Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Lepomis macrochirus



Lepomis macrochirus (bluegill)


  • Last modified
  • 19 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Threatened Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Lepomis macrochirus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • bluegill
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Lepomis macrochirus, commonly known as bluegill, is a freshwater teleost belonging to the sunfish family (Centrarchidae). It has been introduced outside of its native ranges of Mexico, USA and Canada and is kno...

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Adult Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus in habitat.
TitleAdult Bluegill
CaptionAdult Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus in habitat.
CopyrightPublic domain/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Adult Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus in habitat.
Adult BluegillAdult Bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus in habitat.Public domain/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Rod caught Bluegill from Alabama Farm Pond, March 2008. USA
TitleAdult Bluegill
CaptionRod caught Bluegill from Alabama Farm Pond, March 2008. USA
CopyrightPublic domain/Mike Cline
Rod caught Bluegill from Alabama Farm Pond, March 2008. USA
Adult BluegillRod caught Bluegill from Alabama Farm Pond, March 2008. USAPublic domain/Mike Cline


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque, 1819

Preferred Common Name

  • bluegill

Other Scientific Names

  • Lepomis macrochira Rafinesque, 1819

International Common Names

  • English: bluegill sunfish; sunfish
  • Spanish: pez sol

Local Common Names

  • Finland: isoaurinkoahven
  • Germany: Blauer Sonnenbarsch
  • Japan: burûgiru

Summary of Invasiveness

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Lepomis macrochirus, commonly known as bluegill, is a freshwater teleost belonging to the sunfish family (Centrarchidae). It has been introduced outside of its native ranges of Mexico, USA and Canada and is known to be invasive in Japan, South Africa and some states of the USA. In these areas it can overcrowd and stunt the growth of other fish, including native sunfish species, by competing for food and habitat. It may even cause displacement and extinction of native fish. The invasion success of L. macrochirus in Lake Biwa in Japan is attributed to its drastic population growth shortly after its introduction, together with artificial transplantations (Kawamura et al., 2010). Bluegill are opportunistic feeders and can alter their diet according to food availability. They are also able to tolerate a wide range of environmental parameters such as temperature, pH and dissolved oxygen, giving them an advantage over many native fish (Welcomme, 1988; FAO, 1997).

L. macrochirusis not listed with a special status on either the IUCN red list or on the US Federal list and CITES (ADW, 2012).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Perciformes
  •                         Suborder: Percoidei
  •                             Family: Centrarchidae
  •                                 Genus: Lepomis
  •                                     Species: Lepomis macrochirus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Three subspecies of Lepomis macrochirus have been identified: Lepomis macrochirus macrochirus (north-central United States), Lepomis macrochirusspeciosus (Texas and northern Mexico), and Lepomis macrochiruspurpurascens (Atlantic and Gulf States) (Rintamaki, 1986).


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Greek meaning of Lepomis is “scaled gill cover” and macrochirus, is “large hand”, perhaps in reference to the body shape (Pflieger, 1975). L. macrochirus has a laterally compressed deep body, (Ross, 2001) with a terminal oblique mouth (Sublette et al., 1990). Body depth is usually two to two and a half times in standard length (Hubbs et al., 1991). The sides of the head and chin are bluish in colouration and the back is olive-green to brown. The sides ventrally are blue-green to brown-orange in colour or may be pinkish in colour. The breast is yellow and it has a yellowish-white abdomen with olive green fins and often a black opercula flap (Sublette et al., 1990). L. macrochirus has a darkened spot on the posterior edge of the gills and the base of the dorsal fin and opercle is not margined with scarlet (Hubbs et al., 1991). The breast of the breeding male is copper-orange in colour and they have greenish or bluish metallic overtones on the head and body (Sublette et al., 1990).

