Notropis topekaTopeka shiner

Geographic Range

Topeka shiners are native to North America, specifically prairie streams in the central portion of the great plains. Today, Topeka shiners is absent from a majority of these streams. Presently, it occupies only 20% of its historical range, and is declining in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa. It can also be found in South Dakota and Minnesota. (Hatch, 2002)


Topeka shiners found in pond-like areas or isolated portions of streams that begin to evaporate during dry weather. Optimal pond habitat tends to be cool and clear with an abundance of vegetation and soft, muddy bottoms. Optimal stream habitat tends to have a flow rate of about 1.5 m^3 per second with mostly gravel bottoms. Rooted vegetation is not common in their habitat. They are not found in muddy streams that or those with highly intermittent flow rates. Extant populations in Missouri are restricted to tributaries of the Missouri River with a sufficient flow rate to prevent extensive deposition of silt. While these characteristics are preferred in Kansas and Missouri populations, in the northwestern portion of its range, they are found in periodically turbid waters whose sand, gravel or rubble bottoms are covered by 5cm or more of silt and detritus. Topeka shiners are often more abundant in off-channel oxbows and excavated pools than they are in main channel pools and runs. Seasonal studies of these habitats in Minnesota have shown that Topeka shiners can complete their entire life cycle in these habitats. Recent studies conducted in Minnesota have also shown it is even more common in this state than previously thought, however, it may be limited to the Missouri River drainage in the southwestern portion of the state. (Dahle, 2001; Evermann and Cox, 1896; Hatch, 2002; Michl and Peters, 1993; Minckley and Cross, 1959; Pflieger, 1971)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools

Physical Description

Mean standard length of Topeka shiners is 34.6 mm for 12 month olds, 42.5 mm for 24 month olds and 53.2 cm for 36 month olds. Males grow more rapidly than females and are significantly larger than females by the time the reach adulthood. The average size of a year-one male or female is about 30 mm in total length. Males in their second year are about 47 mm total length compared to females which average 42 mm in length. At the end of year three, most males are about 69 mm long, and most females are around 47 mm long. Coloration may vary throughout its geographic range; however, most specimens have orangish heads and reddish-orange fins. The body is silver with a dark midline that ranges in color from grey-blue to black. (Hatch, 2002; Minckley and Cross, 1959; Pflieger, 1971)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range length
    7.6 (high) cm
    2.99 (high) in
  • Average length
    4.5 cm
    1.77 in


Spawning season of wild Topeka shiners begins when water temperature reach 22°C. Captive populations begin spawning at temperatures ranging from 21.1°C. to 25.6°C. Evidence suggests an incubation period of 5 days at 22.2°C. Feeding begins soon after hatching and includes brine shrimp larvae. There is no further information available regarding development in Topeka shiners. (Katula, 1998)


Topeka shiners spawn from late May through July in Kansas and Missouri. Despite the more northern population distribution, studies of seasonal ovarian development have shown spawning seasons from early June to mid-August. Spawning begins when water temperatures reach 22°C. Topeka shiners spawn in pools over gravel and rubble substrates alongside green sunfish and orangespotted sunfish. Topeka shiners defend small territories, less than 0.25 m^2, near sunfish nests. Males defend their nests from both male and female intrusion, and only the most persistent females are able to lay their eggs in the males nest. (Dahle, 2001; Hatch, 2001; Katula, 1998; Kerns, 1983; Pflieger, 1971)

Most male and female Topeka shiners reach maturation by about 12 to 14 months of age, but the determining factor is likely size rather than age. Evidence suggests that males smaller than 47 mm in length and females less than 37 mm length are unable to spawn. Topeka shiners are multiple clutch spawners, meaning that they spawn more than once during each spawning season. This allows small fish with limited volume in their abdomen to produce a greater number of eggs during a season without having to overly decrease their per-capita egg size. Clutch size is significantly correlated with body size rather than age. Average clutch size was found to be 453 for all ages combined. Like other Notropis species, Topeka shiners live a maximum of 3 years, and mortality rates are high between age classes. One study showed 90%, 9.8%, and 0.2% mortality for age classes 0,1, and 2 respectively. (Cross, 1967; Dahle, 2001; Hatch, 2001; Hatch, 2002; Heins, 1990; Kerns, 1983; Pflieger, 1971)

  • Breeding interval
    Notropis topeka spawns once per year.
  • Breeding season
    Spawning in Notropis topeka occurs from mid-May to mid-August.
  • Range number of offspring
    351 to 559
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average time to hatching
    4 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    12 to 14 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    12 to 14 months

Parental care has not been documented in Topeka shiners apart from development and fertilization of eggs.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female


Like other Notropis species, the Topeka shiner lives for a maximum of 3 years. (Cross, 1967; Dahle, 2001; Kerns, 1983; Pflieger, 1971)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 (high) years


Topeka shiners are diurnal and highly territorial. There is no further information available regarding the general behavior of this species.

Home Range

There is no information available regarding the average home range size of Topeka shiners.

