Brook silverside
Labidesthes sicculus (Cope, 1865)

member of the Silverside Family (Atherinidae)

Mississippi River, Houston County, Minnesota 24 October 1984

photo by Konrad P. Schmidt














What's In a Name?
Brook silverside: named for the silver band on its side

Labidesthes (lah-beed´-ess-theez) a word meaning forceps (a dissection tool) in Greek, most likely referring to the jaws.
sicculus (sick´-you-lus) taken from siccus, meaning "dried" in Latin



Where Do They Live?
Brook silversides are found in many lakes of central Minnesota and in the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. They live near the surface and prefer still or slow-moving water that is clear to slightly turbid (cloudy). In large rivers, they typically occur in sloughs, pools, and backwaters but not where weeds are thick.

"Cool Fact": Brook silversides are known for leaping out of the water over and over again-especially on moonlit nights.



How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
Brook silversides are small, almost see-through fish that typically grow to about 80 mm (3.2 in) long and weigh 2-2.5 g (0.07-0.08 oz). Whoppers sometimes reach 100 mm (4 in). This little fish usually lives for only 15-27 months. It dies shortly after spawning.

    What Do They Eat?
Brook silversides eat mostly copepods, waterfleas, and a variety of terrestrial (land) and aquatic (water) insects. They also include small invertebrates, like water mites and spiders, along with algae in their diet. Often brook silversides can be seen leaping out of the water to catch flying insects that are near the water's surface.

What Eats Them?
While in shallow waters the brook silversides are commonly eaten by many predators such as, bowfin, smallmouth and largemouth bass, green sunfish, yellow perch, northern pike, bluegill, and rock bass. They also are eaten by fish-eating birds, including terns, mergansers, and kingfishers. Snapping turtles, crayfish, mudpuppies, water snakes, and minks also have been known to eat brook silversides.


How Do They Reproduce?
Brook silversides mature at 1 year old. The spawning season starts in May and continues into July here in Minnesota. Males school near the surface of the water and pursue the females as they dart quickly among the males. Sometimes the females leap out of the water. When a female slows down, the nearest male swims along side, and the pair swims toward the bottom. While doing this, the female releases eggs as the male releases sperm. The eggs drift until a sticky, string-like part attaches to something such as vegetation or the bottom. There is no nest built nor any parental care for the eggs and newly hatched young. Females produce clutches (groups of eggs that become ready for spawning at the same time) which contain 400-800 eggs. No one knows how many clutches a female produces in a season. Most adults die shortly after spawning.


Conservation and Management
Brook silversides have no special conservation status in Minnesota. They probably are important forage fish for sportfish in some lakes but are rarely used for bait because they do not live well in a minnow bucket.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002