Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Ambloplites rupestris
(rock bass)



Ambloplites rupestris (rock bass)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ambloplites rupestris
  • Preferred Common Name
  • rock bass
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. rupestris, commonly known as rock bass, is a member of the sunfish family. A. rupestris has been introduced throughout the USA and into countries outside of North America, typically as a result of t...

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Ambloplites rupestris (rock bass); adult. Captive fish in the Aquarium du Québec, Canada. April, 2012.
CaptionAmbloplites rupestris (rock bass); adult. Captive fish in the Aquarium du Québec, Canada. April, 2012.
Copyright©Simon Pierre Barrette (cephas)-2012 via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0
Ambloplites rupestris (rock bass); adult. Captive fish in the Aquarium du Québec, Canada. April, 2012.
AdultAmbloplites rupestris (rock bass); adult. Captive fish in the Aquarium du Québec, Canada. April, 2012.©Simon Pierre Barrette (cephas)-2012 via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 3.0


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ambloplites rupestris Rafinesque

Preferred Common Name

  • rock bass

Other Scientific Names

  • Ambloplites rupestris Jordan and Gilbert
  • Bodianus rupestris Rafinesque
  • Centrarchus aeneus Richardson
  • Cichla aenea Lesueur

International Common Names

  • English: goggle-eye; red eye; rock perch

Local Common Names

  • Canada: northern rock bass; redeye bass
  • Denmark: stenaborre; stenbars
  • Finland: kiviahven
  • France: crapet de roche
  • Germany: gemeiner felsenbarsch; germeiner sonnenbarsch; sonnenfisch; steinbarsch
  • Poland: bass czerwonooki
  • Portugal: perca-da-rocha
  • Sweden: stenabborre

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. rupestris, commonly known as rock bass, is a member of the sunfish family. A. rupestris has been introduced throughout the USA and into countries outside of North America, typically as a result of the sport-fishing industry. The limited research available shows that A. rupestris feeds on aquatic plants, insects and small fish. As a result it competes with other native species for food resources. In addition to this it is possible for A. rupestris to hybridize with roanoke (A. cavifrons) and shadow bass (A. ariommus). Roanoke bass is a species of special concern in North Carolina and Virginia (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994).

Taxonomic Tree

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

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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A.rupestris was first described by Rafinesque in 1817 and is a member of the sunfish family.

The definition of Ambloplites - meaning “blunt shield” and rupestris – preference for being amongst rocks (Schnell, 2014).


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A. rupestris is a member of the sunfish family, and is characterized with a deep body, having its greatest depth at the origin of the dorsal fin being 31.8-36.7% of its total length (Scott and Crossman, 1973). Similar to other sunfish this fish is laterally compressed with the dorsal fin consisting of two confluent parts, an anterior part consisting of eleven sharp spines, with a posterior part of soft rays. The anal fin has six spines, with this number allowing the identification of rock bass from other members of the family. The iris of the eye is usually bright red to orange. A. rupestris can vary in colour and has been described as various shades of olive green with brassy or coppery reflections with a little black spot on the tip of each scale giving the appearance of a series of stripes the full length of the body.

Juvenile A. rupestris are pale or yellow-green irregularly barred and blotched with black.


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The native range of A. rupestris is restricted to the fresh waters of east-central North America and can be found from southern Ontario, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River to Quebec and Lake Champlain; found west of the Appalachians south to the Tennessee River drainage and in tributaries of the middle and upper Mississippi River valley. A. rupestris has however been introduced throughout the USA into areas including Atlantic slope drainages (Scott and Crossman, 1973; Cashner, 1980; Cashner and Jenkins, 1982).

There is some disagreement with regards to the status of A. rupestris in Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma with reports of this species being both introduced and native to these areas (Jones 1963; Scott and Crossman, 1973; Lee et al., 1980; Cross et al., 1986; USGS NAS, 2015).

