Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Cyprinella venusta

blacktail shiner



Type Locality

Rio Sabinal at Sabinal, Uvalde Co., TX (Girard 1857).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Cyprinella, Latin, meaning diminutive carp; venusta, Latin, meaning “beautiful, like Venus” (Pflieger 1997).



According to Mayden (1989), at least ten names have been used for this species.

Cyprinella venusta Girard 1857:198.

Cyprinella notata Girard 1857:198.

Cyprinella cercostigma Cope 1868:157.

Luxilus chickasavensis Hay 1881:506.

Notropis cooglei Hildebrand and Towers 1928:118.

Notropis venustus Cooper et al. 1982:166; Grady et al. 1983:96.



Maximum size: 152 mm (5.98 in) SL (Gilbert and Burgess 1980).


Coloration:  Dorsal region dark olive with dark middorsal stripe; lateral region silvery-white with large, black caudal spot; ventral region white; with dark pigment in interradial membranes of dorsal fin.  Breeding males have blue dorsal and lateral regions with fins yellow-white. Peritoneum silvery with thick speckling of melanophores (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Pharyngeal teeth count:  1,4-4,1 or 2,4-4,2.


Counts: Lateral line scales 37 or less; anal fin soft rays 8-9; dorsal fin soft rays 8; pectoral fin soft rays 13-17; pelvic fin soft rays 8.


Body shape: Fairly deep bodied and compressed.


Mouth position: Terminal to slightly subterminal and oblique.


Morphology: Diamond-shaped scales; slightly decurved lateral line; large eye.  Breeding males with numerous moderately large tubercles in scattered pattern on head (Mayden 1989). Short gut (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution:  Gulf slope drainages from Texas to Florida (Gilbert and Burgess 1980; Kristmundsdottir and Gold 1996).


Texas distribution: In all major drainages in Texas. Introduced in the Rio Grande (Conner and Suttkus 1987).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Harrell (1978); Hrushka (1991); Linam et al. (1994); Farmer et al. (2004); Winemiller et al. (2004); Zeug et al. (2005).]


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, Non-governmental organizations)

Currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Small to large-size streams.


Mesohabitat:  Ubiquitously distributed among pools, runs, and riffles with silt, gravel, and bedrock substrates. In the Blanco River, Texas, C. venusta was most abundant in swift runs in the spring and summer (Littrell 2006). Species occurred throughout the year in riffle and sandbank habitats, in Village Creek (Neches River), Texas. During summer, greatest number collected from sandbank habitats; also found in deep channel and riffle habitats, though none >47 mm (1.85 in) SL occurred

in riffles.  Individuals <17 mm (0.67 in) SL were found predominately in riffle habitats, during fall and winter. Juveniles occurred almost exclusively in sandbank mesohabitat, during spring (Moriarty and Winemiller 1997). Riggs and Bonn (1959) reported that C. venusta were commonly found in sandy or rocky areas of Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas, generally in clearer water of the downstream area; occasionally abundant in the tailwaters, and rarely found in the headwaters.



Spawning season: April through September, in Texas (Littrell 2006). In Mississippi, late March – early October, with most females reproductive from April- early September (Heins and Dorsett 1986). According to Moriarty and Winemiller (1997), in Village Creek (Neches River), Texas, C. venusta revealed size distribution patterns consistent with a protracted spawning season. Edwards (1997) noted that specimens <18 mm (0.71 in) SL are present in research museum collections from Texas from all except the coldest winter months suggesting a protracted spawning season; spawning activities may occur from mid-February through late November or early December.


Spawning habitat: In fractional crevices (Heins 1990); generally located in flowing water, preferring crevices in current velocities of 0.30 m/s (1.00 ft/s) (Baker et al. 1994). Populations in reservoirs shifted their preference of current velocity, choosing crevice sites in locations of much lower current speeds (Baker et al. 1994).  In the Blanco River, Texas, C. venusta were observed depositing eggs underneath small boulders and large cobble in a bedrock riffle in the swiftest current velocities available. 


