Pirate Perch

Aphredoderus sayanus


Image of a pirate perch
Joseph R. Tomelleri. Used with permission.

Aphredoderidae (pirate perches) in the order Percopsiformes (trout-perch and allies)


Small size, grayish color heavily speckled with black, single dorsal fin, no adipose fin, body rough to touch, tail fin slightly notched, but without fork. In Missouri, only pirate perch and cavefishes have anus located far forward on body in the throat area. Most closely related to cavefishes and trout-perch.


Total length: 3 to 5 inches.

Habitat and conservation

Bottomland lakes, overflow ponds, and quiet pools and backwaters of slow-moving streams and ditches. Inhabits areas with abundant cover consisting of aquatic plants or organic debris and no current. Most active at dawn and dusk.


Carnivorous, feeding on aquatic insects, small crustaceans and small fish.

image of Pirate Perch distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Occurs in Missouri's southeastern lowlands and adjacent parts of the Ozarks. Also in a few locations along the Mississippi River.

Life cycle

Lifespan is about 4 years. Having the anus located far forward is an adaptation to allow for the easy transfer of eggs from the anus to the mouth. It is believed the eggs are incubated in the female pirate perch’s gill cavities.