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

North America

CanadaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ManitobaWidespreadNativeScott and Crossman, 1973
-OntarioWidespreadNativeScott and Crossman, 1973
-QuebecWidespreadNativeScott and Crossman, 1973
-SaskatchewanWidespreadNativeScott and Crossman, 1973
MexicoPresentIntroducedWelcomme, 1988
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-AlabamaPresentNativePage and Burr, 1991
-ArizonaLocalisedIntroducedMiller and Lowe, 1967; USGS NAS, 2014
-ArkansasPresentScott and Crossman, 1973; Lee et al., 1980; Cross et al., 1986; Robinson and Buchanan, 1988; USGS NAS, 2014Recorded as both introduced and native
-CaliforniaLocalisedIntroducedSmith, 1896; Dill and Cordone, 1997; USGS NAS, 2014
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedScott and Crossman, 1973; USGS NAS, 2014
-DelawareLocalisedIntroducedRaasch and Altemus, 1991; USGS NAS, 2014
-District of ColumbiaLocalisedIntroducedTilmant, 1999; USGS NAS, 2014
-FloridaPresentNativeScott and Crossman, 1973
-GeorgiaPresentNativeScott and Crossman, 1973
-IdahoLocalisedIntroducedLinder, 1963
-IndianaPresentIntroducedSweeney, 1902
-KansasPresentIntroducedCross, 1967; Scott and Crossman, 1973; Cross and Collins, 1995
-MarylandLocalisedIntroducedLee et al., 1980; Jenkins and , 1994; Tilmant, 1999; Rhode et al., 2009
-MassachusettsLocalisedIntroducedHartel, 1992
-MissouriLocalisedNativePage and Burr, 1991
-MontanaLocalisedIntroducedCross, 1967
-NebraskaPresentJones, 1963; Scott and Crossman, 1973Recorded as both introduced and native
-New HampshireLocalisedIntroducedScarola, 1973
-New JerseyLocalisedIntroducedNelson, 1890
-New MexicoLocalisedIntroducedSublette et al., 1990
-North CarolinaLocalisedIntroducedMenhinick, 1991
-North DakotaPresentNativeScott and Crossman, 1973
-OklahomaPresentScott and Crossman, 1973; Lee et al., 1980Recorded as both introduced and native
-PennsylvaniaLocalisedIntroducedLee et al., 1980; Tilmant, 1999
-South CarolinaLocalisedIntroducedRhode et al., 2009
-South DakotaLocalisedIntroducedBailey and Allum, 1962
-TexasLocalisedIntroducedHubbs et al., 1991; Rasmussen, 1998
-UtahLocalisedIntroducedSigler and Sigler, 1996
-VirginiaLocalisedIntroducedLee et al., 1980; Jenkins and , 1994
-WashingtonLocalisedIntroducedBeecher Fernau, 1982
-West VirginiaLocalisedIntroducedStauffer et al., 1995
-WyomingPresentIntroducedScott and Crossman, 1973


FranceLocalisedIntroducedKeith and Allardi, 2001Established, reproducing naturally in Loire
UKLocalisedIntroducedWelcomme, 1988Released into a lake in Oxford, likely extirpated

History of Introduction and Spread

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A. rupestris has been intentionally stocked within the USA for over a century. From 1889 to 1936, the United States Fish Commission introduced rock bass to Atlantic drainages and some western states. Research suggests that this species was intentionally stocked as a sport-fishing target with its expansion through natural dispersal. Outside of the USA and Canada, this species was introduced to Mexico as an aquaculture species (Page and Burr, 1991).

Similar to its introduction in the USA, this species was introduced into a lake in the UK; Linkside Lake, Oxford, during the period of 1925-1949 with a possible second attempt at introduction in the 1990s (Welcomme, 1988). It is believed that this species is still present (Wheeler and Maitland, 1973), although attempts to survey have been unsuccessful.

