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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Overhead River Habitat (River Scout)
  • Juvenile Alligator Habitat (Aquanaut Adventure: A Discovery Zone)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in the Atlantic watershed from Virginia to Florida, the Gulf of Mexico drainage, and the St. Lawrence, Great Lakes and Mississippi River basin from Southern Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.  
  • Found in lakes, ponds, sloughs, and backwaters and pools of streams.
  • Usually among vegetation over mud or sand, and is most common in clear water.
  • Widely introduced throughout North America, making its native habitat difficult to determine.

Physical Characteristics

  • Deep body which is strongly compressed laterally.
  • Dark green to black mottling throughout its body with a greenish back and silvery-green sides. No distinct vertical bars. Median fins are yellowish green with dusky, wavy lines and white spots. 
  • Common length of 8-12 inches (20-30 cm); maximum length of 19.3 inches (49 cm).
  • Maximum weight of 6 lbs. (2.7 kg).

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet consists of small fishes and larger invertebrates.
  • Juvenile (up to approximately 6 inches (16 cm) in length) consumes zooplankton, including planktonic crustaceans and free swimming insect larvae. 
  • Feeds throughout the day and night, but is most active from about midnight to 2 am.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Spawns in the Southeast U.S. from February to April when water temperatures reach 62 degrees Fahrenheit to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16.7-18.3 degrees Celcius).
  • Male builds the nests and female lays between 11,000 and 188,000 eggs.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Does not tolerate murky water well.
  • Considered an excellent game fish. It is a popular sport and food fish in the southern part of its range.
  • In the Southern U.S., its name is pronounced to rhyme with “choppy." In other areas, the name rhymes with “snappy."
  • Maximum reported age is 15 years.