Notemigonus crysoleucasGolden shiner

Geographic Range

Golden shiners, Notemigonus crysoleucas, are widely distributed throughout North America. Their native range includes the Atlantic drainage basin 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)


Golden shiners occupy a variety of deep water habitats, including vegetated lakes, ponds, swamps and pools of creeks and small to medium rivers to a depth of 10 m (Luna 2005). As they feed primarily on zooplankton and phytoplankton, they are typically found in slow moving or stagnant waters (Magnin, Murawska and Clement, 1978). (Luna, 2005; Magnin, et al., 1978)

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

Physical Description

Golden shiners are thin, deep bodied minnows with small, upturned mouths. During the breeding season, males turn a deep golden color. A greatly decurved lateral line and a fleshy pre-anal keel distinguish golden shiners from other members of the minnow family (Cyprinidae) (Dobie, Meehean, and Washburn, 1948). Golden shiners are relatively small, and reach a maximum length of 30 cm (Page and Burr, 1991). (Dobie, et al., 1948; Page and Burr, 1991)

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


Golden shiner eggs hatch when the water temperature reaches 20 degrees Celsius (Cross, 1967). Larvae have a yolk-sac and remain near the bottom until the sac is absorbed. These larvae average 4.2 mm in length. Larvae 5-10 mm in length remain near the water surface at the edge of the littoral zone. Larvae 10-30 mm in length organize into schools amd inhabit vegetated areas of the littoral zone (Faber, 1980). Females grow faster than males and reach larger sizes (Cooper, 1936). (Cooper, 1936; Cross, 1967; Faber, 1980)


Golden shiners typically spawn from May through August. Spawning aggregations form and spawning occurs over algae or aquatic plants. Once released, the eggs stick to vegetation. (Cross, 1967)

Eggs are incubated for a period of 4 to 7 days, and maximum fecundity is 200,000. Golden shiners are repeat spawners and may spawn 4 to 5 times per season (Manusuet and Hardy 1967). Sexual maturity generally occurs at 1 year, however some do not mature until the second year, especially in cooler waters (Dobie, Mehean and Washburn, 1948). (Dobie, et al., 1948; Mansuet and Hardy, 1967)

  • Breeding interval
    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 egg-laying. (Dobie, et al., 1948)

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


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


Golden shiners are social and are found in groups (schools) thougout life. These fish feed in the littoral (nearshore) zone within one hour of sunset. As the sun sets, schools break up and individuals move into open water. (Hall, et al., 1979; Mansuet and Hardy, 1967)

Communication and Perception

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.

Food Habits

Golden shiners are omnivorous and crepuscular planktivores. Their diet mainly consists of zooplankton, phytoplankton, and microcrustaceans. They pick off plankton one at at time and generally occupy slower moving waters. Additionally, Odonata nymphs form a minor portion of their diet. (Hall, et al., 1979; Magnin, et al., 1978)

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


Golden shiners form schools as a way to decrease their individual likelihood of being taken by the many larger fish species that prey on them.

Ecosystem Roles

Golden shiners feed on zooplankton and phytoplankton, keeping plankton levels below eutrophication levels. Pleistophora ovarie, an obligate intracellular parasite, causes egg mortality and reduced egg production in golden shiners. They are also important as prey of larger, predatory fish in the ecosystems in which they live. (Hall, et al., 1979; Nagel and Summerfelt, 1977)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Pleistophora ovarie

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Golden shiners are an important bait species for game fish, helping to ensure healthy populations of economically important fish species. They are also used as a standard in toxicology bioassesments (Dobie, Meehan et al, 1956). (Dobie, et al., 1948)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

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

Conservation Status

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. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


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


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.


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.


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.


photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (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


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (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.