Labidesthes sicculus

brook silverside



Type Locality

Grosse Isle, Detroit River, MI (Cope 1865).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Labidesthes, from the Greek labidos, “a pair of forceps,” and esthio, “to eat,” in reference to the elongate jaws; sicculus, from the Latin siccus, meaning “dried,” in reference to being found in dried pools (Pflieger 1997).



Chirostoma sicculum Cope 1865:81

Labidesthes sicculus Hay 1883:64; Evermann 1899:309; Cook 1959:163



Maximum size: 112 mm SL (Lee 1980).


Coloration: Nearly transparent with pale olive green back and upper sides. Dorsal scales outlined with melanophores, creating fine, reticulate pattern. Narrow predorsal stripe, usually 3 melanophores wide, continuing posteriorly as narrower stripe between first and second dorsal, and on to caudal peduncle. Lateral silver band becoming broader anteriorly and often underlain by black pigment. Flanks, opercles, and underside of head silvery white with iridescent blue-green patches. Underside of lower jaw black. Mature fish have yellow to reddish orange tint to the fins and a red snout (Ross 2001).


Counts: More than 60 scales in lateral series; more than 20 anal fin rays (Hubbs et al 1991); 74-91 lateral scales; 24-29 gill rakers; 3-8 dorsal spines; 20-27 anal rays; 9-13 dorsal rays; 12-13 pectoral rays; 6 pelvic rays (Ross 2001).


Body shape: Slender, elongate (Ross 2001). Short S-shaped gut. Ratio of digestive tract to total length = DT 0.5 TL (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


Mouth position: Terminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Jaws produced into a short beak; snout length much longer than eye length; scales small (Hubbs et al 1991). Two widely separated dorsal fins, the 1st small with spines; 1st dorsal fin origin above anal fin origin; long sickle shaped anal fin (Page and Burr 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Ranges from the Great Lakes southward through the Mississippi Basin and Gulf Coastal Plain drainages (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: Restricted to the Sabine and portions of the Red River of eastern Texas (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units inhabited by Labidesthes sicculus: Red River unit (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake unit (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay unit (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River).


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in Southern Drainages are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Streams, lakes, and reservoirs (Lee 1980).


Mesohabitat: Abundant near the surface in clear, sometimes vegetated warm waters (Lee 1980); throughout range, within 10-12 cm of water surface (Cahn 1927); in the upper reaches of a creek in Mississippi, Ross et al. (1987) found species at an average current speed of 6.6 cm/s over water depths of approximately 60 cm. Labidesthes sicculus collected from Village Creek, a blackwater tributary of the Neches River (Hardin Co.), Texas, tended to occur in backwaters, with a few larger individuals captured from sandbanks (Moriarty and Winemiller 1997).



Spawning season: In northern populations, mid-June to early August, after water temperatures rise above 20 C (Hubbs 1921; Cahn 1927; Nelson 1968).


Spawning location: Phytolithophils, nonobligatory plant spawners depositing eggs on submerged plants or, if not available, items such as logs, gravel, and rocks (Simon 1999).


Spawning Behavior: Initially, fish swim in alignment with male above female; vertical alignment progressively changes to horizontal, male pursuing female, swimming rapidly with females often leaping repeatedly into air; finally, females stops and male moves alongside her; both fish begin to glide slowly downward, with ventral surfaces making frequent contact; earlier researchers assumed eggs were shed and fertilized during the descent (Hubbs 1921; Cahn 1927; Ross 2001). In recent investigations, species appears to have internal fertilization, the eggs initially developing within female’s ovary (Grier 1981; Grier et al. 1990).


Fecundity: Fully ripe females in June had unfertilized eggs 0.8-1.2 mm diameter (Nelson 1968); virtually all eggs had one (long, about 0.008 mm diameter; Nelson 1968) filament attached, as noted by Hubbs (1921) and Cahn (1927). Two to three distinctive long filaments attach eggs to vegetation or other substrata (Fogle 1959; Rasmussen 1980).


Age at maturation: One year (Hubbs 1921; Cahn 1927).


Migration: Immediately after hatching, larvae move away from shore, forming schools, actively swimming just beneath surface film of water; at approximately 14 mm TL individuals show instream migration at night, moving offshore at dawn, this inshore-offshore movement ceases as large fish tend to occur over shallow areas near shore (Hubbs 1921; Nelson 1968; Ross 2001).


Growth and Population Structure: Very rapid initially (1mm/day), reaching 70-80% of adult size by the end of first summer (Hubbs 1921; Cahn 1927).


Longevity: No more than two years (Hubbs 1921; Cahn 1927)


Food habits: Planktivore/Invertivore; particulate feeder/drift; surface feeder (Goldstein and Simon 1999). Major food items include plankton, particularly cladocerans and copepods (particularly cyclopoids); aquatic insect larvae or pupae (particularly midges [Chironomidae] and dance flies [Empididae]) also consumed when occurring in plankton (Mullan et al. 1968; Zimmerman 1970; Keast 1985). Diet of very small fish primarily microcrustaceans (cladocerans and copepods), shifting to immature and adult insects as they grow. In winter, diet shifts back to mostly planktonic microcrustaceans (Cahn 1927). A study by Keast and Webb (1966) showed species to be highly specialized feeder, consuming cladocerans (to 80%), small flying insects (to 40%), Chaoborus larvae (to 50%). In Lake Conroe, Texas, species fed predominately on nauplii and Cyclopoida; brook silversides 30-69 mm long utilized Sididae to a greater extent than fish 70-79 mm long; fish 30-59 mm long fed to a greater extent upon Bosmina than did fish 60-79 mm and 20-29 mm long; fish 20-39 mm long utilized nauplii to a greater extent than did fish in larger length groups (Morris 1982).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes:

Labidesthes sicculus most similar to Menidia beryllina, the inland silverside, but differs in having a much higher lateral scale count (74 or more versus 44 or less), a higher anal ray count (20-27 versus 14-21), and a longer snout (snout length greater than 8% of SL versus less than 8%; Ross 2001).


