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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

Image of Mud sunfish.Zoom+ Mud sunfish. Photo courtesy of Shawn Crouse.

Mud sunfish

Acantharchus pomotis

Species Group: Fish

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern



The mud sunfish has a light to dark green body with three or four dark brown stripes on its sides. It grows to 8 ½ inches in length and has an oblong compressed body, large mouth, and large eyes. The tail is rounded and the fins are clear to dusky olive with the anal fin having a black edge. There is a black spot on the ear flap.

Image of Range of the mud sunfish in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the mud sunfish in New Jersey.


This species can be found along the eastern seaboard of the United States from northern Florida in the south to southern New York in the north. Within New Jersey, it is more common in the southern portion of the state.

Habitat includes darkly stained, sluggish, vegetated creeks, small to medium rivers, ponds, lakes and swamps, usually with a mud or detritus substrates.


The mud sunfish primarily feeds on small aquatic insects and crustaceans, but larger individuals may prey on small fish.


Spawning occurs during the spring. Eggs are laid in nests which are excavated by males either in the substrate or in weed beds. This species may live up to 4 years.


This species has experienced significant range reduction within New Jersey and its population has declined in the northern and central portions of the state. This may be due to several factors including land use and habitat changes as well as the introduction of non-native fish (such as largemouth bass) which out-compete and prey on mud sunfish. It is still fairly common and well-distributed within the Pinelands.

The mud sunfish is likely extirpated in Pennsylvania and listed as Threatened in New York. In 2016, the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Advisory Committee recommended a Special Concern status for this species, but no formal rule proposal has been filed to date.

Text written by Michael J. Davenport in 2016.


  • Arndt, Rudolf G. 2004. “Annotated Checklist and Distribution of New Jersey Freshwater Fishes, With Comments on Abundance.” The Bulletin: New Jersey Academy of Scince. Vol. 49, No. 1.
  • Page, Lawrence M. and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America North of Mexico.
Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Actinopterygii
          Order: Perciformes
             Family: Centrarchidae
                Genus: Acantharchus
                   Species: A. pomotis

Find Related Info: Fish, Special concern

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