Communication and Perception

There is no information available regarding communication and perception in Topeka shiners. However, as a fish, Topeka shiners have a lateral line system that helps them detect changes in pressure and temperature in the local environment.

Food Habits

Topeka shiners are often classified as an insectivore, based mostly on anecdotal accounts. Some studies suggest that Topeka shiners are a benthic insectivore, while other studies have noted the consumption of plant matter. Gut content analysis indicates a highly omnivorous diet that includes many kinds of microcrustaceans, invertebrates, larval fish, algae, vascular plant matter including seed capusles, detritus, and many species of aquatic insect larvae. (Churchill and Over, 1933; Cross and Collins, 1995; Dahle, 2001; Hatch, 2002; Pflieger, 1971)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • insects
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts


Little is know of the major predators of Topeka shiners; however, largemouth bass are known to prey on this species. (Berry Jr., et al., 2004)

Ecosystem Roles

Topeka shiners help control insect pest species by preying on their aquatic larvae. As a detritivore, they may help break down decaying plant matter and provide accessible nutrients to the surrounding environment and community. Finally, this species is likely an important prey species for larger piscivorous fish throughout its geographic range. (Berry Jr., et al., 2004)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Topeka shiners may be used as feed for stock fish. (Berry Jr., et al., 2004)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Notropis topeka on humans.

Conservation Status

Topeka shiners were placed on the US Fish and Wildlife Service list of endangered species in January of 1999 due to an 80% reduction in its abundance. Decline of the species is due to loss of habitat caused by siltation, channelization, and predation by stock fish. Other factors that have contributed to its declining population include increased sedimentation and eutrophication of prairie streams resulting from the rapidly growing agricultural industry. Other agricultural influences on this species include intensive cultivation, tiling, grazing, and irrigation, which results in unstable water levels, loss of aquatic vegetation, elevated temperatures, and an increase in turbidity. Populations in southeastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota appear to be stable. However, maps of predicted species distribution could have a number of immediate implications on the conservation and management of this species throughout its geographic range. This species is classified as near-threatened on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species. (Berry Jr., et al., 2004; Dahle, 2001; Hatch, 2002)


Jessica Sellner (author), Minnesota State University, Mankato, Robert Sorensen (editor), Minnesota State University, Mankato, John Berini (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff, Catherine Kent (editor), Special Projects.



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.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

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 substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


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.


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.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


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


having more than one female as a mate at one time

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


offspring are all produced in a single group (litter, clutch, etc.), after which the parent usually dies. Semelparous organisms often only live through a single season/year (or other periodic change in conditions) but may live for many seasons. In both cases reproduction occurs as a single investment of energy in offspring, with no future chance for investment in reproduction.


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


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).


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


Berry Jr., C., C. Blausey, J. Jenks, C. Kopplin, S. Wall. 2004. Fish-habitat modeling for gap analysis to conserve the endangered Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka). Canadian Journal of Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences, 61(6): 954-973.

Churchill, E., W. Over. 1933. Fishes of South Dakota. The South Dakota Department of Fish and Game: 87pp.

Cross, F. 1967. Handbook of fishes of Kansas. Miscellaneous Publications of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, 45: 1-357.

Cross, F., J. Collins. 1995. Fishes in Kansas. University of Kansas Natural History Museum, Educational Series, 3: 315pp.

Dahle, S. 2001. Studies of Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka) life history and distribution in Minnesota. M. S. Thesis, University of Minnesota, St. Paul.

Elsen, D. 1977. Distribution of fishes in the James River in North Dakota and South Dakota prior to Garrison and Oahe Diversion Projects. M. S. Thesis, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks: 86pp.

Evermann, B., U. Cox. 1896. A report upon the fishes of the Missouri River basin. Report of United States Commision of Fish and Fisheries, 1894: 325-429.

Hatch, J. 2002. Topeka shiner (Notropis topeka). Fishes of Minnesota.

Hatch, J. 2001. What we know about Minnesota's first endangered fish species: the Topeka shiner. Journal of the Minnesota Academy of Science, 65(1): 39-46.

Heins, D. 1990. Field evidence for multiple clutches in the longnose shiner. Copeia, 1990: 579-582.

Katula, R. 1998. Eureka Topeka! (Shiners, that is). Tropical Fish Hobbyist.

Kerns, H. 1983. Aspects of the life history of the Topeka shiner, Notropis topeka (Gilbert), in Kansas. unpublished manuscript.

Michl, G., E. Peters. 1993. New distribution record of the Topeka shiner in Loup Drainage basin in Nebraska. Prairie Naturalist, 25: 51-54.

Minckley, W., F. Cross. 1959. Distribution, habitat, and abundance of the Topeka shiner Notropis topeka (Gilbert) in Kansas. American Midland Naturalist, 61: 210-217.

Pflieger, W. 1971. A distributional study of Missouri fishes. Museum of Natural History, 20: 225-570.

Robins, C. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. Am. Fish. Soc. Spec. Pub., 20: 183.