Bluegill vs Redbreast Sunfish – What’s The Difference?


Bluegill and redbreast sunfish have many similarities. For this reason many people wonder about their differences. Therefore, let’s answer, are redbreast sunfish and bluegills the same?

Redbreast sunfish and bluegill are different species of fish although they are from the same family. Bluegill is the L. macrochirus species and redbreast sunfish is the L. auritus species. The most identifiable difference is the longer gill ear flap of the redbreast sunfish compared to the shorter bluegill flap.

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, appearance and compare their nutritional value.

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 Redbreast Sunfish: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

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

To tell the difference between a bluegill and a redbreast sunfish compare their gill ear flap, dorsal fin, head coloring and body shape. Redbreast’s ear flap is elongated compared to the shorter, rounder ear flap of the bluegill. Bluegill have a dark spot at the dorsal fin base the redbreast doesn’t have. Bluegill have blue coloring on the cheeks and gills compared to reddish orange on the bluegill. The bluegill’s body is rounder than redbreasts. 

Redbreast sunfish reddish orange belly color extends further down towards the anal fin. The bluegill’s reddish orange belly coloring is more towards the front than rear.

Redbreast sunfish have teeth on the roof of the mouth. Bluegill’s mouth roof doesn’t have teeth.

Bluegill and Redbreast Sunfish Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Bluegill are from:

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

Redbreast Sunfish are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Lepomis
  • Species: L. auritus
  • Common nicknames: River bream, red bellies.

Bluegill and Redbreast 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.

Redbreast Sunfish

  • Redbreast sunfish are native to the eastern United States and Canada. They can be found from Canada down to the east coast of Florida and west to Texas.
  • Redbreast sunfish are found in rivers, lakes and streams.
  • Redbreast sunfish like to stay near shelter, structure, rocks, vegetation and near banks.
redbreast sunfish and bluegill photo comparison
(top) Bluegill
(bottom) Redbreast sunfish

Bluegill and Redbreast Sunfish Appearance

Bluegill and Redbreast 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.
  • Redbreast sunfish have a dusky brown/olive green upper body with green to yellow sides and a reddish-orange belly. It has bluish streaks around the eyes and cheeks. The elongated gill flap (ear) is black.

The bluegill and redbreast sunfish are both colorful. The redbreast typically has more red along the length of the entire belly.

Dorsal Fins

  • Bluegill has one dorsal fin with 6-13 spines and 11-12 rays.
  • Redbreast sunfish has one dorsal fin with 10-11 spines followed by 10-12 rays.

Mouth

  • The bluegill mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend to the eye line.
  • The redbreast sunfish mouth is small, and the jaw doesn’t extend to the eye line.

The redbreast sunfish has a longer snout compared to the bluegill which has a more streamlined mouth and head which blends into the body. The redbreast sunfish has teeth on the roof of the mouth, and bluegills don’t.

Scales

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

Body Shape

  • Bluegill are flat and have a rounder shape. The mouth hardly protrudes and is more streamlined.
  • Redbreast sunfish are flat and not round. They are more elongated.

The body of the bluegill is rounder than the redbreast sunfish.

Distinguishing Marks

  • Bluegill has a black spot at the rear edge of the gills (the ear) on each side and at the base of the dorsal fin.
  • Redbreast sunfish has an elongated gill flap (ear) at the rear edge of the gills. The gill flap is black colored.

The redbreast sunfish gill flap extension is narrow and long compared to the shorter ear flap of the bluegill. They both are colored black. Redbreast sunfish does not have a dark spot on the dorsal fin like a bluegill.

Bluegill and Redbreast Sunfish Size and Weight

  • Bluegill average 6-7″ long and weighs less than 2 pounds.
  • Redbreast average 4-9″ long and weighs 1-1.5 pounds.

Bluegill and Redbreast Sunfish Lifespan

  • Bluegill average 5-6 years.
  • Redbreast sunfish lives up to 7 years.

Diet

Bluegill consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae

Redbreast sunfish consume the following:

  • Worms
  • Insects
  • Insect larvae
  • Small crustaceans

Bluegill, redbreast 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.

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Find out how bluegill compared to green sunfish in my article, Bluegill vs Green Sunfish – What’s The Difference?

Bluegill and Redbreast 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 redbreast sunfish taste like bluegill?

Redbreast sunfish taste similar to bluegill and has a mild to sweet taste. Redbreast 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.

Does redbreast sunfish fish taste good? Redbreast sunfish tastes good to most people and has a mild to sweet taste. The white flesh is flakey and slightly firm.

