Menidia beryllina

inland silverside



Type Locality

Potomac River, Washington D.C. (Cope 1869).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Menidia, an ancient Greek name for some small, silvery fish; beryllina, Latin, meaning “green colored” (Pflieger 1997).



Christoma beryllinum Cope 1869:403.

Menida audens Hay 1883:64; Cook 1959:162.



Maximum size: 125 mm SL (Gilbert and Lee 1980).


Coloration: Dorsum with crosshatching, but not double pairs of dark spots (Hubbs et al. 1991). Back light yellowish brown to olive green, becoming a pale, translucent green or straw color on sides. Midlateral silver stripe underlain with black pigment. Sides of head (including pupil of eye) and anterior body below lateral line are bright, iridescent silvery white. Scale margins outlined with melanophores, especially on upper body, giving cross-hatched appearance. Snout, including lower jaw, covered with small black spots. Fins generally clear, with only rows of small melanophores outlining the rays in the soft dorsal, caudal, anal, and pectoral fins (Ross 2001).


Counts: Usually 4 or more anal fin rays in front of the posterior tip; usually 9 second dorsal fin rays; usually fewer than 50 scales in lateral series; fewer than 20 anal fin rays (Hubbs et al 1991); 13-22 predorsal scales (Duggins et al. 1986). Ross (2001) lists the following counts for Menidia beryllina: 35-44 lateral line scales; 4-6 dorsal spines; 12-14 pectoral rays; 6 pelvic rays.


Body shape: Elongate, laterally compressed (Ross 2001); snout length equal to or shorter than eye length (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal (Goldstein and Simon 1999).


External morphology: Horizontal distance between spinous dorsal and anal fin origin less than seven percent of standard length; scales cycloid, smooth to the touch; bases of dorsal and anal fins not covered with scales; jaws not produced into a beak; scales large (Hubbs et al 1991).


Internal morphology: Air bladder long and transparent, the posterior tip smoothly rounded (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Originally found in coastal waters and upstream in coastal streams along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts; widely introduced into freshwater impoundments (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: May be found in many reservoirs (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units for M. beryllina in Texas: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in southern drainages are currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Coastal and freshwater habitats. Moves far up streams and rivers, particularly in southern parts of range (Gilbert and Lee 1980).


Mesohabitat: Usually occur within 1-2 m of the surface (Mense 1967), over sand and gravel bottom (Gilbert and Lee 1980). Collections of species in Lake Conroe, Texas, were greatest at stations with gradual offshore slopes, and sandy sediments (Morris 1982).



Spawning season: Menidia beryllina collected from Lake Texoma, spawn throughout April, May, June and (depending on lake temperature) during July (Hubbs 1982). In Texas, sexually mature females were reported February - August, with spawning peaks during spring and late summer (Middaugh and Hemmer 1992). During late March-early July along the Mississippi Gulf Coast at water temperatures of 23.9-32.7 degrees C (Garwood 1968; Hubbs 1976).


Spawning habitat: Shallow water in areas with abundant vegetation (Hildebrand 1922). Spawning occurs during both day and night (Middaugh et al. 1986). In some populations, spawning occurs mostly in midmorning (Hubbs 1976).


Spawning Behavior:


Fecundity: In Lake Texoma, M. beryllina females lay eggs daily at ca. 1000 hour; egg compliment consists of ca. 7.5% of the female’s biomass; female fecundity size-dependent with average-sized females producing ca. 835 eggs daily, large females ca. 2000 eggs and small females ca. 200 (Hubbs 1982). Fertilized eggs are about 0.75 mm in diameter and have a tuft of gelatinous threads attached to the outer membrane. Eggs hatch in 6 days at a water temperature of 27.8 degrees C and in 10 days at 25 degrees C (Hildebrand 1922). Hatching delayed at water temperatures below 19 degrees C (eggs hatch in about 30 days at 14 degrees C), which may cause embryos to exhaust nutrient supplies and starve to death prior to hatching (Hubbs et al. 1971). Development time and hatching success apparently independent of salinity for M. beryllina in coastal waters (Middaugh et al. 1986), but this is not the case for fish in freshwater areas (Hubbs et al. 1971).


Age at maturation: In Lake Texoma, M. beryllina reproductive as yearlings; young-of-year often mature and spawn when densities are low (Hubbs 1982). In Florida, mature at 4-5 months (Middaugh and Hemmer 1992).


Migration: In lakes, M. beryllina show an inshore-offshore movement pattern over a 24-hour period. At night, fish move into shallow areas near shore and form inactive schools with densities of 7-60 fish/m². Fish move somewhat offshore to feed, at dawn, but return to shore area 3-4 hours later to form large, actively moving schools with densities up to 190 fish/m². Schools coalesce with large numbers of fish in the area of a structure (rocks, pilings, vegetation). The return inshore is probably a means of reducing exposure to predators such as largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) or crappies (Pomoxis). A second offshore movement, also associated with feeding, may occur in late afternoon, with fish returning to the inshore area at dusk (Wurtsbaugh and Li 1985).


