VIDEO: Dance of the Pygmy Sculpins

16 Dec, 2021

Second-generation captive-bred Pygmy Sculpins, Cottus paulus, put on quite a show for the aquarists at Knoxville, Tennessee's champion of U.S. native freshwater fish conservation, Conservation Fisheries.
Second-generation captive-bred Pygmy Sculpins, Cottus paulus, put on quite a show for the aquarists at Knoxville, Tennessee’s champion of U.S. native freshwater fish conservation, Conservation Fisheries.

via Conservation Fisheries

“Yeah, I know we’ve posted several times with these Pygmy Sculpins,” writes the social-media manager of the Conservation Fisheries Facebook page, “but they’re just so stinking cute!”

For those not already familiar, Conservation Fisheries is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Knoxville, Tennessee. The organization was founded by Pat Rakes and J.R. Schute and “has partnered with many federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and private individuals to increase our ecological knowledge for more than 60 species of rare and under-appreciated southeastern freshwater fishes. With their partners, their efforts have contributed to the improved status of many, with the eventual goal of removal from Endangered Species Act protection seeming closer to reality. For other species, their pro-active projects, with partner support, likely prevented the need for federal endangered species listing.”

In this recent video, Conservation Fisheries highlighted their ongoing work with the threatened Pygmy Sculpin, Cottus paulus, and they’re just downright captivating. We challenge any aquarist to find fault in these charming, bumble-bee-colored North American natives that put on quite the show for viewers!

“Notice the color variations. The ones with black heads are nest-guarding males. All of these are second-generation fish.

“This tiny sculpin is found in a single spring in north Alabama. They are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations. Their eggs are especially sensitive to temperatures either higher or lower than their preferred narrow range. A recent presentation by Rachel Moore and Carol Johnston noted that the temperature of the spring has risen several degrees since the 1970s. It remains to be seen how this might affect these little fishes. Will they adapt?”

Watch Dance of the Pygmy Sculpins, from Conservation Fisheries

Additional Information

  • Learn more about Conservation Fisheries
  • Interested in keeping native fishes in the U.S.? Consider joining the North American Native Fishes Association, NANFA
  • A reminder to U.S. aquarists: Consult all local, state, and national laws before considering the keeping of native fishes, as many are regulated or are entirely off-limits! NANFA can be a great resource for aspiring keepers of native fishes!

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About the author

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Reef To Rainforest

Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC is the publisher of award-winning magazines and books in the fields of aquarium keeping, aquatics, and marine science. It is the English-language publisher of CORAL Magazine and is based in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.


  1. December 17, 2021

    Did an interview with JR a couple years ago. Great guy, and Conservation Fisheries does fantastic work!

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      December 18, 2021

      100% agreed! Entire team seems very motivated, invested, and dedicated! Maybe we should interview them for a future issue of AMAZONAS?

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