L. macrochirus has long and pointed pectoral fins; lower fin rays are shorter than upper pectoral fin rays. It has an anteriorly arched upward lateral line, flexible opercle and gill rakers reaching at least to the base of the second below when depressed. The supramaxilla, when present, is shorter than the breath of the maxilla (Ross, 2001). As common for teleosts, L. macrochirus has ctenoid scales. It has less than 55 lateral line scales, three anal fin spines, 10-12 anal fin rays, 6-13 dorsal fin spines, 11-12 dorsal fin and rays and 12-13 pectoral rays (Hubbs et al., 1991). Females have a more distinguished and conspicuous genital papilla than the males (McComish, 1968). The intestine of L. macrochirus is well differentiated with pyloric caeca and a silvery peritoneum (Goldstein and Simon, 1999). This species does not usually have palatine teeth (Hubbs et al., 1991; Ross, 2001). 


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L. macrochirus occurs naturally in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains (Hubbs et al., 1991) ranging from coastal Virginia to Florida, west to Texas and northern Mexico, and north from western Minnesota to western New York. Its native range includes Lake Champlain and the southern Ontario region through to the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins from Quebec and New York to Minnesota and south to the Gulf, the Carolinas, Atlantic and Gulf Slope drainages from the Cape Fear River, Virginia, to the Rio Grande, Texas, New Mexico (Rintamaki, 1986; Page and Burr 1991; Fuller and Cannister, 2012), northern Mexico (Page and Burr 1991) and southeastern Canada (TPWD, 2012). In Texas this species is distributed statewide (Hubbs et al., 1991).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes


IranLocalisedIntroducedCoad, 1995Established in Namak Lake basin
JapanWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Masuda et al., 1984Occurs in central and southern Japan. Also recorded from Lake Biwa
Korea, Republic ofLocalisedIntroducedKim et al., 2005Recorded from the Nakdong, Kum and Youngsan rivers
PhilippinesWidespreadIntroducedAquarium Science Association of the Philippines, ASAPEstablished in swamps and highland rivers


Congo Democratic RepublicPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
KenyaPresent, few occurrences Not invasive Seegers et al., 2003Introduced into some dams, but also reported from Tana River system after introduction. The species apparently failed to establish viable populations in natural waters
MadagascarPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
MalawiPresentIntroduced Not invasive FAO-DIAS, 1997Current status unknown, populations tend to stunt and die out, being then re-introduced from other dams. Earlier populations confined to estate dams in shire highlands
MauritiusLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Welcomme, 1988The species is present in small numbers in ponds and reservoirs
MoroccoLocalisedIntroducedWelcomme, 1988Stocks established in Lake Roumi
South AfricaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Welcomme, 1988Established in slow-flowing waters where it forms stunted dense populations
SwazilandPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
ZambiaAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced Not invasive Thys van den Audenaerde DFE, 1994Introduced to Mkushi, Lake Chila (Mbala), Chipata and Kasama in Zambia. No survivors seen in 1992
ZimbabwePresentIntroducedBell-Cross and Minshull, 1988

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-OntarioLocalisedNativeCoker et al., 2001
-QuebecLocalisedNativeCoker et al., 2001
MexicoPresentNativeContreras-Balderas and Escalante-C, 1984
USAWidespreadNativeRobins et al., 1980
-HawaiiWidespreadIntroducedYamamoto, 1992Introduced to Hawaii in 1946 in Chapman Pond, Kane'ohe, O'ahu and has since then been transplanted widely; can be found in reservoirs and ponds on Kaua'I, O'ahu, Maui and Hawaii

Central America and Caribbean

CubaPresentIntroducedBurgess and Franz, 1989
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
PanamaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
Puerto RicoWidespreadIntroducedMartin and Patus, 1984Established in reservoirs, farm ponds and a few rivers such as the La Plata at Aibonito to Comerío
United States Virgin IslandsLocalisedIntroduced Not invasive Ogden et al., 1975Introduced to freshwater ponds

South America

BrazilPresent Not invasive Welcomme, 1988
VenezuelaPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988Known to be breeding in Laguna Potrerito

