Bluegill vs Green Sunfish – What’s The Difference?


Bluegill and green sunfish share many similarities. For this reason many people wonder if they’re the same or about their differences. Therefore, what is the difference between a bluegill and a green sunfish?

Bluegill and green sunfish are different species of fish although they are from the same family. Bluegill is the L. macrochirus species and green sunfish is the L. cyanellus species. Bluegill grow longer and weigh approximately double the pounds than green sunfish. Green sunfish can have a slightly stronger flavor.

This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their habitats, size, weight and discuss their nutritional benefits.

Keto Bread Tip: Great News! Did you know, you don’t have to give up your favorite bread, pizza or sandwiches to follow a 100% Keto diet. Find out more in the KetoBreads website by clicking here, Keto Breads.

Disclaimer: The above link and others in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Bluegill vs Green Sunfish: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

How can you tell the difference between a bluegill and a green sunfish?

To tell the difference between a bluegill and a green sunfish is to check the size of the mouth, head shape and the color markings on the side of the head. The green sunfish has a larger mouth and a longer snout than the bluegill whose head is more streamlined to the shape of the rounder body. The bluegill has solid blue coloring on the side of the head and gills compared to the broken blueish stripes on a green sunfish.

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Bluegill are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Lepomis
  • Species: L. macrochirus
  • Common nicknames: Bream, brim, sunny, perch.

Green sunfish are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Lepomis
  • Species: L. cyanellus
  • Common nicknames: Branch perch, rock bass, goggle-eye.

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Habitats

Bluegill

  • Bluegill are native to North America and can be found from Canada to northern Mexico.
  • Bluegill are found in streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.
  • Bluegill like to hide under fallen logs, piers or in weeds.

Green Sunfish

  • Green sunfish are native to North America. They can be found from the Hudson Bay in Canada down to northern Mexico.
  • Green sunfish are found in lakes, rivers, streams and ponds.
  • Green sunfish hide around rocks, fallen logs or in plants.

Bluegill and green sunfish share many of the areas, types of water and both like to hide under cover.

photo comparison between a bluegill and green sunfish
(Top) Bluegill
(Bottom right) Green sunfish (bottom left) Pumpkinseed

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Colors

  • Bluegills have an olive green upper body and light yellowish to orange belly. The sides of the head and chin are iridescence blue or purple. Bluegill have dark vertical bands on its sides. A breeding male will have more orange than yellow on the belly.
  • Green sunfish have a greenish to blue upper back and dorsal fin. The sides of the head and gill covers have broken blueish stripes. The sides are speckled with lighter green and yellow with dusky, faint vertical bars. The belly is yellowish to white.

The blue broken lines on the side of the green sunfish’s head and gills and the yellowish belly are what makes some people confuse them with a bluegill.

Another similar marking both green sunfish and bluegill possess is a dark spot on the ear plate (the rear edge of the gills) and near the back end of the dorsal fin. 

Bluegill and other fish are renowned for being a part of many diets like keto or heart healthy.

If you’re eating low-carb or want to give keto a try, many of my clients have followed this 28-Day Keto Challenge with great success. Visit their website and check it out.

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Appearance

Dorsal Fins

  • Bluegill has one dorsal fin with 6-13 spines and 11-12 rays.
  • Green sunfish has one dorsal fin with about 10 spines and 10 rays.

Mouth

  • The bluegill mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend past the eye line.
  • The green sunfish mouth is relatively large with a long snout. The jawline does not extend past the eye line.

Scales

  • The scales on a bluegill are similar size across the body and head.
  • The scales on a green sunfish are similar size across the body and head.

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Size and Weight

  • Bluegill average 6-7″ long and weighs less than 2 pounds.
  • Green sunfish average 5-6″ long and weighs less than one pound.

Check out all the differences between bluegill and crappie in my article, Crappie vs Bluegill – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Diet

Bluegill consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae

Green sunfish consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae
  • Fish eggs
  • Zooplankton

The diet of the bluegill and green sunfish are very similar. Due to its larger mouth, the green sunfish may consume larger food sources compared to a bluegill of the same size. 

If you’ve wondered what the differences were between a crappie and bluegill, check out my article, Crappie vs Bluegill – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

Bluegill and Green Sunfish: Tastes and Textures

One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish is its taste. When comparing the two fish, does green sunfish taste like bluegill?

Green sunfish taste similar to bluegill and has a mild to sweet taste. Some people find the green sunfish flavor to be slightly stronger. Green sunfish and bluegill have a firm, flakey texture. 

What does bluegill taste like? Bluegill has a mild to sweet taste. The texture is firm and flakey.

What does green sunfish taste like? Green sunfish has a mild taste. Sometimes it may taste a little fishy to some people but not overwhelming. The white flesh is flakey and slightly firm.

Typically, green sunfish are not targeted by anglers because of their small size. Many times they are easy to catch and kept because they taste good or used for bait.

I polled many of my readers and members of food groups I belong to. The following are the results of my poll which consisted of 50 people. I asked which fish tasted better, bluegill or green sunfish?

  • 62% preferred the taste of bluegill.
  • 38% preferred the taste of green sunfish.

Check out how white crappie compared to white perch in my article, White Crappie vs White Perch: Are They The Same? We Compare.

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Substitutions

When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for. If you have some bluegill or green sunfish, you may ask, can I substitute bluegill for green sunfish?