Spawning behavior: Males respond to sounds produced by spawning females and are able to distinguish these sounds from those produced by related female red shiners (Delco 1960).  Males are territorial, defending a crevice from other males.  Breeding pair swims along the crevice, the female deposits eggs; usually the sperm has already been released into the crevice, so the eggs are deposited into a crevice with viable sperm.  Immediately after spawning, the male doubles back and eats any eggs that failed to make it into the crevice. Small males (sneakers) try to fertilize eggs by darting between the dominant male and spawning female.  Both large and small males will enter another male's territory and deposit sperm in a crevice before the male courts a female to lay eggs in the crevice (Heins 1990).


Fecundity: Up to 340 ova in females from the Blanco River, Texas (Littrell 2006). In southwestern Mississippi, clutch sizes ranged between 139 and 459 ova in females 48.6-72.0 mm (1.91-2.83 in) SL; average mature ovum diameter was 1.15 mm (0.05 in); ovaries in mature females comprised 5.8-19.1% of the somatic body weight (Heins and Dorsett 1986). Females from the Pearl River, Mississippi, spawned 20-46 clutches during the reproductive season (Baker et al. 1994).


Age/size at maturation: Age 1, possibly age 0; smallest sexually mature female was 32 mm (1.26 in) SL; all females greater ≥ 42 mm (1.65 in) SL were sexually mature (Heins and Dorsett 1986).


Growth and Population Structure: In the Leaf River system, Mississippi, average length (SL) was 24 mm (0.94 in) for age 1, 46 mm (1.81 in) for age 2, and 72 mm (2.83 in) for age 3; populations comprised mainly of age classes 0 and I (S.T. Ross, unpubl. data in: Ross 2001). In the first year, C. venusta reaches about 45-60 mm (1.77-2.36 in) SL (Edwards 1997). Average length (TL) was 45 mm (1.77 in) for age 0, 66 mm (2.60 in) for age 1, 90 mm (3.54 in) for age 3 and older in the Blanco River, Texas (Littrell 2006). Cone et al. (1986) reported that flooding in Lake Texoma (Oklahoma-Texas) negatively influenced growth.


Longevity: Up to 4 years in the Leaf River system, Mississippi (S.T. Ross, unpublished data in: Ross 2001). 4.5 years in the Blanco River, Texas (Littrell 2006).


Food habits: Invertivore; benthic and drift (Goldstein and Simon 1999). Diet includes algae, seeds, aquatic and terrestrial insects (Hale 1963; Hambrick and Hibbs 1977). Aquatic insects and algae were the most common food items of C. venusta in the Blanco River, Texas; sediment and detritus were found in 21% of the 36 guts examined (Littrell 2006). Fish feed primarily during the day (Hambrick and Hibbs 1977; Baker and Ross 1981).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Cyprinella venusta has a large, black caudal spot which distinguishes it from most other minnows. The caudal spot of C. venusta may be faint, especially in populations inhabiting turbid waters, and they could likely be confused with C. lutrensis (red shiner); however C. lutrensis has 9 anal rays (versus 8) and usually 35 or fewer lateral scales (versus 36 or more; Ross 2001).  C. venusta hybridizes with C. lutrensis in Texas (Hubbs et al. 1953; Hubbs and Strawn 1956), and in Illinois (Smith 1979).


Host Records

Gyrodactylus baeacanthus (Harris et al. 2004). Trematoda: Pisciamphistoma stunkardi; Acanthocephala: Neoechinorhynchus cylindratus (Arnold et al. 1967). Trematode: Plagioporus sinitsini (Digenea: Opecoelidae; Mathis 1993).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Moriarty and Winemiller (1997) suggested that C. venusta may serve as major food resource for piscivorous Micropterus punctulatus (spotted bass), during the summer, in Village Creek (Neches River), Texas.



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