History of Introduction and Spread

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The species has been widely introduced outside its native range due to intentional as well as unintentional introductions (Stuber and Gebhart, 1982), mainly through intentional stocking for sport fishing. The following narrative describes the areas of intentional stocking (Fuller and Cannister, 2012):

Lepomis macrochirus have been stocked in Arkansas (Robison and Buchanan, 1988), Arizona (Minckley, 1973; Tyus et al., 1982; USFWS, 2005), California (Lampman, 1946; Moyle, 1976; Shapovalov et al., 1981; Smith, 1986; Taylor et al., 1982; Matern et al., 2002; USFWS, 2005), Colorado (Tyus et al., 1982; Propst and Carlson, 1986; Tilmant, 1999), Connecticut (Schmidt, 1986; Whitworth, 1996), Delaware (Lee et al., 1980; Lee et al, 1981), District of Columbia (Tilmant, 1999), Hawaii (Devick, 1991), Idaho (Simpson and Wallace, 1978; Idaho Anonymous, 2004) Illinois (Burr, personal communication), Kansas (Cross, 1967), Maine (Halliwell, 2003), Maryland (Lee et al., 1976; Lee et al., 1980; Lee et al., 1981; Tilmant 1999; Starnes et al., 2011), Massachusetts (Schmidt, 1986; Hartel, 1992; Cardoza et al., 1993; USFWS, 2005), Michigan (Hubbs and Lagler, 1949), Minnesota (Lee et al., 1980; Tilmant, 1999), Montana (Brown, 1971; Holton, 1990), Nebraska (Morris et al., 1974), Nevada (Moffett, 1943; La Rivers, 1962; Deacon and Williams, 1984; Tilmant, 1999), New Hampshire (Scarola, 1973; Schmidt, 1986; Tilmant, 1999), New Jersey (Fowler 1920; 1952; Stiles, 1978; Tilmant, 1999), New Mexico (Tyus et al., 1982; Sublette et al,. 1990; Platania, 1991), New York (Smith, 1985; Schmidt, 1986; Tilmant, 1999; USFWS, 2005), North Carolina (Hocutt et al., 1986; Menhinick, 1991), North Dakota (Owen et al., 1981), Ohio (Trautman, 1981); Oklahoma (Miller and Robison, 1973), Oregon (Lampman, 1946; Ridler, 2004), Pennsylvania (Cooper, 1983), Puerto Rico (Erdsman, 1984), Rhode Island (Lapin, personal communication), South Carolina (Rohde, personal communication), South Dakota (Underhill, 1959; Bailey and Allum, 1962), Texas (Howells, 1987; Waldrip, 1993), Utah (Tyus et al., 1982; Tilmant, 1999), Virginia (Hocutt et al., 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994; Starnes et al., 2011), Washington (Smith, 1896; Chapman, 1942; Wydoski and Whitney, 1979; USFWS, 2005; Chapman, 1933), West Virginia (Stauffer et al., 1995), Wisconsin (Becker, 1983) and Wyoming (Baxter and Simon, 1970)”.

Among its introductions to parts of the US, bluegill has been introduced to a number of countries including Iran, Japan, Korea, Philippines, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Mauritius, Brazil, Congo, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Most introductions have originated from the US but some populations have been introduced from Japan and South Africa.

Bluegill are spreading rapidly over the Japanese main islands and are now present in most ponds and lakes in the country. Their spread was most likely linked to the rise of game fishing in the 1970s. They feed on the young of some native fishes in Japan, threatening the survival of several species such as the tanago (Acheilognathus melanogaster) and honmoroko (Gnathopogon caerulescens). Lake Biwa catch for native species has dropped from more than 8000 tons in 1972 to 2174 tons in 2000 while experts estimate catch of exotic species (black bass and bluegill) exceeds 3000 tons (Chiba et al., 1989). 


