need advice on keeping sunfish in my fishtank

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need advice on keeping sunfish in my fishtank
<p>Hello fellow roughfishers!&nbsp; It&#39;s been a long time since I&#39;ve posted here and perusing the posts, I notice a lot of new names.&nbsp; Glad to see that!</p> <p>So anyway, I remember that several folks here have fish tanks and are quite knowledgeable with this stuff, so I thought I&#39;d pick your brains a little.</p> <p>2 days ago I set up a small tank ( size 10 tank, 6-8 gallon?) with 2 small bluegill in it.&nbsp; So far, the fish look and act healthy, but they are quite skittish and won&#39;t eat the wax worms I&#39;ve dropped in the tank.&nbsp; When can I expect them to start eating?&nbsp; What are some good foods for them?&nbsp; I&#39;ve been thinking of foraging for some wild foods while I still can, but figured I&#39;d just feed them waxies, minnows or maybe even a commercial fish food.&nbsp; Thoughts or suggestions?</p> <p>Also, like I said, the tank is a size 10.&nbsp; Hopefully that number is meaningful to someone here with more knowledge than me.&nbsp; I have it set up with a bubbler, a filter and two living plants.&nbsp; The tank is on the east side of the house and gets good sunlight for a good part of the day.&nbsp; The fish are around 4 inches long.&nbsp; Any thoughts or concerns about my setup?&nbsp; Is 2 bluegill too many for this size tank?</p> <p>Well, thanks in advance for any advice.&nbsp; I personally haven&#39;t done any serous fishing since September, and it&#39;s getting to me!&nbsp; I&#39;ll leave you with a pic from the last time I was out on the first sturgeon:</p> <p><br /> <img alt="" src="" /></p>
andy's picture

Hello friend!<br />


I have to say that your tank is too small for two bluegills of that size.  I would venture to say that maybe 30 gallons is adequate for one four inch sunfish just to make them comfortable.  However, it can be done.  If it were me, I would let one of those fish go and just keep one in your tank.  Then go to a pet store and buy some frozen bloodworms, try to feed him a pea-sized chunk of those(thawed) until he eats some.  No fish worth its scales will resist those.  If he doesn't eat, he will likely not eat anything ever in captivity and will die.  Some fish just do not do well in captivity....also, I would suggest finding a smaller bluegill.  Had good luck with little young of the year buggers like 1" long, they adapt well to a tank and being fed.


I have kept quite a few sunfish in aquariums, and must add that once they get to be about 4 inches thay are too big for a 55 gallon tank and I "dispose" of them - just released a green sunfish that I have kept for two years.

Hey Andy,

Hey Andy,

Thanks for the advice.  My kids will be bummed at first, but they'll get over it when I get them some small fish from the pet store.  Then come spring I'll see if I can't get a really tiny 'gill or some neat native minnows.

I've never done this before, so I need to be edjumacated! 

I'll put these little fellas back in the pond where I caught them. 

Thanks a bunch!


Outdoors4life's picture
If you are in "need" of a

If you are in "need" of a larger aquarium I am selling off my 55 gallon with a stand and couple other supplies for it.


Gills can get aggresive too. Like Andy said it is better to get them small and they will grow and for me it is more satisfaction watching them grow up.

It is all perspective!

Acer Home Inspections

Thanks for the suggestions,

Thanks for the suggestions, although we will certainly be sticking with the small tank, even though it means micro fish!

Corey's picture

I'm in the process of setting up my tank again, and just have to reiterate - tank is too small for bluegills.  I have a 40-gallon which I'm finally setting up again in my "new" old house.  A ten (gallon, I assume) is too small for sunfishes except orangespots (maybe ...).  Just tell the kids they need to go home.  For now, there are some neat tropicals that look a lot like sunfish and have good personalities; you might try a pair of dwarf cichlids like Kribensis, Apistogramma, Curviceps, or Rams.  Those all are small enough at adult size that they can be kept as a pair in a ten.  Also, a great type of fish for kids that fits in a small tank would be one of the various freshwater puffer-fishes.  Puffers can be hard on plants though.

Sunfish went back to the pond

Sunfish went back to the pond.   I think they were happy to be home.

Honestly, the kids will be happy with anything...but I wanted something cool (native)!

Corey, I'll look into the fish you suggest.   Gotta find a good pet store now...

Thanks again.  This site never fails!


andy's picture
rainbow darters
A few rainbow darters would do well in a small tank, natives that are colorful and have a lot of personality...
Tyler W
Tyler W's picture
Shiners and dace

Don't neglect the simpler shiners and dace. They are easy to keep in any size tank and have more personality than pet store fish. Shiners will often start spawning after you move them to a warmer tank. Watching the males change colors and court the females is pretty cool. 

I would keep one OSS in a ten gallon. They are great tank fish, probably the only sunfish I actually recommend keeping. In a 20+ gal you could keep one male and one female. 

I also highly recommend keeping fish that will take prepared foods. Sunfish (especially small ones) will eat pellets or flakes. It may take them over a week to convert. Starve them out, they will eat flakes before they die. And you will be glad that you aren't forced to provide live or frozen food. 

Avoid fish with tiny mouths. One of my most frustrating experiences was trying to keep banded darters. Being wild they were looking for very small live bugs to eat... they never ate enough frozen bloodworms to thrive. Johnny darters, shiners, dace, OSS, and mud minnows are my top choices for a small, rewarding, and easy native tank. 

Pat Kelly
In school we kept 1 bluegill

In school we kept 1 bluegill in a 60+ and that smed the limit...same experience here at home. Very aggressive and pugnacious and territorial. When very small and caught in a net/minnow trap we were able to keep a few but as they put on size and attitude they become very aggressive. I'm re setting up my 60+ over the winter...nice to revisit these topics.