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Golden shiner

Notemigonus crysoleucas

What do they look like?

Golden shiners are thin, deep bodied minnows with small, upturned mouths. During the breeding season, males turn a deep golden color. Their curved lateral line helps to distinguish golden shiners from other kinds of minnows. Golden shiners are relatively small, and reach a maximum length of 30 cm

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    30.0 cm (high) cm

Where do they live?

Golden shiners are widely distributed throughout North America. Their native range includes much of eastern North America, the river basins that drain into the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia south to southern Texas, the Great Lakes basin, and the Mississipi River drainage basin from Alberta Canada, to Wyoming, Montana and Oklahoma. (Luna, 2005)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Golden shiners occupy a variety of deep water habitats, including vegetated lakes, ponds, swamps and pools of creeks and small to medium rivers. They can be found as deep as 10 meters. Because they mainly feed on plankton (small algae or animals suspended in the water column), they are typically found in slow moving or stagnant waters.

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range depth
    10 (low) m
    32.81 (low) ft

How do they grow?

Golden shiner eggs hatch when the water temperature reaches 20 degrees Celsius. Larvae have a yolk-sac and remain near the bottom until the sac is absorbed. These larvae average 4.2 mm in length. When larvae are from 5 to 10 mm in length, they remain near the water surface and near shore. Larvae from 10 to 30 mm in length organize into schools amd inhabit vegetated areas near shore. Females grow faster than males and reach larger sizes.

How do they reproduce?

Golden shiners typically spawn (lay eggs) from May through August. Groups of golden shiners get together to spawn in the same area, over algae or aquatic plants. Once released, the eggs stick to the vegetation.

The eggs develop for a period of 4 to 7 days before hatching. Females can lay up to 200,000 eggs. Golden shiners are repeat spawners and may spawn 4 to 5 times per season. Young golden shiners will mate in the year after they hatch if they are in warmer waters. In colder waters, it may take 2 years of development before they can mate.

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Golden shiners may spawn 4-5 times during a season.
  • Breeding season
    Golden shiners typically spawn from May through August.
  • Range number of offspring
    200000 (high)
  • Range time to hatching
    4 to 7 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 (high) years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 (high) years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Golden shiners invest no parental care in their eggs or young. After they lay the eggs, the young are on their own.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

Adult golden shiners typically reach an age of 3 to 6 years. The maximum age reached by this species is 8 years. (Carlander, 1969)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 to 8 hours
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 hours

How do they behave?

Golden shiners are social and are found in groups (schools) thougout life. These fish feed in the nearshore zone within one hour of sunset. As the sun sets, schools break up and individuals move into open water.

How do they communicate with each other?

Golden shiners detect water movement through their lateral line and probably also rely on visual cues to find food and avoid predators. Little is known about other ways they sense their environment or forms of communication.

What do they eat?

Golden shiners eat plankton (small algae and animals that float in the water column) and very small crustaceans. They eat by sucking in plankton or small crustaceans one at a time. They may also eat dragongly nymphs sometimes.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • other marine invertebrates
  • zooplankton

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Golden shiners form schools as a way to protect themselves from the many larger fish species that prey on them. In schools, each individual's chance of being caught by a predator is lowered.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Golden shiners feed on plankton, which helps to keep the water clear. keeping plankton levels below eutrophication levels. They are also important as prey of larger, predatory fish in the ecosystems in which they live.

Commensal or parasitic species (or larger taxonomic groups) that use this species as a host
  • Pleistophora ovarie

Do they cause problems?

Golden shiners have been widely indroduced outside of their native range because they are used as bait and are sometimes released from bait buckets.

How do they interact with us?

Golden shiners are eaten by larger fish that are important in game fishing. They are also used to assess the health of aquatic systems.

Are they endangered?

Golden shiners are fairly common and are not currently protected by law.


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Joshua Sims (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kevin Wehrly (editor, instructor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


animals that have little or no ability to regulate their body temperature, body temperatures fluctuate with the temperature of their environment, often referred to as 'cold-blooded'.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


small plants that float or drift in great numbers in fresh or salt water, especially at or near the surface. These serve as food for many larger organisms. (Compare to zooplankton.)


an animal that mainly eats plankton


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


uses sight to communicate


small animals that float or drift in great numbers in fresh or salt water, especially at or near the surface. These serve as food for many larger organisms. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


Carlander, K. 1969. Handbook of Freshwater FisheryBiology. Life History Data on Freshwater Fishes of the United States, exclusive of Perciformes. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University.

Cooper, G. 1936. Age and growth of the Golden shiner and its suitability for propagation. Pap. Mich. Acad. Sci. Arts Lett., 21: 587-597.

Cross, F. 1967. Handbook of Fishes in Kansas. Lawrence: University of Kansas.

Dobie, J., O. Meehean, S. Snieszko, G. Washburn. 1956. Raising bait fishes. U. S. Fish Wildl. Serv., Circ. 35: C.124.

Dobie, J., O. Meehean, G. Washburn. 1948. Propagation of minnows and other bait species.. U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Circulation 12: 1-113.

Faber, D. 1980. Observations of the life of the golden shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas (Mitchell), in Lac Heney, Quebec. Proc. 4th Annu. Larval Fish Conf., FWS/OBS-80, 43: 69-78.

Hall, D., E. Werner, A. Gilliam, G. Mittlebach, D. Howard, C. Doner, J. Dickerman, A. Stewart. 1979. Diel foraging behavior and prey selection in the golden shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas.. J. Fish. Res. Board Can., 36: 1029-1039.

Luna, S. 2005. "Species Summary - Notemigonus crysoleucas" (On-line). Accessed October 17, 2005 at

Magnin, E., E. Murwaska, A. Clement. 1978. Food habits of seven littoral fishes of the Grand Cove of Perrot Island of Lake St.-Louis near Montreal, Quebec. Nat. Can., 105: 81-101.

Mansuet, A., J. Hardy. 1967. Development of fishes of the Chesapeake Bay region. Baltimore, MD.: Natural Resources Institute, University of Maryland.

Nagel, M., R. Summerfelt. 1977. Nitrofurazone for control of microsporidan parasite Pleistophora ovarie in golden shiners. Prog. Fish-Cult., 39: 18-23.

Page, L., B. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico.. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Sims, J. 2006. "Notemigonus crysoleucas" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 16, 2014 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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