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Brazil USA   Aquaculture (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988)
China Japan 1987 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Ma et al. (2003)
China USA 1987 Bartley (2006)
Congo USA   Aquaculture (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988)
Cuba   Burgess and Franz (1989)
El Salvador USA 1957 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988) Stunted and became a pest so population eliminated
Hawaii USA 1946 Fisheries (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988) Widespread and successful in reservoirs in all the islands. The species has formed spontaneous intervener hybrids with Micropterus salmoides in at least two reservoirs on Kauai Island
Iran   Coad (1995) Recorded from Namak Lake basin
Japan USA 1960 Aquaculture (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Chiba et al. (1989) Spread throughout the country: may have been connected to the rise of game fishing in the 1970s
Kenya South Africa 1940 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)FAO-DIAS (1997)
Kenya USA 1940 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)FAO-DIAS (1997)
Korea, Republic of Japan 1969 Jang et al. (2002); Welcomme (1988) Recorded from the Nakdong, Kum and Youngsan rivers
Madagascar USA 1954 Forage (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988)
Malawi   Forage (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
FAO-DIAS (1997) Current status unknown (Angling Society of Malawi), latest information (1976) is that populations tend to stunt and die out, then re-introduced from other dams. Earlier populations confined to estate dams in shire highlands
Mauritius USA 1944 Aquaculture (pathway cause)FAO-DIAS (1997) Reintroduced in 1950. The species is present in small numbers in ponds and reservoirs; Presence of stunted populations. It does not form a fishery
Mauritius East Africa 1944 Aquaculture (pathway cause)FAO-DIAS (1997) Reintroduced in 1950. The species is present in small numbers in ponds and reservoirs; Presence of stunted populations. It does not form a fishery
Mexico USA   Forage (pathway cause)FAO-DIAS (1997) Caused displacement of the native species.
Morocco USA   Welcomme (1988) Stocks established in Lake Roumi
Panama USA 1955 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988) Overcrowds and stunts; possibly eliminated native Astanax kompi
Philippines USA 1950 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Juliano et al. (1989) Established in swamps and highland rivers
Puerto Rico USA 1915 Forage (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Welcomme (1988) Widespread in reservoirs, farm ponds and a few rivers such as the La Plata at Aibonito to Comerío where currents are not swift
South Africa USA 1938 Forage (pathway cause) ,
Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)
Moor and Bruton (1988); Welcomme (1988) Widespread in slow-flowing waters where it forms stunted dense populations - regarded as a pest
Swaziland South Africa 1939 Forage (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988) Introduced as forage for bass
United States Virgin Islands   Ogden et al. (1975) Introduced to freshwater ponds and grows to at least 0.5m in length
Venezuela USA 1955-59 Welcomme (1988) Known to be breeding in Laguna Potrerito. Stunts and eats young fish
Zambia USA 1946 Aquaculture (pathway cause)Thys Audenaerde DFEvan den (1994); Thys van den Audenaerde DFE (1994) Introduced to Mkushi, Lake Chila (Mbala), Chipata and Kasama in Zambia. No survivors seen in 1992
Zimbabwe South Africa 1940 Forage (pathway cause)Welcomme (1988)

Risk of Introduction

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Today, as a result of many intentional as well as unintentional introductions, bluegill are found throughout the US and northern Mexico (TPWD, 2012). This trend may continue due to its food and ecotourism value and its use as an important game fish. As they are raised in aquaculture facilities and used to stock rivers and lakes, accidental releases pose a threat of further spread of this species locally, as well as internationally.