Growth and Population Structure: In Lake Texoma, M. beryllina young grow rapidly during first summer, slow in winter, have growth spurt in the spring, and essentially cease growth during the spawning interval. Growth is density-dependent with greater growth when individuals are scarce. Each year class reaches population peak in May after which time recruitment of young is less than mortality of young (Hubbs 1982). Young grow to about 60 mm TL by their first winter and reach about 100 mm TL by the end of their second summer (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Longevity: In Lake Texoma population, M. beryllina live up to 2 years, usually about 9-10 months; few adults survive one breeding season. Males have higher mortality rate during the spawning interval than do females. Mortality is temperature dependent with minimal winter mortality in normal years, high mortality in summer, and reproduction occurs at the cost of substantially increased mortality (Hubbs 1982).


Food habits: Planktivore; particulate feeder; size-selective picker; main food item zooplankton (Saunders 1959; Goldstein and Simon 1999). Stomachs of adults in west Tennessee contained food items included midge larvae, mayfly larvae (Hexagenia), and fallen terrestrial insects (including Homoptera, Hymenoptera; Etnier and Starnes 1993). Morris (1982) reported M. beryllina collected from Lake Conroe, Texas, fed mostly on zooplankton at all sizes. Major food organisms in the diet were from the following groups: Sididae, Chydoridae, Ceriodaphnia, Bosmina, Cyclopoida, nauplii, and Ostracoda.  Species fed predominately upon cladocerans (60% of total number of food organisms, with largest category, Sididae, representing 32%). Individuals 60-69 mm long fed upon Tendipedidae sub-imago to a greater degree than did smaller fish. Bettoli et al. (1991) reported consumption of fish eggs, in Lake Conroe, Texas. M. beryllina feeds during daylight hours (Wurtsbaugh and Li 1985).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Menidia beryllina similar to Membras martinica (rough silverside), a marine-estuarine species rarely entering coastal streams, or Labidesthes sicculus (brook silverside). Membras martinica has ctenoid rather than cycloid scales and two rows of small dots along the back. M. beryllina can be distinguished from Labidesthes sicculus by its lower lateral scale count (44 or fewer versus more than 73), lower anal ray count (21 or fewer versus 20 or more), and shorter snout (less than 8% of SL versus greater than 8%; Ross 2001).


Host Records

Trematoda: Bucephaliodes strongylurae, Rhipidocotyle transversale (Mayberry et al. 2000).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Luttrell et al. (1999) noted that Menidia beryllina may be important in the decline of fishes such as Macrhybopsis tetranema and M. hyostoma, as M. beryllina may consume the eggs and larvae of these Macrhybopsis species as they drift in the water column during development. M. beryllina eaten by a variety of fishes, including largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), striped bass (Morone saxatilis), white bass (Morone chrysops), and gar (Lepisosteidae; Hubbs 1982; Matthews et al. 1992; Ross 2001). Yan (1984) reported the 4 Aug. 1982 collection of a hermaphroditic specimen, 48.7 mm SL, and 1.202 gm body weight, along the shore of “Mayfield Flat” in Lake Texoma.


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Hubbs (1957); Robinson (1959); Brazos River (Anderson et al. 1983); Cow Bayou (Linam and Kleinsasser 1987); Oyster Creek (Linam and Kleinsasser 1987); Edwards and Contreras-Balderas (1991); Sister Grove Creek (Trinity River basin; Meador and Matthews 1992); Anderson et al. (1995); Buffalo Springs Lake (Cunningham et al. 2000); Gelwick et al. (2001); Lake Texoma (Oklahoma-Texas; Lienesch and Matthews 2004); Independence Creek (Rio Grande drainage; Bonner et al. 2005); Lake Texoma (Oklahoma-Texas; Ramirez et al. 2006).]



Anderson, A.A., C. Hubbs, K.O. Winemiller, and R.J. Edwards. 1995. Texas freshwater fish assemblages following three decades of environmental change. The Southwestern Naturalist 40(3):314-321.

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. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 2(1):81-88.

Bettoli, P.W., J.E. Morris, and R.L. Noble. 1991. Changes in the abundance of two atherinid species after aquatic vegetation removal. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 120:90-97.

Bonner, T.H., C. Thomas, C.S. Williams, and J.P. Karge. 2005. Temporal assessment of a West Texas stream fish assemblage. The Southwestern Naturalist 50(1):74-78.

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

Cope, E. D. 1869. Synopsis of the Cyprinidae of Pennsylvania. Trans. Amer. Phil. Soc. new ser., pt. 3, 13:350-339.

