Fundulus grandis

Gulf killifish



Type Locality

Indianola, Texas (Baird and Girard 1853).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Fundulus – Latin diminutive of fundus, “bottom”; grandis – Latin "big, large; full grown” (Boschung and Mayden 2004).






Maximum size: 145 mm SL (Relyea 1983).


Coloration: Predorsal stripe may be present but fades with age (Relyea 1983). Predorsal spot absent or not reaching occiput; no dark subocular bar; body mottled, barred or irregularly spotted (Hubbs et al 1991, 2008). Base color is dull greenish above shading to lemon yellow below; 12-19 faint stripes on the sides; anal and lower half of caudal may be yellow or the anal, dorsal and caudal may be dark with white splotches at base; first two may be edged with yellow, caudal may be edged with white; ventrals are yellow and the pectorals pale; in some males, dorsal and caudal are flecked with silver and the anal is pale; coloration in males much more vivid with silver flecking and striping noticeable; larger females may appear olive to dull olive yellow below (Simpson and Gunter 1956).


Counts: More than 15 scale rows from pelvic fin origin to isthmus; 31-39 longitudinal scale rows (Hubbs et al 1991, 2008); 17-20 scales around caudal peduncle; 9-12 gill rakers, 10-12 dorsal rays; 9-11 anal rays; 16-18 pectoral rays; 6 pelvic rays (Ross 2001); 5 pairs of mandibular pores (Stevenson 1976).


Body shape: Dorsal fin originating anterior to anal fin origin; eye goes fewer than 1.5 times in snout (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008). Large, stout-bodied with blunt head; relative body depth increases with fish size; head length goes into SL 2.8-3.2 times (Ross 2001).


Mouth position: Nearly terminal, lower jaw is slightly projecting (Ross 2001).


External morphology: Gill slit extending dorsal to uppermost pectoral fin ray; distance from origin of dorsal fin to end of hypural plate less than distance from origin of dorsal fin to preopercle or occasionally about equal to that distance (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008); anal fin rounded, its base more than half length of its longest rays (Stevenson 1976).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Primarily found in coastal waters and their tributaries from Florida to Laguna de Tampamachoco, Veracruz, Mexico (Hubbs et al. 2008). Found in drainages along the coast from the northern border of Florida to the Gulf Coast of Texas. (Burgess 1980). Fundulus grandis is native to the following western Gulf of Mexico Slope drainages (North America): Nueces, San Antonio Bay, Colorado, Brazos, Galveston Bay, Sabine Lake, and Calcasieu (Conner and Suttkus 1986); in the Rio Grande Region, species is native to the lower Rio Grande, San Fernando and Soto la Marina drainages (Smith and Miller 1986); and in Central Mexico, species is native to the Panuco Drainage (Miller and Smith 1986).


Texas distribution: Occurs in large numbers in Brazos River, Hill and Bosque Counties, over 400 km from the Gulf Coast (Hillis et al. 1980). Often introduced as a “bait minnow” and occurs widely in the Brazos, Rio Grande and Pecos Basins (Hubbs et al. 1991, 2008).


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Currently Stable in the southern United States (Warren et al. 2000). Inhabits most sections (or at one time inhabited most portions) of the Rio Grande (Texas and Mexico) from the area that is now Falcon Reservoir to the mouth; one of several species numerically dominating upstream fauna of this area, and apparently increasing in abundance in some portions of the Rio Grande River (Edwards and Contreras-Balderas 1991).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Common along bay shores and tidal marshes in wide range of salinities (Burgess 1980). Found in the following habitats (western Gulf Slope): estuarine, lowland, upland, coastal marshes/lagoons, rivers and streams (Conner and Suttkus 1986).


Mesohabitat: From freshwater (Tabb and Manning 1961) to tidal pools of 76 ppt. salinity (Simpson and Gunter 1956). Most abundant on vegetated areas (inner Spartina alterniflora or S. patens marsh) of upper Galveston Bay and East Bay, Texas; one of several species numerically dominating fish assemblage in upper Galveston Bay in the spring and fall (Rozas and Zimmerman 2000). In Texas, Gunter (1950) reported species preferred open and partly salty waters to inland ponds. Hillis et al. (1980) list records of collections from inland locales in Texas which show specimens taken primarily from clear, shallow riffles; at one locality most abundant in quiet, shallow pools along the shore where Fundulus grandis was the only species collected. In a study of Florida individuals, species lived a maximum period of 1 month in freshwater after a gradual transfer from brackish water (Griffith 1974).