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L. macrochirus are frequently found in lakes, ponds, reservoirs, slow flowing streams (Page and Burr, 1991; Etnier and Starnes, 1993), creeks (Lee, 1980) and pools and backwaters (Rose and Echelle, 1981). It inhabits shallow, warm, slow-flowing waters, often with abundant aquatic vegetation (Lee, 1980). However, deeper areas are also required during winter and as a retreat from the summer heat (Rintamaki, 1986). They can often be found around weed beds, where they search for food or spawn (Lee, 1980). In riverine habitats, L. macrochirus are mostly restricted to areas of low velocity. Optimal stream gradient <0.5 m/km) is based on the preference for low-gradient, lentic type waters (Rintamaki, 1986). Optimal lacustrine habitat is characterized by fertile lakes, ponds, and reservoirs with extensive (>20 percent of lacustrine surface area) littoral areas (Rintamaki, 1986).

This species is rarely found in river channels but can be found in the Brazos River, Texas. It is most abundant in oxbow lakes (Zeug et al., 2005) and occurs primarily in reservoirs in Hawaii (Page and Burr, 1991). In Texas, it is one of the most abundant species collected from the main stem of Sister Grove Creek (Trinity River basin) (Matthews et al., 1996). Younger fish utilize areas with cover while older fish seek more open water, generally resulting in lack of competition for food between size classes (Mittelback, 1984). L. macrochirus tend to be absent in northern Minnesota lakes, as the water gets too cold.

Habitat List

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Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Arkhipchuk (1999) reported 24 and 48-48 haploid and diploid chromosome numbers for L. macrochirus in the United States. Kawamura et al. (2010) reported that “phylogenetic analysis reconfirmed a single origin of Japanese populations”. Populations established in the 1960s, when the bluegill sunfish was introduced to Japan, were found to have high genetic diversity comparable to the ancestral population in Guttenberg, Iowa. Later-established populations, however, were found to have diverged from the ancestral population and subsequently had lower genetic diversity.

L. macrochirus hybridizes with green sunfish, redear sunfish, redbreast sunfish, and warmouth (USGS, 2012).

Reproductive Biology

L. macrochirus are guarders and nest spawners (Simon, 1999). They commonly nest at depths from 0.2-1.2 m (Gosch et al., 2006) but spawning depths to 3.3 m have been documented (Carlander, 1977). It will spawn over a wide variety of substrates including gravel, sand, clay, and detrital nests (Simon, 1999). Nests are usually constructed in a vegetation free area and over sand or gravel. L. microchirus nests are placed close together (Clugston, 1966) in colonies of 9-15 (Carlander, 1977). Every colony observed by Gosch et al. (2006) in Lake Cochrane, South Dakota, was located on hard-bottomed gravel with a relatively low-density of Chara vegetation; suggesting that this was the preferred habitat for bluegill in this area. However, it is not clear as to whether spawning simply results in less vegetation or if it is a preference of this species. This finding was however supported by Weimer (2004) who reported that transmittered L. macrochirus preferred sparse density vegetation during the spawning season in Enemy Swim Lake, South Dakota (Gosch et al., 2006).

Males sweep away silt and sand with their tails when preparing for the nest so as to expose coarser substrata (gravels) underneath (Avila, 1976). It is thought that coarser particles provide interstitial spaces for the yolk-sac larvae and may function as a protective shelter (Bain and Helfrich, 1983; Ross, 2001). Potentially, these gravel areas may maximize survival of L. macrochirus during their early life stages as suggested by Bain and Helfrich (1983). Their study showed that the mortality of larvae decreased as the proportion of nest substrate (>0.8 cm) increased. Furthermore, another study found that small gravel and sand sites yielded the most fry in an Ohio farm pond (Stevenson et al. 1969).

Spawning males are more aggressive than non-spawning males, often leaving the nest, which can result in other males entering the nest and engaging with the female (Hassan-Williams and Bonner, 2007). Simultaneous polygamous spawning in L. macrochirus is natural but rarely occurs (Avila, 1976). Courtship involves the male rapidly swimming up to the female and then back to the nest, whilst producing a series of distinctive grunts during the display. Specific odours may attract males to spawning areas (Gerald, 1971).

