Rock Bass vs Green Sunfish – Are They The Same? We Compare


Rock bass and green sunfish share many similarities. For this reason many people ask if they’re the same or different. Therefore, let’s answer, is a rock bass the same as a green sunfish?

Rock bass and green sunfish are not the same, they are a different species although they are from the same family. Rock bass is the A. Rupestris species and green sunfish is the L. cyanellus species. Rock bass is longer and weighs more than a green sunfish. Rock bass lives 8-10 years compared to green sunfish living 4-6 years.

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.

Rock Bass vs Green Sunfish: Habitats, Size, Weight and Appearance

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

The best way to tell the difference between a rock bass and a green sunfish is to check their eye coloring and markings on their head and gill flaps. Rock bass has red eyes compared to dark eyes on green sunfish. Green sunfish have broken blueish lateral stripes on their head while rock bass have a dark tear drop under their eye.

Other ways to tell the difference between a rock bass and green sunfish:

  • Green sunfish have a dark spot near the rear of the dorsal fin and at the base of the anal fin rock bass doesn’t have.
  • Rock bass have black spots on their sides forming lateral lines down their body. Green sunfish have light green and yellow specks on their sides with faint vertical bars.
  • Rock bass have a silvery, white belly. Green sunfish have a yellowish, tan belly.
  • Adult rock bass are 6-10 inches long. Adult green sunfish are 5-6 inches long.
  • Rock bass anal fin has 5-7 spines. Green sunfish anal fin has 3 spines.

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Scientific Classifications, Families, Species

Rock bass are from:

  • Family: Centrarchidae
  • Genus: Ambloplites
  • Species: A. rupestris
  • Common nicknames: Red eye, rock perch, goggle eye.

Green sunfish are from:

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

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Habitats

Rock Bass

  • Rock bass are native to North America and can be found from Canada down to Florida and west to Texas. They are mostly found in the eastern and central United States.
  • Rock bass are found in streams, ponds, lakes and rivers.
  • Rock bass prefer rocky shorelines and vegetation areas. They can be found under docks and near swimming areas.

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.
green sunfish and rock bass comparison photo
(top) Green sunfish
(bottom) Rock bass

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Appearance

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Colors

  • Rock bass have an olive green to golden brown upper back and sides fading down to a silvery, white belly. Rock bass have black spots which form broken lateral stripes down the body. The eyes are red.
    • Rock bass have the ability to change colors to match their surroundings for protection.
  • 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 tan.

Rock bass have black spots forming lateral lines down the body. Green sunfish have speckled lighter green and yellow with faint vertical bars.

Dorsal Fins

  • Rock bass has one dorsal fin with 10-13 spines and 11-13 rays.
  • Green sunfish has one dorsal fin with about 10 spines and 10 soft rays.

Green sunfish and rock bass have one dorsal fin with spines and soft rays.

Anal Fins

  • The rock bass anal fin has 5-7 spines followed by soft rays.
  • The green sunfish anal fin has 3 spines followed by soft rays.

Mouth

  • The rock bass mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. The rock bass mouth doesn’t curve upward.
  • The green sunfish mouth is large but doesn’t extend past the eye line. The green sunfish mouth doesn’t curve upward.

Rock bass has teeth inside their mouth. Green sunfish has no teeth on the tongue.

Distinguishing Marks

  • Rock bass has red eyes and rows of dark spots forming lateral lines down the body. Rock bass has a dark tear drop below their eye.
  • Green sunfish has broken blue lateral stripes on the head and gill flaps. They have a dark spot near the back of the dorsal fin and at the base of the anal fin.

Rock bass have red eyes and green sunfish have dark eyes.

Body Shape

  • The rock bass body is flat and is slightly elongated.
  • The green sunfish body is flat and is slightly elongated.

The rock bass and green sunfish have similar shaped flat, compressed bodies.

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Size and Weight

  • Rock bass average 6-10 inches long and weighs about 1 pound.
  • Green sunfish average 5-6 inches long and weighs less than 1 pound.

Rock bass on average weigh more and are longer than green sunfish.

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Lifespan

  • Rock bass lives up to 8-10 years.
  • Green sunfish lives up to 4-6 years.

Diet

Rock bass consume the following:

  • Insects
  • Worms
  • Smaller fish
  • Minnows
  • Small crustaceans

Green sunfish consume the following:

  • Insects
  • Insect larvae
  • Worms
  • Zooplankton
  • Fish eggs
rock bass and green sunfish comparison photo
(top) Green sunfish
(bottom) Rock bass

In a recent article I compared rock bass to crappie. Find out how these similar sunfish compared in my article, Rock Bass vs Crappie – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Species Resources 1 2 3 4 5 6 78 9 10 6 11 12 13

Rock bass, green sunfish 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.

Rock Bass 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 rock bass?