In France, A. rupestris has been the subject of several introduction attempts from the end of the nineteenth century up until the mid-twentieth century in the Saone and Loire regions. Today, only one population of A. rupestris appears to be present in Loire, with its distribution apparently on the increase (Achigan, 2015).

A. rupestris was introduced into Berneuchen, Germany in 1887 from the USA (von dem Borne, 1890; von Wengen, 1892). A total of 20 fish were imported and by 1889 12 of these were still alive and had successfully spawned. Nevertheless A. rupestris is no longer present in Germany (de Groot, 1985).

In 1892 A. rupestris was also introduced into the Czech Republic as an experiment, which was ultimately unsuccessful (Lusk et al., 2010).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
France North America 1904-1910 Yes No Keith and Allardi (2001) Research
Germany 1880-1889 No No NOBANIS (2013)
Mexico USA   Aquaculture (pathway cause) Yes No Welcomme (1988)
UK USA 1930 Stocking (pathway cause) Yes No Welcomme (1988) Potentially extinct

Risk of Introduction

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The spread of A. rupestris into lakes, reservoirs and streams in new areas is often a result of intentional introduction of this fish as a sport fish, intentional aquarium releases and for aquaculture. 


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A. rupestris generally inhabits rocky, vegetated areas in shallow water such as lakes, brushy stream margins, pools of creeks and small to medium rivers (Page and Burr, 1991). They usually inhabit freshwater with a high cover of vegetation to provide protection from predators.

In Europe, A. rupestris has a tendency to avoid swift waters and occurs in a wide variety of slow-flowing to stagnant waters such as large rivers, lakes, ponds, canals and backwaters (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).

Habitat List

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Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lakes Principal habitat Natural
Reservoirs Principal habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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A.rupestris has a diploid (2n) chromosome number of 48 and a haploid/gametic (n) of 24 (Arkhipchuk, 1999).

Reproductive Biology

A. rupestris are polygyandrous; both males and females have several mates during the breeding season (Schnell, 2014). In its native range in North America, A. rupestris spawn in late spring and early summer when water temperatures reach 15.6-21.1°C (Scott and Crossman, 1973). Males dig shallow nests, where spawning can take place with several females over a period of time. Depending on the size of the female, 500-5,000 eggs may be laid in one nest (Schnell, 2014). After fertilization the male defends the eggs from predators and cares for the young; a total of about 14 days. Both male and females reach maturity at two to three years of age (Schnell, 2014).

Outside of its native range, males fan and defend the nests, which are shallow depressions in sand or gravel bottom along shallow shores.


A. rupestris has an average lifespan of about five to eight years in the wild. It has been reported that the maximum lifespan of a rock bass in captivity was 18 years (Altman and Dittmer, 1962).


A. rupestris feeds on aquatic plants, insects and small fish, including young of their own species (Page and Burr, 1991).


A. rupestris have been known to carry a number of parasites, which include: Protoza, Trematoda, Cestoda, Nematoda, Acanthocephala, leeches and Crustacea (Hoffman, 1967). One parasite regularly identified on this species is “black-spot” (Neascus species) (Scott and Crossman, 1973).

Environmental Requirements

A. rupestris can survive in areas with a broad temperature range <10-29°C) (Schnell, 2014). It has been suggested that it has a preferred range of 21-26°C.

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
Amphipoda All Stages
Anisoptera All Stages
Chironomids All Stages
Cladocera All Stages
Copepoda All Stages
Crayfish All Stages
Ephemeroptera All Stages
Hydracarina All Stages
Isopoda All Stages
Odonata All Stages
Small fish species Broodstock/Fry/Larval
Trichoptera All Stages
yellow perch Larval


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D - Continental/Microthermal climate Preferred Continental/Microthermal climate (Average temp. of coldest month < 0°C, mean warmest month > 10°C)
Df - Continental climate, wet all year Preferred Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Preferred Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)
Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Preferred Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l) > 6 Optimum

Notes on Natural Enemies

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There are several predators in the native range which prey on young A. rupestris. These include largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), northern pike (Esox Lucius), and muskellunge (Esox masquinongy).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Accidental Introduction

Accidental introductions of A. rupestris have been reported through bait bucket releases.