The spawning season of L. macrochirus may vary according to geographic location and water temperature but generally occurs from March-October (Estes, 1949). In Texas, peak gonadal development was reached around mid-April but spawning continued until September (Schloemer, 1947). Clugston (1966) reported that spawning takes place at water temperatures of 21-320C in Florida.

Generally bluegill first spawn at one year of age but can spawn as early as four months of age under favorable conditions (Swingle and Smith, 1943). Females can spawn an average of five times a year, with a 12.0 cm female spawning about 80,000 eggs a year (Estes, 1949). Ulrey et al. (1938) reported that females of two years of age produced more than 3800 eggs and those at four years of age produced more than 19,000. Fertilized eggs are usually 0.11-0.14 cm in diameter (Merriner, 1971) and typically hatch in the littoral zone, before migrating to the limnetic zone after yolk-sac absorption, and then returning to the littoral zone after attaining a larger body size (Werner, 1969; Dimond et al., 1985). This species reportedly produced nearly 18,000 fry per nest in Deep Lake, Michigan (Carbine, 1939).

Physiology and Phenology

In Japan, drastic population growth of L. macrochirus shortly after their introduction maintained genetic diversity and allowed for local adaptation and high phenotypic plasticity (Kawamura et al., 2010).


Generally, L. macrochirus live up to five years (Applegate et al., 1967) but the oldest age recorded has been 11 years. Average life span appears to be higher in the northern USA (Carlander, 1977).

Activity patterns

L. macrochirus are active mainly during dusk and dawn (Fishbase, 2012). During the day they stay hidden under cover, moving into shallower waters for the night (Williams, 1996). They prefer water with aquatic plants, and hide within fallen logs or water weeds. Bluegill will normally swim in schools of 10-20 fish, and these schools will often include other sunfish, such as crappie (Pomoxis), pumpkinseeds (Lepomis gibbosus), and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) (Poulas et al., 2012). Vegetation or logs and brush are utilized by the species, especially juveniles and small adults. An excessive abundance of vegetation can interfere with feeding or cause stunting through reducing predation success by L. macrochirus (Stuber and Gebhart, 1982). However, populations may also benefit from excessive amounts of aquatic vegetation as it may inhibit the utilization of L. macrochirus as prey. 

Population Size and Density 

Bluegill usually mature between one and two years of age, are able to grow to a maximum total length of 39.0-40.5 cm and can weigh up to 2.1 kg (Lee, 1980; Rintamaki, 1986). The growth of this fish is very rapid in the first three years, but slows considerably once the fish reaches maturity (Swingle and Smith, 1943). At the end of its first year it typically measures 5.1 cm in length but can grow up to 20.1 cm by its sixth year (NJDEP, 2012). At year two, three, four and five it can reach 9.2 cm, 12.4 cm, 14.8 cm and 17.4 cm, respectively.


L. macrochirus are opportunistic feeders and so can alter their diet according to food availability. Fry feed primarily on zooplankton and small insects whilst juveniles and adults feed on zooplankton, both aquatic and terrestrial insects and aquatic vegetation, including algae (Carlander, 1977; Rintamaki, 1986; Sublette et al. 1990). Larvae and juveniles of L. macrochirus from 0.5-1.0 cm in length will frequently feed on cladocerans (Chydorinae) and copepod nauplii (Werner 1969; Beard 1982). Individuals reaching 2.0 cm have varied feeding habits, primarily consuming cladocerans, adult copepods and insects (mainly chironomids) (Beard, 1982). The primary diet of adults in various water bodies is comprised of aquatic insects, crayfish, and small fish, although zooplankton serves as the main food item in other bodies of water (Mittelbach, 1984; Carlander, 1977). Adults will also feed upon snails, worms and small minnows (Page and Burr, 1991)

Mittelbach (1984) demonstrated that individuals undergo pronounced shifts with habitat and food items as they grow due to changes in vulnerability to predation. Competition between size classes is generally avoided as younger fish utilize areas with cover while older fish seek more open water (Mittelbach, 1984). They actively feed during daylight hours, with a minor feeding peak in the morning and a major peak in the evening (Carlander, 1977; Sarker, 1977).      

