Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Notropis atherinoides

emerald shiner



Type Locality

Lake Erie (Rafinesque 1818).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis, Greek, meaning “back keel;” atherinoides Greek, meaning “silverside-like,” in reference to resemblance to a member of the silverside family (Pflieger 1997).



Based on his own work and the work of Coburn (1982), Mayden (1989) listed N. atherinoides in the subgenus Notropis.

Notropis atherinoides Rafinesque 1818:204; Hildebrand and Towers 1928:117; Cook 1959:118.

Minnilus dilectus Hay 1881:508, 1883:71



Maximum size: 127mm (5.00 in) TL (Flittner 1964).


Coloration: Live fish are a bright, iridescent silvery green with a silver mid-lateral band. The back and upper sides are greenish to straw colored, and the venter is silvery white. The dorsal scales with melanophores and have pigmented margins and clear centers. There is a variable mid-dorsal stripe extending from the back of the head to the caudal base, and the head is diffusely pigmented with melanophores from the occiput anteriorly to the snout. The area between the nostril and eye lacks melanophores and only a few melanophores surround orbit. The lips are pigmented medially and the pigment continues about half way down the midline of the lower jaw. The cheek, suborbital, and opercle are silvery. A mid-lateral band about 1.5 scales wide extends from the opercle to the caudal base, and is diffusely stippled anteriorly, becoming more prominent on the caudal penduncle. Scales along the side are bright and silvery. The dorsal, caudal, and leading rays of the pectoral fins are lined with melanophores, but the remaining rays and membranes are clear. No nuptial colors are exhibited by either sex (Ross 2001).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 2, 4-4, 2 or 1,4-4,1; usually 9-12 anal fin soft rays (Hubbs et al. 1991); lateral line scales 35-43, predorsal scale rows 19-20 (18-21); pectoral fin soft rays 14-16; pelvic fin soft rays 8 (8-9); gill rakers 10-12 (Etnier and Starnes 1993).


Body shape: Body slender and compressed, its depth contained 1.9 to 2.5 times in distance from dorsal origin to occiput. 


Mouth position: Terminal and oblique (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Morphology: Snout blunt and short (Bailey and Allum1962).  Eye longer than snout contained about 3 times in body depth, measured over curve (Bailey 1951); underside of opercle gray; a few chromatophores on lateral line scales other than those on lateral stripe; middorsal stripe behind dorsal fin usually three to five chromatophores wide (Hubbs et al. 1991); origin of dorsal fin behind insertion of pelvic fin; dorsal origin nearer base of caudal fin than tip of snout (Bailey 1962; Hubbs et al. 1991); dorsal fin more triangular, last fin ray less then one half length of the longest; interradial membranes of dorsal fin without melanophores (except along rays). First obvious dorsal fin ray a thin splint, closely attached to the following well developed but unbranched ray especially at tip; lower lip thin, without fleshy lobe; lateral line usually not decurved, either straight or with a broad arch. Premaxillaries protractile; upper lip separated from skin of snout by a deep groove continuous across the midline; cartilaginous ridge of lower jaw hardly evident and not separated by a definite groove from the lower lip. Distance from origin of anal fin to end of caudal peduncle contained two and one-half or fewer times in distance from tip of snout to origin of anal fin (Hubbs et al. 1991). Length of longest gill rakers 2-2.5 times their basal width (Etnier and Starnes 1993).  Intestine short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Widely distributed across United States especially in the Mississippi Basin it is at the edge of its range in Texas (Hubbs et at., 1991).


Texas distribution: Occurs in Red, Sabine, Neches, and lower Trinity Drainages (Hubbs et at., 1991). Sabine Lake unit (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay; Warren et al. 2000).


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

Not listed as threatened or endangered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (2006). Populations in the southern United States considered currently stable (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Restricted to open rivers and lakes of variably turbidity where it swims in large schools (Gilbert and Burgess 1979).


Mesohabitat: Tolerant of low oxygen levels (Matthews and Maness 1979) and turbidity (Boschung and Mayden 2004). Campbell and MacCrimmon (1970) reported the temperature preference for the emerald shiner as 25°C (77°F).



Spawning season: In Iowa, females taken in mid-July had completed spawning; in Illinois, ripe females taken from mid-May to early June; in Lake Erie, spawning from late June to late July, or even mid-August (Carlander 1969). In Wisconsin, major spawning period is in June and July; may occur as early as late May, extending to the beginning of August (Becker 1983). In Michigan, protracted summer spawning period. Spawning is temperature dependent, beginning shortly after the 22.2°C (72.0°F) threshold temperature is exceeded (Flittner 1964). In southern Canada, gravid females taken from water temperatures ranging from 20.1-23.2°C (68.2-73.8°F) (Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970).


