Southern Redbelly Dace

Southern Redbelly Dace


One of the most beautiful fish in Iowa. Its body is elongate and almost cylindrical. There are two distinguishing characteristics which set it apart from the other minnows. The scales are minute, almost requiring magnification to be seen. The coloration is unique. A cream-colored lateral band is layered between dark bands on the sides. The top dark band starts at the edge of the opercle and turns into a series of spots on the caudal peduncle. The lower band circles the snout and ends in the basicaudal rays of the tail. There are black dots along the back before the dorsal fin, and the mid-dorsal stripe may also look like a series of dots. Males have carmine splotches on the chest, chin, belly, and on the base of the dorsal fin, and their fins are bright yellow. Females vary from plain to washed with pink. The snout is blunt with a terminal mouth, in which the upper jaw slightly extends past the lower jaw. Presence of a barbel is unusual, but at least one population has been found which has barbels on each side of the jaw. There are 65 to 90 scales along the incomplete lateral line. The pharyngeal formula is 5, 5, and the teeth are slender with slight hooks, and occasionally a pattern of 5, 4 may be present. The dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins have 8 rays, and the pectorals have 14 or 15. The intestine is long, with two coils and a loop with a black peritoneum.


Southern Redbelly Dace Distribution

Throughout the upper portions of the Winnebago, Shellrock, Wapsipinicon, Turkey, Maquoketa, and Misssissippi Rivers in northeast Iowa. Scattered populations in northwest, central, and east-central streams.


plant material and bottom slime

State Record

3 inches

Expert Tip

These minnows are difficult to keep in an aquarium, but the effort is rewarded by the dazzling color display.


The Southern Redbelly Dace lives in the clean, cool headwaters of small streams. It is a secretive fish seeking escape cover under overhanging banks or other structures. Permanent spring flows provide micro-habitat for the scattered populations away from northeast Iowa.

Spawning of southern redbelly dace occurs from May through July over silt-free, gravel bottomed riffles. The nests of other stream minnows may be used for egg deposition. Spawning takes place in schools with 2 males usually accompanying a female. Egg production varies from 200 to over 6,000 eggs. Adults may reach 3-inches long. 

The Southern Redbelly Dace was originally listed in the genus Chrosomus, but it is currently in the genus Phoxinus, which links the native genus to the old world genus of the same name.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.

Present in these Iowa water bodies:
Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Paint Creek Allamakee Located in Yellow River State Forest, 3 miles west of Harpers Ferry off of State Forest Road or CR B25. 11.00
Maquoketa River (trout portion) Clayton The Upper Maquoketa River from Joy Springs downstream to Backbone Lake contains trout year-round. The area 3 miles southwest of Strawberry Point off 400th is stocked with catchable fish. 8.00
Bloody Run Creek Clayton Located 2 miles west of Marquette off of Highway 18. 6.50
Otter Creek Fayette Located 3 miles southeast of West Union. 2.50
Wapsi River Trout Section Mitchell Located 0.5 mile west of McIntire. 2.50
Upper Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque near Swiss Valley Nature Center, just off Swiss Valley Road 2.10
Brush Creek Jackson Located 2 miles northeast of Andrew just south of 261st street. 1.90
White Pine Hollow Dubuque This fishery is located primarily within White Pine Hollow State preserve, about 2 miles northwest of Luxemburg. Access to this fishery is difficult. A small parking area is available on the east side of the preserve. Best fishing is on the west side. 1.80
Richmond Springs Delaware 3 miles south of Strawberry Point. Located entirely within Backbone State Park. Closest to north park gate access. 1.40
Hewett and Ensign Creeks (Ensign Hollow) Clayton Located on Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area about 5 miles north of Strawberry Point. Access is provided on the north side of 322nd street. 1.30
Little Turkey River Delaware 3 miles east of Colesburg in Hoffman Wildlife Managment Area off Hubbard Road 1.20
Tete des Morts River Jackson Located near St. Donatus. T87N, R3E, S4 1.10
Turner Creek Fayette Located near St. Lucas and empties into the Turkey River. 1.09
Twin Bridges Delaware Just south of Highway 3 about 5.5 miles west of Colesburg in Twin Bridges County Park 0.90
Lower Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque in Swiss Valley Park just off Swiss Valley Road 0.80
Joy Springs Clayton South on Alpha Ave, off Highway 3 about 3 miles west of Strawberry Point in Joy Springs County Park. 0.80
Miners Creek Clayton Stream is located west of Guttenberg. T92N, R2W, S7, 18 and T29N, R3W, S12 0.80
Baileys Ford Delaware 3 miles southeast of Manchester - follow signage from Jefferson Road. 0.60
tributaries to Tete des Morts River Jackson Located near St. Donatus. T87N, R3E, S16, 17, 23 0.60
Bigalk Creek Howard Located 7 miles northeast of Cresco. 0.60
Mossy Glen Clayton 5 miles northwest of Edgewood at the termination of the Level B portion of Eagle Ave. Road damage from weather has made access to this site difficult for all vehicles. Not recommended for low-clearance or 2-wheel drives. 0.50
South Cedar Creek Clayton Located 2 miles south of Garnavillo and may be accessed from Jigsaw Road. 0.50
Bohemian Creek Winneshiek Located about 1.5 miles east of Protivin. 0.30
Monastery Creek Dubuque Monastery Creek can be accessed through the Dubuque County Swiss Valley Nature Preserve about 4 miles SW of Dubuque off of Swiss Valley Rd. 0.20