The longear sunfish is quite colorful, with an olive to rusty-brown back, bright orange belly and blue-green bars on the sides of its head. A unique characteristic is their elongated opercular flap, giving an appearance of a "long ear". Males are often bright orange or scarlet, and the head and fins usually have turquoise markings. Compared to other members of the sunfish family, longear sunfish are better at getting food in moving waters than still waters. This may explain why longear sunfish are more abundant in streams than lakes compared to other members of the family. They cannot tolerate cloudy water. Throughout the 20th century their populations have been reduced in areas where their native streams have suffered increased cloudiness.