Environmental Requirements

L. macrochirus prefers low velocity streams of less than 10 cm/sec but it can tolerate velocities up to 45 cm/sec. It is able to tolerate a wide range of pH values from 4.0-10.3 (Stuber and Gebhart, 1982) and can withstand salinities up to 3.6 ppt but not over 5.6 ppt according to Rintamaki (1986). Peterson and Ross (1991) did note however, the occurrence of this species in waters with salinities of up to 10 ppt. L. macrochirus requires deeper water for over wintering, low to moderate turbidities preferably less than 50 ppm and prefer 20 % - 60% cover within the littoral area with no more than 30% in the form of aquatic vegetation (Rintamaki, 1986). However, too much aquatic vegetation can interfere with feeding or cause stunting by reducing predation (Stuber and Gebhart, 1982).

Rintamaki (1986) reported the following temperature ranges for growth of different life stages of L. macrochirus: optimal growth of adult occurs near 27°C, no growth occurs below 10°C or above 30°C. The reported ultimate upper incipient lethal temperature for this species is 35°C. Optimal temperatures for successful embryo development are 22°- 27°C, and development will occur from 22°-34°C. Optimal water current velocities for embryo development are less than 7.5 cm/sec, and embryos are not found at water current velocities greater than 30 cm/sec. Optimal temperatures for fry are 25°-32°C. Fry will not survive temperatures below 11°C or above 34°C. Optimal current velocities for fry are less than 5 cm/sec and fry are not found in areas with velocities greater than 7.5 cm/sec. The highest specific growth rate of juvenile L. macrochirus occurs in waters of 30°C and the suitable temperature range is 22-34°C. Preferred current velocities for juveniles are less than 5 cm/sec and juveniles are not found in areas with velocities greater than 15 cm/sec. Selection of foraging area is also affected by water temperatures, with fish preferring a temperature of 30° C (Hassan-Williams and  Bonner,  2007).

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceFood Source DatasheetLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
Zoobenthos Adult/Fry 36-95
Zooplankton Larval 100
Zooplankton Fry 50
Zooplankton Adult/Fry 55

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Conductivity (µmhos/cm) 10 15 Optimum
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) 5 Optimum Tolerates a minimum oxygen value of 1.5 mg/l
Salinity (part per thousand) 3.6 Optimum
Turbidity (JTU turbidity) 50 Optimum
Velocity (cm/h) 36000 Optimum Tolerates up to 162,000 cm/hr
Water pH (pH) 6.5 8.5 Optimum Tolerates pH range of pH 4-10.3
Water temperature (ºC temperature) 16 27 Optimum Tolerates temperatures from 10-30°C

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Ardea herodias Predator Adults/Juveniles not specific
Ceryle alcyon Predator Adult/Fry not specific
Cichla ocellaris Predator Juveniles not specific
Esox lucius Predator Adults/Juveniles not specific
Esox masquinongy Predator Adults/Juveniles not specific
Micropterus salmoides Predator Juveniles not specific
Morone saxatilis Predator Adults/Juveniles not specific
Salmo trutta Predator Adults/Juveniles not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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L. macrochirus are prey to many larger predatory fish species, including largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), northern pike (Esox lucius), yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and walleye (Sander vitreus). Turtles, otters and predatory birds, such as herons (Ardea cinerea) have also been witnessed preying on bluegill in shallow water, although, the shape of the fish makes them hard to swallow (Paulson and Hatch, 2011).