Depending on the time of year or type of water, bluegill or redbreast sunfish can taste slight muddy or fishy to some people. The fish can be soaked in milk to help eliminate any unpleasant taste or odor.

Bluegill and Redbreast 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 redbreast sunfish, you may ask, can I substitute bluegill for redbreast sunfish?

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

Bluegill substitutes:

  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Redbreast sunfish
  • Pollock
  • Lake herring

Redbreast 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
  • Grilling
  • Baking

Flavor pairings:

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

How To Cook Redbreast Sunfish

Popular ways to cook redbreast sunfish are:

  • Deep frying
  • Pan frying/stir fry
  • Baking
  • Grilling

Flavor pairings for redbreast sunfish:

  • Tarter sauce
  • Beer batter
  • Bread crumbs
  • Crackers
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cajun
  • Black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lemon juice
  • Soy sauce
  • Brown sugar

Crappie is a little easier to find than some of the other sunfish. See how crappie compared to bluegill in my article, Crappie vs Bluegill – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Bluegill and Redbreast Sunfish Mercury Levels

The EPA and The FDA have issued suggestions and warnings about mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 12. This is especially important for young infants, pregnant women and developing children.

They established three lists. Best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, does redbreast sunfish or bluegill have more mercury?

Redbreast sunfish and bluegill have similar levels of mercury. Bluegill and redbreast sunfish 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 13.

How Much Redbreast Sunfish and Bluegill Costs

The costs for redbreast 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, redbreast sunfish or bluegill?

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

Redbreast 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

To save some money on fresh seafood, would you believe some can be purchased on Amazon? Check out their current prices and selection, Fresh Seafood.

I recently wrote a comparison article between bluegill and pumpkinseed. Their differences may interest you. Check out my article here, Bluegill vs Pumpkinseed – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare.

Bluegill and Redbreast Sunfish Nutrients

Redbreast sunfish and bluegill 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 following number of nutrients per four raw ounces of bluegill fish:

Nutrient Bluegill, raw (4 Ounces)
Calories 129
Fat 0.8 g
Saturated Fat 0.5 g  
Cholesterol 97 mg 
Protein 22 g
Sodium 82 mg
Omega-3 0.16 g
B-6 0.1 mg
B-12 2.0 mcg
Thiamin 0.10 mg
Riboflavin 0.10 mg
B5 0.7 mg
Iron 1.7 mg
Niacin 1.4 mg
Folate 17.0 mcg
Potassium 395 mg
Magnesium 34 mg
Phosphorus 203 mg
Calcium 90.4 mg
Zinc 1.6 mg
Selenium 14.2 mcg

Nutrient Resources 14 15

Both sunfish provide almost an equal number of the same nutrients. Keep reading the next section below to find out how the nutrients are beneficial, especially omega-3s.  

Redbreast Sunfish and Bluegill Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

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

  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce plaque buildup.
  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • 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 16.

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

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

Magnesium

Both sunfish provide about 34 mg of magnesium per four ounces. It calms and relaxes the whole body including blood vessels. Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 17.

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 18.

Magnesium 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

Redbreast sunfish and bluegill provide approximately 90 mg of calcium per four ounces. Calcium 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 19.

Calcium also helps the following:

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

Potassium

Potassium provided by redbreast and bluegill helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 20.

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 21.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 22.

Selenium

There are 14.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces of redbreast sunfish and bluegill. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 23 show selenium may help to protect the following:

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

Phosphorus

Redbreast sunfish and bluegill provide approximately 203 mg of phosphorus per four ounces. It has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:

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

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

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

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

White Crappie vs White Perch: Are They The Same? We Compare

Pacific Cod vs Sockeye (Pacific Salmon) Which is Better?

Pacific Cod vs Atlantic Cod – What’s The Difference?

Herring vs Sardines – 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. USDA: Bluegill – Lepomis macrochirus[]
  6. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish biology and identification[]
  7. Michigan.gov The Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish[]
  8. Wikipedia: Redbreast sunfish[]
  9. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission: Redbreast Sunfish[]
  10. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Redbreast Sunfish[]
  11. NOAA: Lepomis auritus[]
  12. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  13. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  14. The Topeka Capital-Journal: Keto, Paleo or Atkins diet? Hunting, fishing can help trim your waistline in 2020[]
  15. Nutritiondata: Fish, sunfish, raw[]
  16. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  17. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  19. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  20. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  21. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  22. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  23. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]

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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