Host Records:



Commercial or Environmental Importance:

Species often make short jumps out of water, probably as a means of escaping predators and catching surface insects (Hubbs 1921; Cahn 1927; Nelson 1968). Stocked as forage fish within and outside natural range (Lee 1980).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Dalquest (1957); Brazos River (Anderson et al. 1983).]



Anderson, K.A., T.L. Beitinger, and E.G. Zimmerman. 1983. Forage fish assemblages in the Brazos River upstream and downstream from Possum Kingdom Reservoir, Texas. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 2(1):81-88.

Cahn, A. R. 1927. An ecological study of southern Wisconsin fishes. The brook silversides (Labidesthes sicculus) and the cisco (Leucichthys artedi) in their relations to the regions. Ill. Biol. Monogr. 11(1):1-151.

Cook, F. A. 1959. Freshwater fishes in Mississippi. Mississippi Game and Fish Commission, Jackson.

Cope, E. D. 1965. Partial catalogue of the cold-blooded vertebrata of Michigan. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 17:78-88.

Dalquest, W.W. 1957. Flood dispersal of brook silverside, Labidesthes sicculus. The Southwestern Naturalist 2(4): 173-174.

Evermann, B. W. 1899. Report on investigations by the U.S. Fish Commission in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, in 1897. Rept. U.S. Fish Comm. 24:287-310.

Fogle, N.E. 1959. Some aspects of the life history of the brook silversides, Labidesthes sicculus, in Lake Fort Smith, Arkanasas. Master of Science Thesis, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. 25 p.

Goldstein, R.M., and T.P. Simon. 1999. Toward a united definition of guild structure for feeding ecology of North American freshwater fishes. pp. 123-202 in T.P. Simon, editor. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Grier, H.J. 1981. Cellular organization of the testis and spermatogenesis in fishes. Amer. Zool. 21:345-357.

Grier, H.J., D.P. Moody; and B.C. Cowell. 1990. Internal fertilization and sperm morphology in the brook silverside, Labidesthes sicculus (Cope). Copeia 1990(1):221-226.

Hay, O. P. 1883. On a collection of fishes from lower Mississippi valley. Proc. Bull. U.S. Fish Comm. 2:57-75.

Hubbs, C. L. 1921. An ecological study of the life-history of the fresh-water atherine fish Labidesthes sicculus. Ecology. 2(4):262-276.

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

Keast, A. 1985. Development of dietary specializations in a summer community of juvenile fishes. Env. Biol. Fish. 13(3):211-224.

Keast, A., and D. Webb. 1966. Mouth and body form relative to feeding ecology in the fish fauna of small lake, Lake Opinicon, Ontario. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 23(12):1845-1874.

Lee, D. S. 1980. Labidesthes sicculus (Cope), Brook silverside. pp. 557 in D. S. Lee, et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N. C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Moriarty, L.J., and K.O. Winemiller. 1997. Spatial and temporal variation in fish assemblage structure in Village Creek, Hardin County, Texas. Texas Journal of Science 49(3):85-110.

Morris, J.E. 1982. Distribution and food habits of the inland silverside, Menidia beryllina, and the northern brook silverside, labidesthes sicculus, in Lake Conroe, Texas. M.S. Thesis. Texas A&M University. 57 pp.

Mullan, J. W., R. L. Applegate, and W. C. Rainwater. 1968. Food of logperch (Percina caprodes) and brook silverside (Labidesthes sicculus), in a new and old Ozark reservoir. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 97(3):300-305.

Nelson, J. S. 1968. Life history of the brook silverside, Labidesthes sicculus, in Crooked Lake, Indiana. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 97(3):293-296.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.

Pflieger, W.L. 1997. The Fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation, Jefferson City, 372 pp.

Rasmussen, R.P. 1980. Egg and larva development of brook silversides from the Peace River, Florida. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 109:407-416.

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

Ross, S.T., J.A. Baker, and K.E. Clark. 1987. Microhabitat partitioning of southeastern stream fishes: temporal and spatial predictability, pp. 42-51. In: Evolutionary and community ecology of North American stream fishes. W.J. Matthews and D.C. Heins, eds. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 299 pp.

Simon, T. P. 1999. Assessment of Balon’s reproductive guilds with application to Midwestern North American Freshwater Fishes, pp. 97-121. In: Simon, T.L. (ed.). Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton, Florida. 671 pp.

Warren, M.L. 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 25(10):7-29.

Zimmerman, C. J. 1970. Growth and food of the brook silverside, Labidesthes sicculus, in Indiana. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 99(2):435-438.