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Banded Killifish

Banded Killifish, illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


A slender-bodied and laterally compressed topminnow. The snout is bluntly pointed, and the mouth is small, slanted and opens dorsally. It has a projecting lower jaw with very small teeth in bands on both jaws. The dorsal fin is far posterior on the back, originating in front of the anal fin, and has 10 to 13 rays. The anal fin has 9 to ll rays, pelvic fin 6 rays, and the caudal fin is rounded. A lateral line is absent, and there are 39 to 43 cycloid scales in the lateral series. The body is light olive on the back and sides and yellow-white below. There are usually 12 to 20 narrow vertical bars on the body. Adults average 2 or more inches long.


Banded Killifish Distribution

The Banded Killifish has been collected from several natural lakes in the Okoboji region of the Little Sioux River drainage (Dickinson County) and has been documented from the Missouri River. It is not common anywhere in its range in Iowa.


Aquatic and terrestrial insects, planktonic crustacea, plant seeds, and fine algae material.

State Record

State Records are not documented for non-game species.

Expert Tip



The Banded Killifish usually schools in groups of few to many, cruising just below the surface of weedy lakes. Its preferred habitat is the shallow waters of glacial lakes and ponds with lots of aquatic vegetation. Over much of its range, the Banded Killifish also lives in quiet backwaters at the mouth of streams and vegetated pools or sections of slow current in medium- to large-sized streams. It avoids the swift cold water of trout streams.

Spawning occurs in late spring and early summer. The male courts, then selects a female. Eggs are released in clusters, fertilized and quickly develop a filament that sticks to the aquatic vegetation.

Recent stream sampling has not resulted in the discovery of any individual Banded Killifish, however, this species is more common in lakes and wetlands than streams. Complete stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.

Like the other topminnow species in Iowa, these fish have no importance to anglers. It is viewed as imperiled according to the Iowa Wildlife Action Plan, but it is not on Iowa's endangered, threatened, or special concern species list (571 IAC 77.2(2) (2015)).

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


Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.

Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Wildlife Action Plan

Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames.

Illustration by Maynard Reece, from Iowa Fish and Fishing.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Spirit Lake Dickinson One mile North of Spirit Lake 5684.00
West Okoboji Lake Dickinson northwest edge of Arnolds Park 3847.00
East Okoboji Lake Dickinson east edge of Okoboji 1835.00
Rock River Sioux 55.00