Economic Impact

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After introduction of L. macrochirus in Lake Biwa, Japan, the catch of native species has dropped from more than 8000 tons in 1972 to 2174 tons in 2000 whilst the estimated catch of exotic species, such as black bass (Micropterus salmoides) and bluegill exceeds 3000 tons (Takayama, 2002).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

This species is commonly considered a pest in its introduced range and several countries report it causing negative ecological effects (ADW, 2012; Fishbase, 2012). L. macrochirus overcrowd and stunt the growth of other fish and may even be responsible for causing extinctions, such as the extinction of a native fish in Panama. It predates on crustaceans and insects, and as a population may consume six times its own weight during a single summer (Gerking, 1962). It competes for food and habitat with native sunfish (Maine's red-breast (Lepomis auritus) and pumpkin seed (Lepomis gibbosus)) and preys on native minnow (blacknose dace (Rhinichthys atratulus)) (USGS, 2012). It has caused displacement of the native species in Mexico (FAO, 1997) and eliminated native Astyanax kompi (Welcomme, 1988). In Japan it feeds on the young of some native fishes, threatening the survival of several species such as the honmoroko (Gnathopogon caerulescens) and the IUCN red listed tanago (Acheilognathus melanogaster) (Chiba et al., 1989). In California, aggressive bluegill outcompete native Sacramento perch (Archoplites interruptus) (Moyle et al., 1974; Moyle, 1976). They may also chase Sacramento perch away from spawning areas and out of favoured places, such as shallow weedy areas, and into open water (Moyle, 1976). Once in open water, the perch are more vulnerable to predation and have less available food (USGS, 2012).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Acheilognathus melanogasterLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)JapanPredationChiba et al., 1989

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Fast growing
  • Has high genetic variability
Impact outcomes
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field


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Economic Value

It is an important game fish in the United States and has a food and ecotourism value (ADW, 2012). It is raised in aquaculture facilities and is also used to stock rivers and lakes with food for largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), another important game fish (Williams, 1996; Conservation Commission of Missouri, 2002; ADW, 2012).

Environmental Services

Bluegill has commonly been used for research in aquatic biology and ecotoxicology (Touart 1988). In Texas, the parasite fauna of this species are well known and may be utilized to monitor historical and current health of watershed ecosystems (Bhuthimethee et al., 2005).

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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L. macrochirus is most similar to Lepomis humilis (orangespotted sunfish) and Lepomis microlophus (redear sunfish). It can be distinguished from these two other species by its distinct dark spot at the base of the soft dorsal fin. It also differs from L. microlophus in having long and slender gill rakers and from L. humilis in lacking the elongate sensory pores on the pre-opercle margin (Ross, 2001). L. macrochirus hybridizes with Lepomis auritus, Lepomis cyanellus, Lepomis gibosus, Lepomis gulosus, Lepomis humilis, Lepomis megalotis, Lepomis microlophus, Lepomis punctatus and artificially hybridizes with Pomoxis annularis and Pomoxis nigromaculatus (Carlander, 1977).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Reducing the abundance of bluegill in some areas may include using trap nets, sein nets or electrofishing (The Maine Invasion, 2012).

Biological Control

The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) could be introduced to control bluegill through predation. However, if this species were to become established, its effects on the rest of the ecosystem could be more detrimental (The Maine Invasion, 2012).

Control by Utilization

Authorizing unrestricted catch limits and promotion of L. macrochirus as a good fish for consumption may be more successful measures to control populations (The Maine Invasion, 2012).


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Links to Websites

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Animal Diversity Web
Division of Fish and Wildlife, New Jersey
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
National Wildlife Refuge System Invasive Species
Texas freshwater fishes. Texas State University - San Marcos
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
The Maine Invasion
USGS Non Indigenous Aquatic Species Database


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Italy: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome,

Switzerland: IUCN (The World Conservation Union), Rue Mauverney 28, Gland 1196, Gland, Switzerland,

USA: TPWD Texas Parks and Wildlife, 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, Texas,

USA: USGS US Geological Survey, USGS National Center, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192,


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25/09/2012 Original text by:

Sunil Niranjan Siriwardena, Stirling, Scotland, UK

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