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

What does rock bass taste like? Rock bass tastes mild and most people find it a good fish to eat. The flesh is slightly flakey and firm.

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 30 people. I asked which fish tasted better, rock bass or green sunfish?

  • 46% preferred the taste of rock bass.
  • 35% preferred the taste of green sunfish.
  • 19% said they had no preference between the two.

Bluegill is another sunfish like rock bass. In my recent article find out which one tasted better in my poll of readers, Rock Bass vs Bluegill – What’s The Difference? We Compare.

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Substitutions

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

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

Rock bass substitutes:

  • White crappie
  • Black crappie
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Green sunfish
  • Bluegill
  • Lake herring
  • Tilapia
  • Pollock

Green sunfish substitutes:

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

How To Cook Rock Bass

Popular ways to cook rock bass are:

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

Flavor pairings for rock bass:

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

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

Find out how rock bass compared to Largemouth bass. Largemouth bass is actually another sunfish. Check out my article , Rock Bass vs Largemouth Bass – What’s The Difference?

How Much Green Sunfish and Rock Bass Costs

The costs for some seafood 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 rock bass?

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

Green sunfish and rock bass fillets are extremely difficult to find for sale, even online. Bluegill, crappie 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
  • Wild, crappie fillets
    • $22.00 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 live fish:

  • Hybrid bluegill (green sunfish x bluegill) $0.75 per 3-4 inch fish
  • Bluegill – $0.75 per 3-4 inch fish
  • Black crappie – $1.00 per 3-4 inch 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.

Green Sunfish and Rock Bass 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 14. This is especially important for:

  • Pregnant women
  • Developing children
  • Young infants

They established a list of the following:

  1. Best fish
  2. Good choices
  3. Ones to avoid

Therefore, does green sunfish or rock bass have more mercury?

Green sunfish and rock bass have similar levels of mercury. Green sunfish and rock bass are listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels. 

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 15.

Rock bass is more similar to smallmouth bass than largemouth bass, although they’re all sunfish. Find out more in my article, Rock Bass vs Smallmouth Bass – What’s The Difference?

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Nutrients

Green sunfish and rock bass are excellent sources of healthy fats, protein, B vitamins and minerals. Both sunfish fish contain the following:

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

16 17

Green sunfish and rock bass provide a similar percentage of the nutrients listed above. Keep reading and find out how they benefit health, especially omega-3 fatty acids.

Rock Bass and Green Sunfish Health Benefits

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 fatty acids provided by green sunfish and rock bass help keep arteries healthy and are considered heart healthy. The omega-3s may help with the following:

  • Lowering triglycerides.
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce plaque buildup.
  • Keeping bad cholesterol low.
  • Keeping good cholesterol high.
  • 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 18.

Studies suggest omega-3s boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs. In addition, they’ve been shown to help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

Potassium

Green sunfish and rock bass provide approximately 357-400 mg. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. The result keeps systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 19.

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 20.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 21.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by green sunfish and rock bass 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

Magnesium helps to calm and relax the whole body including blood vessels. It has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 22.

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 23.

Magnesium provided by green sunfish and rock bass 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.

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.

Calcium

Green sunfish and rock bass provide approximately 85-90 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 24.

Calcium also helps the following:

  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.
  • Improve nerve 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 25 show selenium may help to protect the following:

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

Like green sunfish, many people think rock bass and warmouth may be the same. Find out in my article which includes why they’re called warmouth, Rock Bass vs Warmouth – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare.

Read Next – More SunFish vs SunFish Articles!

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

Bluegill vs Redear Sunfish – Are They The Same? We Compare

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

Bluegill vs Pumpkinseed – Are They The Same? Let’s Compare

Bluegill vs Redbreast Sunfish – What’s The Difference?

Bluegill vs Green Sunfish – What’s The Difference?

 

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: Rock bass[]
  2. Delaware.gov: Rock Bass[]
  3. USFWS National Digital Library: Rock bass[]
  4. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Rock bass[]
  5. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources: Rock Bass[]
  6. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish biology and identification[][]
  7. Michigan.gov The Department of Natural Resources: Sunfish[]
  8. Wikipedia: Green sunfish[]
  9. Texas Parks & Wildlife: Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellsu) []
  10. UK College of Agriculture. Food and Environment: Green Sunfish[]
  11. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection: Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) – Introduced[]
  12. USDA: Green Sunfish  – Lepomis cyanellus[]
  13. Texas State University: Lepomis cyanellus green sunfish[]
  14. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  15. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  16. The Topeka Capital-Journal: Keto, Paleo or Atkins diet? Hunting, fishing can help trim your waistline in 2020[]
  17. Nutritiondata: Fish, sunfish, raw[]
  18. National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease[]
  19. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  20. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  21. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  22. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  23. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  24. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  25. 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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