Moxostoma poecilurum

blacktail redhorse



Type Locality

Tangipahoa River, Louisiana (Jordan 1877).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Moxostoma, Greek myzo, “suck” and stoma, “mouth;” poecilurum, Greek poikilos (Latinized stem poecil “variegated speckled” and oura (Latinized stem ur), “tail” (Boschung and Mayden 2004).



Myxostoma poecilura Jordan 1877:66.

Moxostoma poecilurum Hay 1881:512, 1883:72; Cook 1959:88.



Maximum size: 508mm TL (Carlander 1969).


Coloration: The back is orange-brown or gray-green with brassy overtones. The sides are silvery to golden brown, and the ventral surfaces are white. The scales often have blackened areas at the bases, and faint horizontal stripes pass through the upper and lower scale edges. Usually all fins have some red or pink, especially the dorsal fins and upper lobe of the caudal fin. The dorsal fin also has a black submarginal band and occasionally a black marginal band, at least on the leading rays. Black blotches are present on the posterior or medial rays of the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Black pigmentation on all the fins except the caudal is more prominent in larger than smaller fish (Ross 2001). The lower caudal lobe has a distinct black stripe (present even in very small fish) bordered below by two white (sometimes pink) rays (Hubbs et al. 1991; Ross 2001).


Counts: 42-45 scales on the lateral line, 11-12 (11-13) dorsal rays, 7-8 anal rays, 15-16 (15-18) pectoral rays, and 9 pelvic rays (Ross 2001); 4-18 dorsal fin rays (Hubbs et al. 1991); gill rakers in adults usually 23-26 (Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Body shape: Long, cylindrical body; plicate lips; slightly U-shaped rear edge on lower lip; bladelike teeth on slender pharyngeal arch (Page and Burr 1991).


Mouth position: Subterminal mouth (Ross 2001).


External morphology: Lateral line complete and well developed in adults; air bladder with three chambers; dorsal fin base less than one-fourth standard length (Hubbs et al. 1991). Well developed tubercles on rays of caudal and anal fins; dorsal fin and paired fins with minute tubercles. Females with minute tubercles on head and nape and cornifications on anal fin; paired and dorsal fins with minute tubercles (Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Found in streams emptying into the Gulf of Mexico (Hubbs et al. 1991); ranging from tributaries of Galveston Bay, Texas east to the Choctawhatchee River drainage of Florida; occurs in Mississippi River tributaries of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas, and in the Obion River of Tennessee (Jenkins 1980). Northern extent of Moxostoma poecilurum range is in Terrapin Creek in southwestern Kentucky (Burr and Carney 1984).


Texas distribution: Limited to the Sabine Basin west through the San Jacinto Drainage (Hubbs et al. 1991). Red River drainage unit (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River; Warren et al. 2000).


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Not listed by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (2006). Populations in the southern Unites States are considered currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Small to moderate sized creek and even large rivers. Occupy slower water than other redhorses and even do well in reservoirs (Jenkins 1980; Ross 2001; Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Mesohabitat: Found over sandy to rocky substrate (Jenkins 1980). Specimens from Village Creek, Texas, captured in channel pools; however, none were collected in winter and spring due to high stream discharges. Small individuals were found in backwater and sandbank habitats, probably in an effort to avoid larger predators such as Micropterus punctulatus (Moriarty and Winemiller 1997). During frequent but brief periods of flooding, blacktail redhorses move onto the inundated floodplain (Slack 1996; Ross 2001). Tolerates brackish water; specimen collected from Escambia River, Florida where salinity was 4.5 ppt at the surface and 24.4 ppt near the bottom (Bailey et al. 1954).



Spawning season: In Louisiana and Alabama, late April – May, at water temperatures around 20 degrees C (Gunning and Shoop 1963; Kilgen 1974).


Spawning habitat: In the shoal areas of small streams (Gunning and Shoop 1963; Kilgen 1974).


Reproductive strategy: Two or three males swim around a female, spawning intermittently in the manner described for several other species of redhorse (Kilgen 1974; Boschung and Mayden 2004).


Fecundity: Fertilized eggs are demersal and nonadhesive. Hatching occurs in 6-8 days at 20 degrees C, larvae moving off the bottom into water column about 6 days after hatching (Kilgen 1974).


Age at maturation:


Migration: Individuals larger than 200mm TL have seasonal movement pattern, moving downstream into deeper waters during colder months (Gunning and Shoop 1963); this movement pattern similar to that found in Mississippi (Ross 2001).


Growth and population structure: Fish given a supplemental diet and stocked 500 fish per acre grew from fingerlings to 136-141 mm TL and 26-33g in 64 days (Kilgen 1972). In larvae, complete scalation occurs by 31 mm TL (Hackney et al. 1971).