Spawning habitat: Near surface in open water (Carlander 1969; Flittner 1964). Spawning substrate is normally gravel shoals (Dobie et al. 1956); rounded boulders, course rubble and sand (Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970),  hard sand or mud swept clean of detritus are also used (Flittner 1964).


Reproductive strategy: Pelagophils (Simon 1999). Spawning occurs at night, as fish form large schools in the surface waters over a substratum of clean sand or hard mud. The shiners first appear about 1 to 2 feet below the surface milling and darting rapidly and erratically in a circular path. The smaller males appear to pursue larger females for a few seconds at a time. As these pairs swim about in a 10 to 20 foot circle, the male overtakes the females and presses closely on either the right or the left side in what appears to be an interlocking of pectoral fins. The pair gyrates briefly, and then slows down as female arches her side upward stops for an instant, rolling over further, eggs are released and fertilized at the instant of rolling (Flittner 1964).


Fecundity: In the Wisconsin River, in late June, an age-I female 69 mm (2.72 in) TL, with ripe ovaries constituting 33% of total weight, contained approximately 2,990 mature yellow eggs 0.9 mm (0.03 in) diameter. Immature white eggs also present (approx. one-fourth the number of mature eggs). A female (estimated to be an age-II specimen) 75 mm (2.95 in) TL, collected mid-July from the Wisconsin River, held approximately 2,040 mature eggs averaging 0.8 mm diameter (Becker 1983).  In Lake Simcoe, Canada, the number of eggs in pre-spawning mature females varied from 868 in an age-I specimen, 69 mm (2.72 in) TL, weighing 2.5 g to 8,733 eggs in an age-III specimen, 98mm (3.86 in) TL and 8.9 g; egg of ripe females ranged from 0.21-0.67 mm (0.008-0.026 in) diameter; number of eggs increased with total length, weight and gonadal weight (Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970). The fertilized nonadhesive eggs sink to the bottom where they hatch in 24-32 hours (Becker 1983).


Age at maturation: Spawning fish were primarily in age classes 2-3. Males are mature at 55-60 mm (2.17-2.36 in) TL, and females at 65mm (2.56 in) TL (Flittner 1964; Fuchs 1967; Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970).


Migration: Schooling species, staying offshore during summer months, usually near the surface; moving inshore in autumn and aggregating at times off docks, piers, and river mouths in great numbers; these large schools in inshore waters usually composed of young-of-the-year; as season advances, move into deeper water for overwintering; in early spring, moving into surface waters at night and descending to deeper waters during the day (Scott and Crossman 1973; Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970).


Growth and population structure: During their first year fish reach 63-78mm (2.48-3.07 in) TL.  Ages 2-3 are 88-98mm (2.48-3.86 in) TL and 98-110mm (3.86-4.33 in) TL; (Flittner 1964; Fuchs 1967; J.S.Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970). Maximum growth rates occur at 24-29°C (75.2-84.2°F) and growth markedly declines below 15°C (59°F) (McCormick and Kleiner 1976).


Longevity: Females live longer than males. May live up to three to five years; all older fish were females. (Flittner 1964; Fuchs 1967; Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970).


Food habits: Planktivore; size selective picker; move with planktonic food source up at dusk, back down at dawn (Simon 1999). Adults may remain planktivorous and seem to prefer cladocerans. Insects make up a much smaller component of overall diet. Most insects consumed were adult rather then larval stages. Algae and plant materials may also be eaten especially during spring (Flittner 1964; Fuchs 1967; Campbell and MacCrimmon 1970; Hartman et al.1992).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes:

Notropis atherinoides is similar to the Rio Grande shiner (N. jemezanus) as well as the sharpnose shiner

(N. oxyrhynchus). N. jemezanus differs from N. atherinoides in that it has a larger, less slanted mouth extending under eye; smaller eye; deeper snout; lacks black lips (may be dusky), black around anal fin base and along underside of caudle peduncle. N. oxyrhynchus differs from N. atherinoides in that it has a sharply pointed snout, and the upper jaw is level with upper edge of eye (Page and Burr 1991). The posterior position of the dorsal fin (posterior to pelvic fin base) renders the N. atherinoides similar to species of the genus Lythrurus. Lythrurus species can be distinguished by the presence of numerous crowded predorsal scales (usually greater than 22 predorsal rows; Ross 2001). Mayhew (1983) reported hybridization of N. atherinoides and mimc shiners (Notropis volucellus) in the Monongahela River, western Pennsylvania.


