Luxilus coccogenisWarpaint shiner

Geographic Range

The range of warpaint shiners (Luxilus coccogenis) extends north into southwestern Virgina and east Tennessee, west to south-central Tennesse, south into north Alabama, north Georgia, and the tip of South Carolina and east into western North Carolina (Etnier and Starnes, 1993). Warpaint shiners are native only to the Tennessee River drainage (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993) but human related activities have led to their introduction into the Upper Savannah, the Santee, and the New River drainages (Etnier and Starnes, 1993). (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993)


Warpaint shiners inhabit moderate to high gradient creeks, streams, and rivers with cool, clear water (Outten, 1957). They avoid very rapid flows and are commonly found in large pools and on the edges of riffles (Outten, 1957). (Outten, 1957)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • rivers and streams

Physical Description

Warpaint shiners are easily recognized by the presence of their warpaint-like coloration (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993). Both male and female adults and large juveniles exhibit a prominent orangish-red bar on the anterior opercle, and orangish-red areas on the dorsal fin base and on the snout (Etnier and Starnes, 1993). A dark bar is also present behind the operculum and black bands are present on both the caudal and dorsal fins (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993). Nuptial males display more pronounced orange and black markings and have well developed breeding tubercles located on the chin and snout (Outten, 1957). Smaller tubercles are located on the dorsal, pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins. The epidermal coating on the scales of nuptial males is also considerably thicker than those on the female (Outten, 1957).

Adult warpaint shiners range in size from 65 to 95 mm in standard length (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993) and males are generally larger than females (Outten, 1957). The majority of the elongate, moderately compressed body of warpaint shiners is mostly silver except for the dorsal area, which is olive-gray (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993). The terminal mouth is large and oblique with the tip of the upper jaw sometimes extending further than the lower jaw. The origin of the dorsal fin is located well above the pelvic fin base and the cycloid scales of the anteriolateral region are taller than they are wide (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993).

Warpaint shiners have 39 to 44 lateral line scales and 17 to 18 predorsal scale rows. There are 9 rays on the anal fin and 8 on the pectoral fin. The gill rakers are about as long as they are wide, and number from 5 to 8. Warpaint shiners have a pharyngeal tooth formula of 2,4-4,2 and have 40 to 42 vertebrate (Etnier and Starnes, 1993).

Juvenile warpaint shiners can be easily confused with juvenile striped shiners (Luxilus chrysocephalus) and whitetail shiners (Cyprinella galactura). Striped shiners differ from warpaint shiners in that they have very small mouths and no jaw tubercles (Etnier and Starnes, 1993). Whitetail shiners differ from the warpaint shiners in that they exhibit outlines on their scales and have a dorsal black bar running through the middle of their dorsal fin (Etnier and Starnes, 1993). (Etnier and Starnes, 1993; Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993; Outten, 1957)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    65 to 95 mm
    2.56 to 3.74 in


Little is known about the early development of fertilized eggs and young fry of warpaint shiners. Warpaint shiners grow very rapidly in their first two years, reaching a maximum standard length of 58 mm by the end of the first summer and 85 mm by the end of the second. After the second year, growth rates of warpaint shiners slow significantly. Warpaint shiners become sexually mature at the age of two years, and spawn for the first time during their third summer (Outten, 1957). (Outten, 1957)


Both male and female warpaint shiners reach sexual maturity at the age of two years and spawn for the first time during their third summer. They are nest parasites, spawning on the margins of nests built by river chub (Nocomis micropogon) (Outten, 1957). (Outten, 1957)

Active spawning takes place in the months of May and June (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993; Outten, 1957). Spawning activities begin when males, either in groups of eight to ten (Outten, 1957) or singly (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993) hold positions over the nests of river chub. In the case of groups, the largest male will hold the foremost position over the nest (Outten, 1957). The foremost male drives away any other male attempting to assume a spawning position. Actual spawning occurs when the male is positioned upstream and the female approaches from the rear and to the side of the male (Outten, 1957). The pair then settle down together in a crevice where both the eggs and the sperm are released. When males are grouped, other males crowd around the pair in an attempt to fertilize some of the eggs (Outten, 1957). (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993; Outten, 1957)

