Common shiner
Luxilus cornutus (Mitchill, 1817)

member of the Minnow Family (Cyprinidae)

Spawning Males: Sand Hill River, Polk County, Minnesota 10 June 1993

photos by Konrad P. Schmidt













What's In a Name?
Common shiner: refers to its widespread distribution and abundance of "shinny" minnow

Notropis (No-trope´-iss) means "back keel" in Greek, referring to the keel shape of the back of a dried out specimen used to describe this genus
cornutus (cor-new´-tuss) means "horned" in Latin;, referring to the tubercles (little horns) on the heads of breeding males


    Where Do They Live?
Common shiners occur in all of the major drainages of Minnesota. They occur in lakes, rivers, and streams, but are the most common in streams and small rivers. In these streams, they frequent the downstream ends and riffles, pools, and beaver ponds. Water where they live may be turbid (cloudy) with bottoms of gravel, sand, and mud. They often are found with bluntnose minnows, mimic shiners, emerald shiners, spotfin shiners, and johnny darters.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
The common shiner is one of the "Big Three" native Minnesota minnows (the other two are creek chub and hornyhead chub). It can reach a length of 300 mm (12 in), but lengths of 75-125 mm (3-5 in) are more usual. Normally this fish lives for 4-6 years but there is a record of a 9-year-old (not in Minnesota).

    What Do They Eat?
The common shiner is an opportunistic omnivore, which means it eats pretty much whatever it comes across and includes both plant and animal items. In fact, common shiners eat about equal amounts of plant and animal matter. Their diet normally consists of a variety of aquatic insects (both the adults and larvae), filamentous algae, and other higher plant matter. Large common shiners also eat small fish.

What Eats Them?
Common shiners are preyed upon heavily by northern pike, muskies, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, larger yellow perch, and walleyes. Grebes, bald eagles, herons, and kingfishers also eat them. Humans do not normally eat them, but they do harvest them to use as bait.


How Do They Reproduce?
Common shiners begin spawning in late May in southern Minnesota and a week or two later in the north. Spawning can occur over a 4-6 week period in any one area. During and before this time, males change coloration and develop tubercles (breeding bumps) on their heads. Males build nests by piling up small pebbles and gravel at the heads of riffles. Sometimes they use the nests of creek chubs or hornyhead chubs instead of making their own. A male will chase all other male common shiners from its nest. When a female enters the nest the male moves to her side and they spawn shortly afterward. As soon as the female finishes, she darts out of the nest, which sometimes causes her to jump out of the water. The male also leaves the nest, so the eggs and young have no parental care. The average number of eggs a female spawns is about 3,000-4,000. The fertilized eggs drop to the bottom and adhere to the gravel.


Conservation and Management
As it name implies the common shiner is one of our most common minnows. Consequently, it has no special conservation status in Minnesota. Commercial bait dealers and individual anglers harvest it for bait, and it occasionally ends up on an angler's hook.




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