Intentional Introduction

In the past, A. rupestris has been stocked as an aquarium species as well as an angling target for sport fishing. Intentional introduction is the main cause of introduction of A. rupestris into new areas, particularly those over longer distances.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Aquaculture Yes Yes
Fisheries Yes Yes
Hunting, angling, sport or racing Yes Yes
Intentional release Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Pets and aquarium species Yes Yes
Water Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) None

Economic Impact

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There is limited economic impact associated with A. rupestris. This species is not highly sought after as a sports-fish nor a commercial species, but has some value as an aquarium species.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

A. rupestris competes with native species and is reported to have severely affected populations of roanoke bass (Ambloplites cavifrons) through hybridization and competition (Lee et al., 1980; Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). Roanoke bass are a species of special concern in North Carolina and Virginia (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1994). It is also know to hybridize with shadow bass (A. ariommus).

A. rupestris have also been shown to reduce the abundance and diversity of native prey species in several Pacific Northwest rivers (Hughes and Herlihy, 2012).

A. rupestris have been shown to reduce the abundance and diversity of native prey species in several Pacific Northwest rivers (Hughes and Herlihy, 2012). Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) speculated that introduced A. rupestris have contributed to the demise of an isolated population of trout-perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus) in the Potomac River in Virginia and Maryland. Additionally, research shows a decline in Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) populations where A. rupestris has been introduced as a result of competition for food resources, specifically minnows and crayfish. It has also been found to compete with walleye (Sander vitreus) for food resources and may also predate on young walleye. Both smallmouth bass and walleye are highly sought after fish as recreational targets. 

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Etheostoma nianguae (Niangua darter)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesMissouriCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 1989
Gila nigrescens (chihuahua chub)VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable); USA ESA listing as threatened species USA ESA listing as threatened speciesNew MexicoCompetition - monopolizing resourcesUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2010

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerant of shade
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Conflict
  • Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Competition - smothering
  • Pest and disease transmission
  • Hybridization
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally


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Economic Value

In some areas, A. rupestris is considered a valuable sport fish, with bass fishing being a multi-billion dollar industry in the USA. Fishing supports approximately 828,000 jobs in the USA; many of these jobs involve fishing for species such as rock bass (Schramm et al., 1991).

Social Benefit

A. rupestris is an important fish species for recreational fishery.

Uses List

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  • Pet/aquarium trade
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Human food and beverage

  • Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)

Detection and Inspection

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A. rupestris can be easily identified from other species of sunfish by the presence of six spines on the anal fin and a bright red to orange eye.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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A. rupestris, otherwise known as rock bass, aren’t actually bass and are instead members of the sunfish family. Confusion between other members of the sunfish family is often with similarities between the bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) and warmouth (Lepomis gulosus); however, A. rupestris can be readily distinguished from these species by the six spines in the anal fin (other typical sunfishes have only three anal fin spines).

Prevention and Control

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Public Awareness

Public awareness is important in preventing establishment of new populations and further introductions of A. rupestris.


Annual rock bass fishing tournaments are held in the USA to aid in eradication of this species.


Physical/Mechanical Control

Electrofishing and seine/gill netting has been used to catch A. rupestris in its native ranges, however there has been no report to use these methods to physically or mechanically control this species.

Chemical Control

The only effective method eradicating A. rupestris is by the application of rotenone, a piscicide. This chemical however, is also toxic to non-target species.

Monitoring and Surveillance

Both radio and acoustic telemetry can be used to detect A. rupestris.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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There is little information on the potential and current impacts of A. rupestris in its introduced range.


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12/02/15 Original text by:

Michael Godard, consultant, Canada

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