Host Records:

Gyrodactylus parvicirrus (Harris et al. 2004); Trematoda: Neodactylogyrus archis, Posthodiplostomum minimum; Cestoda: Proteocephalus ambloplitis, P. pinguis, exper. (Hoffman 1967).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Important as forage fish in many parts of its range (Boschung and Mayden 2004; Scott and Crossman 1973). Their glistening sides, unique form, and graceful movements make the emerald shiner an excellent aquarium fish. Hardiness in cold weather makes it a favorite bait for winter fishing; especially good bait for bass, perch, and walleye (Becker 1983).



Bailey, R.M. 1951. A checklist of the fishes of Iowa, with keys for identification, pp. 187-283. In: Iowa Fish and Fishing. J.R. Harlan and E.B. Speaker (eds.). State. Conserv. Comm. of Iowa, Des Moines.

Bailey, R.M., and M.O. Allum. 1962. Fishes of South Dakota. Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 131 pp.

Balon E. K. 1981. Additions and amendments to the classification of reproductive styles in fishes. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 6:377-389.

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. 1052 pp.

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

Campbell, J.S. and H.R. MacCrimmon. 1970. Biology of the emerald shiner, Notropis atherinoides Rafinesque in Lake Simcoe, Canada. J. Fish Biol. 2:259-273.

Coburn, M.M. 1982. Anatomy and relationships of Notropis atherinoides. Ph.D. diss., Ohio State Univ., Columbus.

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

Dobie, J.R., O.L. Meehean, S.F. Snieszko, and G.N. Washburn. 1956. Raising bait fishes. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv. Circ. 35. 123 pp.

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

Flittner, G.A. 1964. Morphometry and life history of the emerald shiner, Notropis atherinoides Rafinesque. Ph.D. diss., Univ. Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Fuchs, E.H. 1967 Life history of the emerald shiner, Notropis atherinoides, in Lewis and Clark Lake, South Dakota. Trans. Amer. Fish. Sco. 96(3): 247-256.

Gilbert C.R. and Burgess, G.H. 1979. Notropis atherinoides (Rafinesque), Emerald Shiner. pp.231 in D.S. Lee et al. Atlas of North American Freshwater Fishes. N.C. State Mus. Nat. Hist., Raleigh, i-r+854 pp.

Harris, P. D., A. P. Shinn, J. Cable and T.A. Bakke. 2004. Nominal species of the genus Gyrodactylus von Nordman 1832 (Monogenea: Gyrodactylidae), with a list of Principal host species. Systematic Parasitology 59:1-27, 2004.

Hartman, K.J., B. Vondracek, D.L. Parrish, and K.M. Muth. 1992. Diets of emerald and spotfin shiners and potential interactions with other western Lake Erie planktivorous fishes. J. Great Lakes Res. 18(1):43-50.

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.

Hildebrand, S.F. and I.L. Towers. 1928. Annotated list of fishes collected in the vicinity of Greenwood Mississippi, with descriptions of three new species. Bull. U.S. Bur. Fish. 43(2)105-136

Hoffman G.L. 1967. Parasites of North American Freshwater Fishes. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA 1-486.

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.

Matthews, W.L., and J.D. Maness. 1979. Critical thermal maxima, oxygen tolerances and success of cyprinid fishes in a southwestern river. Amer. Midl. Nat. 102(2):374-377.

Mayden, R.L. 1989. Phylogenetic studies of North American Minnows, with emphasis on the genus Cyprinella (Teleostei:Cypriniformes). Misc. Publ. Mus. Nat. Hist. Univ. Kans. 80:1-189.

Mayhew, D.A. 1983. A new hybrid cross, Notropis atherinoides X Notropis volucellus (Pisces: Cyprinidae), from the lower Monongahela River, western Pennsylvania. Copeia 1983(4):1077-1082.

McCormick, J.H., and C.F. Kleiner. 1976. Growth and survival of young-of-the-year emerald shiners (Notropis atherinoides) at different temperatures. J. Fish. Res. Bd. Can. 33(4):839-842.

Rafinesque, C.S. 1818. Description of two new genera of North American fishes, Opsanus and Notropis. Amer. Monthly Mag. Crit. Rev.

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

Scott, W.B., and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater Fishes of Canada. Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa. 966 pp.

Simon, T. P. 1999. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton; London; New York; Washington.

Snelson, F. F .Jr. 1968. Systematics of the Cyprinid Fish Notropis amoenus, with Comments on the Subgenus Notropis. Copeia, 1968(45): 766-802.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Wildlife Division, Diversity and Habitat Assessment Programs. County Lists of Texas' Special Species. [30 May 2006]. http://gis.tpwd.state.tx.us/TpwEndangeredSpecies/DesktopModules/AcountyCodeKeyForWebESDatabases.pdf

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.