Spawning season: In Texas, from March to October (Gunter 1950; Simpson and Gunter 1956).


Spawning habitat: Eggs are deposited in shallow water in dense beds of marsh grass (Spartina; Greeley and MacGregor 1983).


Spawning Behavior: Male forces female into a cove, clump of debris, or among oysters, clasping her with dorsal and anal fins (Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Fecundity: Estimated on the basis of the condition of ovaries during the semilunar spawning peak: from 872 to 12,858 eggs annually, or an average of about 400 per semilunar cycle and about 80 eggs daily over a 5-day period. Fertilized eggs are about 2 mm in diameter, demersal, and adherent (Greeley et al. 1988). Eggs deposited during periods of maximum high tides (spring tides), develop while they are exposed to humid air; eggs hatch when inundated on the next high tide, usually in about 13-15 days (Greeley and MacGregor 1983). Foster (1967) reported egg size ranging 2.6-2.9 mm in diameter. In Texas, Simpson and Gunter (1956) collected yellow eggs, 2.0 mm diameter from females in October. Perschbacher et al. (1990) compared survival and growth of the early stages of gulf killifish in various salinities and found salinity ranges of 0-40‰ to be suitable for incubation.


Age at maturation:




Growth and Population structure: Females reach larger sizes than males. Ripe females taken in April and May were 65-91 mm long. Two specimens, 21 and 21 mm long, evidently young-of-year were taken in July (Gunter 1950). Perschbacher et al. (1990) compared survival and growth of the early stages of gulf killifish in various salinities and found salinity ranges of 5-40‰ to be suitable for fry growth and survival.




Food habits: Omnivorous; algae and vascular plants are consumed; animal prey include grass shrimp (Palaemonetes), microcrustaceans (copepods), mosquito (Dipteran) larvae and pupae, bivalve mollusks, and small fishes (Simpson and Gunter 1956; Springer and Woodburn 1960; Harrington and Harrington 1961).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Subgenus Fundulus (Wiley 1986). Blunt head and deep caudal peduncle of large gulf killifish distinctive; however, young individuals could be confused with the golden or bayou topminnow. Gulf killifish differs from the golden topminnow (F. chrysotus) in having the dorsal fin origin over or in front of the anal fin origin, rather than posterior to it; it differs from the bayou killifish (F. pulvereus) in having more gill rakers (9-12 versus 5-7) and in lacking well-defined vertical bars (males) or black spots (females) on the sides (Ross 2001).


Host Records

Trematoda: Ascocotyle angrense, Dactylogyrus stephanus, Gyrodactylus prolongis, Parascocotyle diminuta (larval form). Acanthocephala: Octospinieroides chandleri (Hoffman 1967). Several species of Cestoda, Trematoda, Nemata and Acanthocephala (Mayberry et al 2000).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Popular as bait fish for coastal fishing and are sold locally as cigar or bull minnows (Ross 2001). Gulf killifish are important predators of mosquito larvae and pupae (Harrington and Harrington 1961).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Redfish Bay (Port Aransas; Moore 1976); Pecos River (Rhodes and Hubbs 1992); Gelwick et al. (2001).]



Baird, S. F., and C. Girard. 1853. Description of new species of fishes, collected by Captains R. B. Marcy, and Geo. B. M’Clellum, in Arkansas. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 6(7):387-390.

Boschung, H. T. and R. L Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Books. Washington, 736 pp.

Burgess, G.H. 1980. Fundulus grandis (Baird and Girard) Gulf Killifish. pp 516 in D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854.

Conner, J.V., and R.D. Suttkus. 1986. Chapter 12 – Zoogeography of Freshwater Fishes of the Western Gulf Slope. Pp. 413-456 in: Hocutt, C.H., and E.O. Wiley (Eds.). The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, New York. 866 pp.

Edwards, R.J., and S. Contreras-Balderas. 1991. Historical changes in the ichthyofauna of the lower Rio Grande (Rio Bravo Del Norte), Texas and Mexico. The southwestern Naturalist 36(2):201-212.

Foster, N.R. 1967. Comparative study on the biology of killifishes (Pisces, Cyprinodontidae). Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

Gelwick, F.P., S. Akin, D.A. Arrington, and K.O. Winemiller. 2001. Fish assemblage structure in relation to environmental variation in a Texas Gulf Coastal wetland. Estuaries 24(2):285-296.

Greeley, M. S., Jr., and R. MacGregor. 1983. Annual and semilunar reproductive cycles of the gulf killifish, Fundulus grandis, on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Copeia 1983(3):711-718.