Food habits: Limited information is based on fish raised in culture ponds, some of which were fed pelleted food. Natural foods consumed by pond-raised fish included detritus, caddisfly larvae (Trichoptera), ostracods, midge larvae (Diptera), cladocerans, rotifers, diatoms, copepods, round worms (nematodes), and protozoans (Kilgen 1972).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

The blacktail redhorse differs from other redhorse suckers by the distinct black and white band on the lower lobe of the caudal fin. However, it could be confused with spotted sucker, from which it can be distinguished by the presence of a complete and well developed lateral line (versus absent or incomplete) (Ross 2001).


Host Records

Dactylogyrus acicularis (Mizelle and McDougal 1970). Nematoda: Agamonema sp. (Arnold et al. 1967).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Sometimes used as food, in Mississippi. Pressure cooking and canning is a traditional method of preparing redhorse in the Ozarks of Arkansas (Ross 2001).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Hubbs (1957); Big Sandy Creek (Evans and Noble 1979); Kleinsasser and Linam (1987).]



Arnold, J.G., Jr., Ph.D., H.E. Schafer, M.S., R.L. Vulliet, BSMT.1967. The parasites of the freshwater fishes of Lousiana.

Bailey, R.M., H.E. Winn, and C.L. Smith. 1954. Fishes from the Escambia River, Alabama and Florida, with ecologic and taxonomic notes. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 106:109-164.

Boshcung, H. T. Jr. and R. L. Mayden. 2004. Fishes of Alabama. Smithsonian Institution, Washinton. 736 pp.

Burr, B.M., and D.A. Carney. 1984. The blacktail redhorse, Moxostoma poecilurum (Catostomidae), in Kentucky, with other additions to the state ichthyofauna. Trans. Ky. Acad. Sci. 45(1/2):73-74.

Carlander, K.D. 1969. Handbook of Freshwater fishery biology. Vol.1. The Iowa State Univ. Press, Ames.

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

Evans, J.W., and R.L. Noble. 1979. Longitudinal distribution of fishes in an East Texas stream. American Midland Naturalist 101(2):333-343.

Gilbert, C.R. and F.F. Snelson. 1992. Grayfin redhorse, Moxostoma n. sp. cf. poecilurum, pp.45-48. In: in Rare and endangered biota of Florida. Vol. II. Fishes. C.R. Gilbert, ed. Univ. Press Florida, Gainesville.

Gunning, G.E. and C.R. Shoop. 1963. Stability in a headwater stream population of sharpfin chubsucker. Prog. Fish-Cult. 26(2):76-79.

Hackney, P.A., G.R. Hooper, and J.F. Webb. 1971. Spawning behavior, age and growth, and sport fishery for the silver redhorse, Moxostoma anisurum (Rafinesque), in the Flint River, Alabama. Proc. S.E. Assoc. Game Fish Comm. 24:569-576.

Hay, O.P. 1881. On a collection of fishes from eastern Mississippi. Proc. U.S. Nat. Mus. 3:488-515.

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

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

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

Jenkins, R.E. 1980. Moxostoma poecilurum (Jordan), Blacktail Redhorse. pp.430 In: D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Jordan, D.S. 1877. Contributions to North American ichthyology, based primarily on on the collections of the United States National Museum. No.2A. Notes on Cottidae, Etheostomatidae, Percidae, Centrarchidae, Aphredoderidae, Dorysomatidae, and Cyprinidae, with revisions of genera and descriptions of new or little know species. Bull. U.S. Nat. Mus. 10:1-68.

Kilgen, R.H. 1972. Food habits and growth of fingerling blacktail redhorse, Moxostoma poecilurum (Jordan), in ponds. Proc. La. Acad. Sci. 35:12-20.

Kilgen, R.H. 1974. Artificial spawning and hatching techniques for blacktail redhorse. Progressive Fish Culturist 36(3):174.

Kleinsasser, L.J., and G.W. Linam. 1987. Fisheries use attainability study for Pine Island Bayou (Segment 0607). River Studies Report No. 6. Resource Protection Division. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Austin. 21 pp.

McSwain et al. 1973. Final Rep. Fish. Investig. F-21-25, Study 12, Job 5, Ga. Dept. Nat. Resources.

Mizelle, J.D. and H.D. McDougal. 1970. Studies on Monogenetic Trematodes. XLV. The genus Dactylogyrus in North America. Key to Species, Host Parasite and Parasite host lists, Localities, emendations, and description of D. Kritskyi sp.n. Amer. Midl. Nat. 84(2):444-462.

Moriarty, L. J. and K.O. Winemiller. 1997. Spatial and temporal variation in fish assemblage structure in Village Creek, Hardin County Texas. Tex. J. Sci., 49: 85-110.

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.

Slack, W.T. 1996. Fringing floodplains and assemblage structure of fishes in the DeSoto National Forest, Mississippi. Ph.D. diss., Univ. S. Mississippi, Hattiesburg.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Division, Diversity and Habitat Assessment Programs. County Lists of Texas' Special Species. [30 May 2006].

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 25(10):7-29.