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Ospreys are an indicator species. The health of their population has implications for the health our coastal ecosystems.

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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

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

Blackbanded sunfish

Enneacanthus chaetodon

Species Group: Fish

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern



This small (3 ¼ inch) fish is light-colored yellowish-gray with 6 black bars on each of its sides. The first bar runs through the eye and the sixth is at the base of the tail and may be fainter than the others.

It has a deeply compressed body and small mouth. The first two or three membranes of the dorsal fin are black and the middle spines are longest. The tail is rounded and the pelvic fin is pink to red in the front followed by black.

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


There are several disjunct populations of this species along the eastern seaboard of the United States from northern Florida in the south to southern New Jersey in the north. Within New Jersey, it is limited to the Pinelands region in the southern portion of the state. The New Jersey population is completely isolated from other populations of this species.

This species can be found in quiet, heavily-vegetated lakes, ponds, and small pools as well as small to medium rivers. It tends to occur in darkly stained, slightly to very acidic waters with sand or mud bottoms.


The blackbanded sunfish is an invertivore, primarily consuming small aquatic insects and crustaceans.


Spawning occurs between May and June. 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 reduction in the size of its range within New Jersey and its population has declined in 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 blackbanded sunfish.

It is likely extirpated in Pennsylvania, listed as Endangered in Maryland and Virginia, and proposed to be listed as Endangered in Delaware. 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: Enneacanthus
                   Species: E. chaetodon

Find Related Info: Fish, Special concern

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