  • Breeding interval
    Warpaint shiners spawn only once a year (Outten, 1957).
  • Breeding season
    Warpaint shiners spawn from May to June (Outten, 1957).
  • Range number of offspring
    300 to 1600
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 4 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 4 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Neither male nor female warpaint shiners show any parental involvement after spawning has taken place (Outten, 1957). (Outten, 1957)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Warpaint shiners can live a maximum of four years, with most individuals reaching only age three in the wild (Outten, 1957). (Outten, 1957)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    4 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 years


Warpaint shiners are commonly seen singly or in small schools heading upstream in larger pools (Outten, 1957). They are active throughout the day during all times of the year (Outten, 1957). At least two species are known to be associates of warpaint shiner (Outten, 1957). The first is Notropis rubricroceus (saffron shiner) and the second is Nocomis micropogon (river chub). (Outten, 1957)

Home Range

No information could be found on the home range of warpaint shiners.

Communication and Perception

Warpaint shiners, like most other fish, possess an array of sensory organs to aid them in their environment. Warpaint shiners use their eyes to perceive their surroundings. They also have the ability to taste, which aids them in being able to differentiate between prey and harmful substances. They have the ability to hear and to smell, and they use their lateral line system to detect vibrations in the water. (Etnier and Starnes, 1993)

Food Habits

Warpaint shiners use their large terminal mouths to obtain their food in the current or at the surface (Outten, 1957). They face the current and move slowly, both horizontally and vertically, while taking food (Outten, 1957). Individuals may leap from the water when feeding (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993).

The diet of warpaint shiners consists mainly of members of the insect order Ephemeroptera in the spring, though there is a reduction in feeding during spawning (Outten, 1957). Terrestrial adults of the insect orders Hymenoptera and Coleoptera dominate both the summer and fall diets (Outten, 1957). (Jenkins and Burkhead, 1993; Outten, 1957)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • aquatic or marine worms


Both Micropterus salmoides (largemouth bass) and Micropterus dolomieu (smallmouth bass) are predators of warpaint shiners (Outten, 1957). (Outten, 1957)

Ecosystem Roles

Warpaint shiners are potential hosts for Tennessee heelsplitters (Lasmigona holstonia), a federally endangered species of freshwater mussel (Steg, 1998). They also play roles as both a predator to aquatic and terrestrial insects and as prey to both the largemouth and smallmouth bass. Little is known about other roles warpaint shiners may play in their ecosystem. (Steg, 1998)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Warpaint shiners are potential hosts for the federally endangerd Tennesse heelsplitter, Lasmigona holstonia (Steg, 1998).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Though warpaint shiners are not a sport fish and do not have any commercial value, they may be beneficial in freshwater mussel propagation since they are a potential host for at least one federally endangered mussel.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Warpaint shiners have no known adverse effects to humans.

Conservation Status

Warpaint shiners are not listed as an endangered or threatened species.


Travis Lowe (author), Eastern Kentucky University, Sherry Harrel (editor, instructor), Eastern Kentucky University, Mary Hejna (editor), 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


uses sound to communicate

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. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


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.


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

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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).


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


Etnier, D., W. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. Knoxville: The University of Tennesse Press.

Jenkins, R., N. Burkhead. 1993. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. Bethseda, Maryland: American Fisheries Society.

Outten, L. 1957. A Study of the Life History of the Cyprinid Fish Notropis Coccogenis. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Science Society, 73: 68-84.

Steg, M. 1998. Identification of Host Fish and Experimental Culture of Juveniles for Selected Freshwater Mussel Species in Virginia. Master's Thesis Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 0: 79.