Cunningham, M.K., W.F. Granberry, Jr., K.L. Pope. 2000. Shrinkage of inland silverside larvae preserved in ethanol and formalin. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 20:816-818.

Duggins, C.F., Jr., A.A. Karlin, K. Relyea, and R. W. Yerger. 1986. Systematics of the key silverside, Menidia conchorum, with comments on other Menidia species (Pisces: Atherinidae). Tulane Stud. Zool. Bot. 25(2):133-150.

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.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. 681 pp.

Garwood, G.P. 1968. Notes on the life histories of the silversides, Menidia beryllina (Cope) and Membras martinica (Valenciennes), in Mississippi Sound and adjacent waters. Proc. S.E. Assoc. Game and Fish Comm. 21:314-323.

Gelwick, F.P., S. Akin, 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.

Gilbert, C.R., and D.S. Lee. 1980. Menidia beryllina (Cope), Tidewater Silverside. pp.558 in D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

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.

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

Hildebrand, S.F. 1922. Notes on habits and development of eggs and larvae of the silversides, Menidia menidia and Menidia beryllina. Bull. U.S. Bur. Fish. 38:113-120.

Hubbs, C. 1957. Distributional patterns of Texas fresh-water fishes. The Southwestern Naturalist 2(2-3):89-104.

Hubbs, C. 1976. The diel reproductive pattern and fecundity of Menidia audens. Copeia 1976(2):386-388.

Hubbs, C. 1982. Life history dynamics of Menidia beryllina from Lake Texoma. American Midland Naturalist. 107:1-12.

Hubbs, C., H.B. Sharp, and J.F. Schneider. 1971. Developmental rates of Menidia audens with notes on salt tolerance. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 100(4):603-610.

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

Leinesch, P.W., and W.J. Matthews. 2004. Daily fish and zooplankton abundances in the littoral zone of Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas, in relation to abiotic variables. Environmental Biology of Fishes 59(3):271-283.

Linam, G.W., and L.J. Kleinsasser. 1987. Fisheries use attainability study for Cow Bayou (segment 0511). River Studies Report No. 5. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 14 pp.

Linam, G.W., and L.J. Kleinsasser. 1987. Fisheries use attainability study for Oyster Creek (segment 1110). River Studies Report No. 3. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 15 pp.

Luttrell, G., A. Echelle, W. Fisher and D. Eisenhour. 1999. Declining status of two species of the Macrhybopsis aestivalis complex (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) in the Arkansas River Basin and related effects of reservoirs as barriers to dispersal. Copeia. 1999: 981-989.

Matthews, W. and H. Robison. 1988. The distribution of the fishes of Arkansas: multivariate analysis. Copeia. 1988:358-374.

Matthews, W.J., F.P. Gelwick, and J.J. Hoover. 1992. Food of and habitat use by juveniles of species of Micropterus and Morone in a southwestern reservoir. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 121-54-66.

Mayberry, L. F., A. G. Canaris, and J. R. Bristol. 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 pp. 1-100.

Meador, M.R., and W.J. Matthews. 1992. Spatial and Temporal patterns in fish assemblage structure of an intermittent Texas stream. American Midland Naturalist 127(1):106-114.

Mense, J.B. 1967. Ecology of the Mississippi silversides, Menidia audens Hay, in Lake Texoma. Okla. Fish. Res. Lab. Bull. 6:1-32.

Middaugh, D. and M. Hemmer. 1992. Reproductive Ecology of the inland silverside, Menidia beryllina, (Pisces: Atherinidae) from Blackwater Bay, Florida. Copeia. 1992:53-61.

Middaugh, D.P., M.J. Hemmer, and Y. Lamadrid-Rose. 1986. Laboratory spawning cues in Menidia beryllina and M. peninsulae (Pisces: Atherinidae) with notes on survival and growth of larvae at different salinities. Env. Biol. Fish. 15(2):107-117.

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

Ramirez, R., E.R. Johnson, and K.B. Gido. 2006. Effects of artificial lighting and presence of Menidia Beryllina on growth and diet of Labidesthes sicculus. Southwestern Naturalist 51(4):510-513.

Robinson, D.T. 1959. The ichthyofauna of the lower Rio Grande, Texas and Mexico. Copeia 1959(3):253-256.

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

Saunders, R.P. 1959. A study of the food of the Mississippi silverside, Menidia audens Hay, in Lake Texoma. M.S. Thesis, Univ. Oklahoma, Norman.

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.

Wurtsbaugh, W.A., and H. Li. 1985. Diel migrations of a zooplanktivorous fish (Menidia beryllina) in relation to the distribution of its prey in a large eutrophic lake. Limnol. Oceanogr. 30(3):565-576.

Yan, H. 1984. Occurrence of spermatozoa and eggs in the gonad of a tidewater silverside, Menidia beryllina. Copeia 1984(2):544-545.