Enneacanthus chaetodon – Blackbanded Sunfish
Enneacanthus chaetodon was first described by Baird in 1855. The genus name Enneacanthus can be broken down into two Greek words. “Ennea” means “nine” and “Akantha” means “thorn”. This is a reference to the nine hard fin rays in the dorsal fin of this genus. The species name chaetodon is not explained in the description. Possibly it is a reference to the genus Chaetodon or the seawater butterfly fish. Their common name is Blackbanded Sunfish.
With a maximum total length of about 10 centimetres, Enneacanthus chaetodon remains relatively small. In the aquarium, they often remain even slightly smaller. Six vertical black stripes run across the flank. The first black stripe runs through the eye. There is a black spot on the gill cover. They are built quite high and laterally compressed. The dorsal fin has nine hard rays and is almost always erect.
The difference between males and females is mainly seen when they are adults. The males are somewhat larger and heavier built than the females. The fins of the males are also a bit longer. The Blackbanded Sunfish females get a bit fatter when they are ready to lay eggs.
You can only find Enneacanthus chaetodon in the United States. They occur from New Jersey to central Florida and inland to Flint River in Georgia.
They generally inhabit the ponds, lakes and small rivers up to the medium-sized rivers. The Blackbanded Sunfish inhabit the parts with a sandy or muddy bottom.
In the wild, the Blackbanded Sunfish diet consists mainly of insect larvae. The larvae of midge fly are at the top of the list of commonly eaten food.
In the aquarium, you can feed them with live and frozen food such as white, red and black mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, Daphnia etc. With some habituation, they probably also eat flake and granulate food.
The Blackbanded Sunfish is a sub-tropical species. They are therefore very suitable for an unheated aquarium. You can keep them at a temperature of 4 to a maximum of 22 degrees Celsius. Keeping these fish continuously at temperatures that are too warm shortens their lifespan considerably. They live up to about five years old.
Because they are reasonably resistant to colder temperatures, they are also kept in ponds. As long as the pond does not freeze over in winter and is deep enough, it should be possible. A combination of an aquarium in a shed for the winter and a pond for the summer is also possible.
If you want to keep this species in an aquarium all year round, it is important to pay close attention to the temperature. In the summer an aquarium quickly becomes too hot. Take measures to ensure that you can cool the water in time.
Set up the aquarium with preferably (filter) sand on the bottom. Many plants in which they can hide is certainly appreciated. The plants are not eaten.
Enneacanthus chaetodon feels most at ease with several congeners accompanying it. Therefore keep them in a group of five or more. An aquarium of 100 centimetres in length is sufficient for this minimal group. A larger aquarium with several specimens is even better.
They do not always feel at home in the aquarium. Sometimes they remain very shy and stand in a corner. This species is probably much better suited as a pond fish than as an aquarium fish.
Breeding Enneacanthus chaetodon – Blackbanded Sunfish
Normally, the Blackbanded Sunfish is a peaceful species. Only during spawning do they become a bit territorial to protect their eggs and young.
Enneacanthus chaetodon lay their eggs among the plants. The male chases the female after spawning. He guards the eggs and newly hatched fish for up to a week after they swim freely.
John de Lange