fishes, Robert Goldstein says he spawns P.
welaka and P. hubbsi by placing 10-15 individuals into a 29-gallon tank with
slight current, plants (or some other structure) around the sides, and an
open middle area covered with coarse gravel or pebbles.

Fletcher, D. E., and B. M. Burr. 1992. Reproductive biology, larval
description, and diet of the North American bluehead shiner, Pteronotropis
hubbsi (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae), with comments on conservation status.
Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 3 (3): 193-218.

Granier, B. G. 1998. The bluenose shiner, the jewel of the Southeast.
American Currents 24 (2) [Spring 1998]: 15-16.

Johnston, C. E., and C. L. Knight. 1999. Life-history traits of the bluenose
shiner, Pteronotropis welaka (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae). Copeia 1999 (1):

Terceira, A. 1975. Notropis welaka. American Currents 3 (1) [Jan.-Feb.
1975]: 3-4.

Chris Scharpf
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