When different kinds of fish are put together in one tank, the question remains whether they will cross the lines and produce hybrids.\n\n\n\nSunfish can hardly stay with Cichlids in one tank much less breed with them. The main reason why they can\u2019t cross-breed is that they belong to different families: Centrarchidae for native Sunfish and Cichlidae for Cichlids. \n\n\n\nWe mentioned before that cross-breeding fish only happens with closely related species, meaning they should belong to the same family. Check out our posts, "Can A Molly And A Goldfish Mate?\u201d and \u201cCan A Molly And A Swordtail Breed?\u201d as examples.\n\n\n\nRather than cross-breeding, interbreeding happens with Sunfish within its family. Bluegills and Largemouth Sunfish have interbred before because they are often found in the same habitat. Female Green Sunfish and male Bluegills are also known for producing hybrids. Their offspring, which are hybrids, are not sterile. But as a consequence, they often have weaker abilities to spawn than purebreds.\n\n\n\nThe same is true for Cichlids. Take the Blood Parrot\u2014 which is believed to be a hybrid produced by crossing the Severum and the Midas\u2014 for example. The Flowerhorn is also a cross, believed to be spawned by an Amphilophus trimaculatus and the Paratherap. Blood Parrots have hardly viable milt, but females are known to lay eggs. Flowerhorns are sterile and have no recorded successful spawning.\n\n\n\nBottom line, Centrarchids can only breed with other Centrarchids, and Cichlids can only breed with fellow Cichlids.\n\n\n\nBut even if they can\u2019t cross-breed, Sunfish and Cichlids have lots of similarities. The next logical question would be if they can at least be kept together. Let\u2019s get to know the native Sunfish more.\n\n\n\nWhat Are Sunfish?\n\n\n\nBefore Cichlids burst into the aquarium scene, Sunfish were more commonly caught in nearby waters and kept as pets in the Americas.\n\n\n\nThe Freshwater Sunfish (Family Centrarchidae) is made up of over 30 varieties that include Pumpkinseeds, Bluegills, Pygmies, Longears, Black-Banded Sunfish, Redears, Crappies, and Largemouth Bass. \n\n\n\nYou might\u2019ve seen and heard of these as they are the native species found in ponds, rivers, lakes, and marshes near you. All of these colorful fish acclimate well to aquarium life and have a fun, curious personality everyone can enjoy.\n\n\n\nThe Pumpkinseed, in particular, is native to Southeast US and Canada. It can reach about 9 inches average in length at maturity. It is best kept in pairs to encourage breeding. Pumpkinseeds are the most common Sunfish variety in the aquarium hobby for their unique coloration and large size. Next to them are the equally brightly colored Longears.\n\n\n\nIt\u2019s not hard to appreciate these breathtaking beauties, but it\u2019s probably the fact that they are common in native soil that makes many people choose other species over them. Exoticism indeed makes for popular fish.\n\n\n\nHow Are Sunfish And Cichlids Similar?\n\n\n\nBut Sunfish deserve attention in the hobby, too. In fact, they have many similarities with Cichlids.\n\n\n\nSimilarity #1: Size\n\n\n\nOne key to compatibility in semi-aggressive or aggressive fish is that they have to be the same size to have a peaceful (though never totally) balance in the tank.\n\n\n\nCan Cichlids Really Breed with Sunfish\n\n\n\nThere are Sunfish that only reach a maximum of 5 inches in length (the Green Sunfish, Bluespotted Sunfish), there are those that reach 9 inches (Pumpkinseeds, Bluegills, and Longears), and there are monster Sunfish that can grow as long as 16 inches or more (Redears, Largemouth Bass). Pygmy Sunfish are tiny at a maximum of 1 inch in length. Some argue, though, that Pygmies are not true Sunfish.\n\n\n\nSimilarity #2: Diet\n\n\n\nAll Sunfish are carnivorous, eating smaller fish, crustaceans, and worms in the wild. If kept captive, some of them can adapt to eating pellets, flakes, and frozen food. They can be fed brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, krill, and Minnows.\n\n\n\nCentrarchids\u2019 appetites are insatiable, however, so expect them to be messy. You would need a strong filtration system in their setup.\n\n\n\nSimilarity #3: Behavior\n\n\n\nJust like Cichlids, native Sunfish can be kept together until their juvenile stage. As they mature, they become more territorial and aggressive, establishing a hierarchy if kept within a community.\n\n\n\nOne of the most aggressive Sunfish in the aquarium hobby is the Longear.\n\n\n\nThere are also Sunfish that are more even-tempered such as the shy Bluespotted Sunfish, Blackbanded Sunfish, or the Banded Sunfish. These 3 never grow more than 5 or 6 inches. The Warmouth Sunfish grows up to 14 inches in length and will not attack anything it cannot eat.\n\n\n\nSimilarity #4: Tank setup\n\n\n\nSunfish and Cichlids both require lots of space where they can claim their own territories. Larger fish in groups should be kept in no less than a 125-gallon. If you mix aggressive fish, there should be lots of hiding places plus decor and plants that break the line of sight of bullies in the tank.\n\n\n\nSmaller fish can stay in a 55-gallon.\n\n\n\nCan Sunfish Be Kept With Cichlids?\n\n\n\nWith all these similarities, these 2 species in theory should make for good tank mates.\n\n\n\nHowever, the biggest hindrance to keeping native Sunfish and Cichlids together are different water requirements. Sunfish like cooler waters that fall within room temperature (60 to 70 deg F), while Cichlids like warmer waters of 78 to 80 deg F.\n\n\n\nAcidity and hardness are not of consequence as both species fall within the same range. But since both species get more aggressive as the temperature rises, expect a lot of brawls if you insist on putting them in the same tank.\n\n\n\nThat doesn\u2019t mean that there haven\u2019t been any successful tanks that mix both breeds. We have seen some, but not without its problems. Therefore, we don\u2019t encourage keeping native Sunfish with Cichlids, especially the more aggressive ones.\n\n\n\nThe best way to keep Sunfish remains to be keeping them in their own species-only tank.\n\n\n\nMonster fish, like the Mud Sunfish that grows up to 2 feet long, should be kept in ponds instead. They\u2019re very hard to come by, though.\n\n\n\nAlthough Centrarchids prefer planted tanks for their habitat, they will uproot these and stir up the substrate as most Cichlids do. Therefore, stick with floating plants that give your tank a natural look similar to that of the natural habitat of the Sunfish.\n\n\n\nWarning: Although not an endangered species by far, some states don\u2019t allow natives to be kept in captivity (such as Massachusetts). We suggest you try and contact your local Fish and Games office or ask your local pet store about the laws about keeping local fish as pets in your area.\n\n\n\n\n\nConclusion\n\n\n\nEven with so many similarities in behavior, size, and tank requirements, Sunfish and Cichlids are not compatible tank mates simply because they don\u2019t belong to the same family and require different water temperatures.\n\n\n\nBut with some Cichlid keepers trying to add a Sunfish or two into their tank, we strongly advise having a backup tank in case the situation turns awry. For the sake of the fish, it would expand your knowledge if you try. Just don\u2019t do it because it\u2019s the trend.