Bluegill and green sunfish can substitute for each other due to their similar tastes and textures. Bluegill and green sunfish can be used in many of the same recipes and cooking methods. They both can be cooked by baking, broiling, steaming and frying.

Bluegill substitutes:

  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Tilapia
  • Pollock
  • Lake herring

Green sunfish substitutes:

  • Bluegill
  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Lake herring
  • Tilapia
  • Pollock

How To Cook Bluegill

The most popular ways to cook bluegill are:

  • Deep frying
  • Pan frying/Stir fry
  • Baking

Flavor pairings:

  • Lemon juice
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Smoked paprika
  • Beer batter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Bread crumbs
  • Black pepper
  • Tarter sauce
  • Cayenne pepper

How To Cook Green Sunfish

Popular ways to cook green sunfish are:

  • Deep frying
  • Pan frying/stir fry
  • Baking

Flavor pairings for green sunfish:

  • Beer batter
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cajun
  • Black pepper
  • Tarter sauce
  • Bread crumbs
  • Ritz crackers
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Mercury Levels

The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 9. This is especially important for pregnant women, developing children and young infants.

They established a list of best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, does green sunfish or bluegill have more mercury?

Bluegill and green sunfish have similar levels of mercury. Green sunfish and bluegill are listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels. The FDA recommends eating no more than 2 servings per week from the fish listed as best choices.

If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.

These mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations 10.

How Much Green Sunfish and Bluegill Costs

The costs for green sunfish or bluegill will vary depending on how the fish are caught and where they’re sold. When purchasing any fish, be sure to check the label to see if it is wild-caught or farm raised. Therefore, which is more expensive, green sunfish or bluegill?

Green sunfish and bluegill have a similar price. The average cost for green sunfish or bluegill fillets are $19.43 per pound. 

Green sunfish fillets are extremely difficult to find for sale. Bluegill or “sunfish” are easier to find online.

I checked online at Walleye Direct and found the following prices:

  • Wild, bluegill fillets
    • $25.36 per pound

Seafood Markets:

  • Wild, sunfish fillets (does not specify which kind of sunfish)
    • $18.00 per pound

Dixon Fisheries:

  • Bluegill fillets
    • $14.95 per pound

For stocking ponds, Pond King has the following price per fish:

  • Hybrid bluegill (green sunfish x bluegill) $0.75 per 3-4″ fish
  • Bluegill – $0.75 per 3-4″ fish

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Nutrients

Bluegill and green sunfish are an excellent source of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Both sunfish fish contain the following:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Folate
  • Niacin
  • B6
  • B12
  • B5
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Potassium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Selenium
  • Calcium
  • Zinc

The nutrients listed above provide many health benefits. The omega-3 fatty acids contained in fresh fish make these types of seafood more beneficial than most other foods, including chicken. Check out how salmon or cod compared to chicken in my articles:

Salmon vs Chicken: Which is Healthier?

Cod vs Chicken – Which is Healthier? Let’s Compare

Keep reading below and find out why omega-3 fatty acids are so important for your health.

Bluegill and Green Sunfish Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids contained in green sunfish and bluegill are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Reducing plaque build-up.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Lowering triglycerides.
  • Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.

DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 11.

Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by bluegill and green sunfish include B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5, B6, B9 (folate) and B12. B vitamins help support the following:

  • Red blood cells.
  • Energy levels.
  • Digestion.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Nerve function.
  • Brain function.

Selenium

Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much press. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 12 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Cognitive issues
  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system

Potassium

Many fresh fish fillets provide more potassium per four ounces than a whole banana. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 13.

The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 14.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 15.

Magnesium

Magnesium helps to calm and relax the whole body including blood vessels. It has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 16.

Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 17.

Magnesium provided by green sunfish and bluegill helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.

In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Calcium

The calcium contained in bluegill and green sunfish is important for blood pressure and the heart. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 18.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Improve nerve function.
  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

  • Promote teeth and bone strength.
  • Muscle recovery after exercise.
  • Muscle contraction.
  • Help the body store and manage energy.
  • Help the kidneys remove waste.
  • Promote healthy nerve conduction.

FAQs

Is bluegill a type of sunfish?

A bluegill is a member of the sunfish family called Centrarchidae of the order Perciformes. The genus of a bluegill is Lepomis and its species is L. macrochirus. The Centrarchidae family contains 38 species of fish located in North America.

How can you tell a green sunfish?

The best way to identify a green sunfish is the following:

  • Green sunfish has one dorsal fin with about 10 spines and 10 rays.
  • Its mouth is relatively large with a long snort. The jawline does not extend past the eye line.
  • Green sunfish have a greenish to blue upper back and dorsal fin. The sides of the head and gill covers have broken blueish stripes. The sides are speckled with lighter green and yellow with dusky, faint vertical bars. The belly is yellowish to white.
  • The scales are a similar size across the body and head.
  • They average 5-6″ long and weigh less than one pound.

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

Sea Bass vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare

White Perch vs White Bass: Which Is Better?

Sea Bass vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Herring vs Sardines – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare 

Black Crappie vs White Crappie – What’s The Difference?

Crappie vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Wikipedia: Bluegill[]
  2. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Bluegill[]
  3. Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Bluegill[]
  4. Delaware.gov: Bluegill[]
  5. Wikipedia: Green sunfish[]
  6. Texas Parks & Wildlife: Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellsu) []
  7. UK College of Agriculture. Food and Environment: Green Sunfish[]
  8. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish biology and identification[]
  9. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  11. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  12. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]
  13. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  14. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  15. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  16. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  17. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  18. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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