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Emerald shiner

Emerald shiner


emerald green back with a distinctive silver lateral band and a white belly, mouth is large, terminal and oblique, elliptical body shape and slab-sided


Emerald shiner Distribution

large interior streams and border rivers in Iowa, rare in smaller streams


algae, zooplankton

State Record

3 1/2 inches

Expert Tip


The emerald shiner is an inhabitant of large interior streams and Great Border Rivers in Iowa, where it is abundant. Distribution is widespread, but it is most prevalent in the Cedar, Des Moines, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers. Smaller streams have emerald shiner populations, but they are usually rare in fish collections. It has been introduced as a forage fish into Rathbun Reservoir.

Emerald shiner has an elliptical body shape and they are slab-sided. They appear fragile and delicate, but in truth it is a hardy minnow. Their mouth is large, terminal, oblique, and has no barbel. The transparent dorsal fin contains 8 rays, and it is located distinctly behind the insertion of the pelvic fins. The anal fin contains from 10 to 12 rays, and the pectoral fins contain from 13 to 17 rays. Hooked pharyngeal teeth on strong arches are arranged in a 2, 4-4, 2 pattern. Body color consists of an emerald green back, a distinct silver lateral band, and a white belly. A complete lateral line has from 35 to 41 scales.

This cyprinid inhabits the mid-depth to surface waters of the main channel and chutes in large streams, where they often are found in large schools. Spawning occurs from late May to mid-July. Young fish feed exclusively on algae. Adults may reach up to 3 l/2 inches in length and forage on terrestrial and aquatic insects at the surface.

The plains shiner (Notropis percobromus) was recently incorporated into the emerald shiner species designation.


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
Upper Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque near Swiss Valley Nature Center, just off Swiss Valley Road 2.10
Bear Creek Fayette Located 6 miles southeast of Fayette off of Kornhill Road or CR C24. Access from 128th Street. 1.20
Spring Creek Mitchell Located on the west edge of Orchard. 0.80
Lower Swiss Valley Creek Dubuque Located 3 miles south of Dubuque in Swiss Valley Park just off Swiss Valley Road 0.80