Okefenokee Pygmy Sunfish (Elassoma Okefenokee)

The name Elassoma Okefenokee, also known as Okefenokee pygmy sunfish, is attributed to the Okefenokee Swamp. It is a species of pygmy sunfish found in the USA, from Lower Altamaha River drainage in Georgia, the central part of peninsular Florida to Choctawhatchee River drainage, Florida. It’s a freshwater fish that prefers waters with dense vegetation, including floating and submerged aquatic plants such as Ceratophyllum and Myriophyllum.



Elassoma Okefenokee is an olive-green color fish with rough brown flecks across the body. In females, these brown flecks take the darkest form at the rear. Also, They are often broken into vertically aligned blotches. The male has iridescent blue bands along the edges of the dorsal, caudal, anal and ventral fins, arranged in narrow vertical bars. This coloration is not observed in females.

E. Okefenokee on average has three preopercular canal pores, 4 dorsal spines, 10 to 13 dorsal rays 14 to 17 pectoral rays, and 6 to 8 anal fin rays.
In spawning, the mottling pattern gives the males an overall weak-black coloration.

The anterior profile is narrow and rounded with a terminal mouth and the lips projecting slightly beyond the snout tip. The lips are light-colored at the front and dark at the sides. They have no scales on the top of their heads.

The average length for adult males is 3.4 cm and 2.3 cm for adult females.

Behavior and Compatibility

Elassoma Okefenokee spends most of their time near the shelter of fine-leaved plants and generally inhabit the places where the dense leaves and plants surround the surface, at the middle and the bottom. They are generally peaceful fish that can live in harmony with the same temperament species or similar-sized mid-bottom dwellers such as killifish. They will stay hidden and may refuse to feed if there is a bigger fish in the aquarium owing to their skittish nature.

The males of this species spend most of their time dancing and displaying for the females. Since they are quite territorial, they will chase off the invading males and constantly patrol the environment, and they will woo the females into their plants to spawn.

E. Okefenokee males will protect the eggs until they hatch chasing away all the fish, even the females. After the eggs hatch, they will continue their dancing and spawning routine.

They are slow feeders and they won’t get along with shiners and darters because those species are eager feeders. Darters will also hunt Elassoma fry.

Water Parameters

Temperature: 4-30°C
pH: 6,0 – 8,0
Hardness: 6 – 20 dGH

Elassoma Okefenokee is considered to be a beginner-level fish since it can live in a wide range of water conditions(water hardness and temperature).

Proper Tank Conditions

The minimum tank volume required is 95 liters with finely leafed plants such as Ceratophyllum demersum and Cabomba caroliniana. The aquarium should be filled with dechlorinated tap water with a neutral pH, planted along with Nitella or Vesicularia, placed near a window for natural daylight together with gentle aeration.

Sand and limestone are great as substrates since they will resemble their natural habitat. Placing pottery fragments, wood, etc. would also be fine for creating a natural environment.


Elassoma Okefenokee has a carnivore diet and feeds in the wild with small crustaceans, aquatic insects, small snails, and other microfauna members. Since Elassoma Okefenokee looks for food all day long in the wild, it is recommended to have a constant food supply in the aquarium like a population of California blackworms just to keep them hunting and healthy. They also eat daphnia, microworms, small snails, brine shrimps, mosquito larvae, tubifex worms, grindal worms, white worms, etc. Thawed frozen foods (bloodworms, blackworms) and dried flakes are also suitable, but a live diet is always the better option.

The fry will be fed with Vinegar eels, microworms, baby brine shrimp, copepods and rotifers, etc.


This species will spawn continuously if it’s well fed and provided with the proper tank conditions.

It is recommended to have a large-size aquarium for enabling them to show their spawning dance. This will also allow having multiple territories for multiple brightly colored males. Only one male will be dominant and display colors in a small tank, while the other males will display female colors to avoid being chased by the dominant male.

While performing the spawning dance the male would show his colors, wooing the female into the dense vegetation for spawning.

The female will lay the eggs in the thick plant vegetation. The males will protect the eggs for the next 72-100 hours or until they hatch chasing away all the fish, including the females because they tend to cannibalize their eggs. After the eggs hatch, it is recommended to move the adults into a second tank because the adults will hunt down and eat the fry. Changing the water in regular periods and keeping the parameters constant will help the fry grow faster and healthier during the raising period.

The fry will eat newly hatched brine shrimps, daphnia moina, vinegar eels, rotifers, and cyclops once they become free swimmers. Gradually larger size live foods will be suitable for the fry. Such as grindal worms, daphnia manga, daphnia pulex, mosquito larvae, etc.

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