Finescale Dace
Phoxinus neogaeus Cope, 1869

member of the Minnow Family (Cyprinidae)

Colonial (Valley) Creek, Dakota County, Minnesota 4 April 1998













What's In a Name?
Finescale: refers to the tiny scales on this fish.

Phoxinus (fox-ee´-nus) comes from a Greek name for a fish
neogaeus (ney-o´-jay-us) comes from a Greek word meaning "new world"


    Where Do They Live?
This shy fish lives in small boggy ponds and slow-moving creeks in much of the northern half of Minnesota. They are especially fond of beaver ponds, where you can find them hiding among the brush and sunken logs. Most likely you will find these beautiful little minnows living with northern redbelly dace, fathead minnows, central mudminnows, and brook sticklebacks.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
Finescale dace females grow larger and live longer than males. The largest female measured in Minnesota was 85 mm long and 6 years old. The largest male was 68 mm long and 5 years old. It's rare for finescales to live that long or to grow that big. Lengths of 60-70 mm and ages of 3-4 years are more typical.

    What Do They Eat?
Finescale dace mostly eat small invertebrates, like aquatic insects and fingernail clams, but they also eat some algae. Young finescales eat tiny waterfleas, copepods and very small aquatic insects.

What Eats Them?
Normally, we don't find game fish where we find finescale dace, but when brook trout are present they eat finescales. Large central mudminnows are also known to eat young finescales. In bog waters their chief predators are predacious diving beetles and giant water bugs. They may also be eaten by kingfishers, otters and mink.

Humans do not eat finescale dace, but they do use them as a bait minnow!


How Do They Reproduce?
Finescales begin to breed when stream warm beyond 15°C, usually in April and May in northern Minnesota.

Large schools of bright red and yellow males and more modest females gather around dinner plate sized depressions under submerged logs and brush. When two adults are ready to spawn, they dart into the depression. The female lays 20-30 eggs while a single male fertilizes them. The eggs sink to the bottom and receive no care from either parent. The whole things takes 15-30 seconds.

Females spawn repeatedly over several days and may lay 500-3000 eggs depending on how big and how healthy they are.


Conservation and Management
Finescale dace have no special conservation status in Minnesota. They are hardy minnows and do well in school and home aquariums. They also have a limited use as a bait minnow in Canada, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.




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