Greeley, M. S., Jr., R. MacGregor III, and K. R. Marion. 1988. Changes in the ovary of the gulf killifish, Fundulus grandis, (Baird and Girard) during seasonal and semilunar spawning cycles. J. Fish. Biol. 33:97-107.

Griffith, R.W. 1974. Environment and salinity tolerance in genus Fundulus. Copeia 1974(2):310-331.

Gunter, G. 1950. Distributions and abundance of fishes on the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, with life history noted. Publ. Inst. Mar. Sci., Univ. Tex. 1(2):89-101.

Harrington, R. W., Jr. and E. S. Harrington. 1961. Food selection among fishes invading a high subtropical salt marsh: from onset of flooding through the progress of a mosquito brood. Ecology 42(4):646-666.

Hillis, L. G., E. Milstead, and S. L. Campbell. 1980. Inland records of Fundulus grandis (Cyprinodontidae) in Texas. Southwest. Nat. 25(2):271-272.

Hoffman, G.L. 1967. Parasites of North American Freshwater Fishes. University of California Press. Berkeley, 486 pp.

Hubbs, C. L., R. J. Edwards and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement. 43(4):1-56.


Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 2008. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement, 2nd edition 43(4):1-87.

Mayberry, L.F., A.G. Canaris, J.R. Bristol, and Scott L. Gardner. 2000. Bibliography of parasites and vertebrate host in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas (1893-1984). University of Nebraska Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology Web Server, published on the World-Wide-Web, 100 pp.

Miller, R.R., and M.L. Smith. 1986. Chapter 14 – Origin and Jurisdiction of the Fishes of Central Mexico. Pp. 487-518 in: Hocutt, C.H., and E.O. Wiley (Eds.). The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, New York. 866 pp.

Miller, R. R., W. L. Minckley and S. M. Norris. 2005. Freshwater Fishes of Mexico. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 490 pp.

Moore, R.H. 1976. Observations on fishes killed by cold at Port Aransas, Texas, 11-12 January 1973. The Southwestern Naturalist 20(4):461-466.

Perschbacher, P.W., D.V. Aldrich, and K. Strawn. 1990. Survival and growth of the early stages of gulf killifish in various salinities. The Progressive Fish-Culturist 52:109-111.

Relyea, K. 1983. A systematic study of two species complexes of the genus Fundulus (Pisces: Cyprinodontidae). Bull. Fla. St. Mus., Biol. Sci. 29(1): 1-64

Rhodes, K., and C. Hubbs. 1992. Recovery of Pecos River fishes from a red tide fish kill. The Southwestern Naturalist 37(2):178-187.

Ross, S. T. 2001. The Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi, Jackson. 624 pp.

Rozas, L.P., and R.J. Zimmerman. 2000. Small-scale patterns of nekton use among marsh and adjacent shallow nonvegetated areas of Galveston Bay Estuary, Texas (USA). Marine Ecology Progress Series 193:217-239.

Simpson, D. G. and G. Gunter. 1956. Notes on habitats, systematic characters and life histories of Texas salt water cyprinodonts. Tulane Stud. Zool. 4(4):115-134.

Smith, M.L., and R.R. Miller. 1986. Chapter 13 – The Evolution of the Rio Grande Basin as Inferred from Its Fish Fauna. Pp. 457-486 in: Hocutt, C.H., and E.O. Wiley (Eds.). The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, New York. 866 pp.

Springer, V. and K. D. Woodburn. 1960. An ecological study of the fishes of the Tampa Bay area. Prof. Pap. Ser. Florida Bd. Conserv. Mar. Res. Lab. 1:1-104

Stevenson, H. M. 1976. Vertebrates of Florida. University Presses of Florida, Gainesville 607 pp.

Tabb, D. C. and R. B. Manning 1961. A checklist of the flora and fauna of Northern Florida Bay and adjacent brackish waters of the Florida mainland collected during the period, July 1957 through September 1960. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Caribbean 11(4):552-649.

Warren, L. W., Jr., B. M. Burr, S. J. Walsh, H. L. Bart, Jr., R. C. Cashner, D. A. Etnier, B. J. Freeman, B. R. Kuhajda, R. L. Mayden, H. W. Robison, S. T. Ross, and W. C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries, Conservation. 25(10):7-29.

Wiley, E.O. 1986. A study of the evolutionary relationship of Fundulus topminnows (Teleostei: Fundulidae.) Amer. Zool. 26(1):121-130.