Fall has begun the second wave of breeding among the freshwater fishes here at the museum. Both habitariums – the Cypress Swamp, and the Mountain Cove/Stream/Lake – are exposed to natural light 24 hours a day, and also echo the natural temperature fluctuations outside.
These cues trigger many of the fish species to begin their fall breeding season. Sunfishes, such as the bluegill pictured below, develop vibrant, exaggerated coloration, especially around the head and chest, in hopes of attracting a mate. The males also fan out saucer-shaped nests with their tails which they guard aggressively against rivals. If he is bright enough and has constructed a suitable nest, he might get lucky and entice a willing female to lay her eggs there, which he then fertilizes. The female’s job is then done and the male remains to protect all his newly hatched offspring.