Hornyhead chub
Nocomis biguttatus (Kirtland, 1840)

member of the Minnow Family (Cyprinidae)

photo by Konrad Schmidt












What's In a Name?
Hornyhead chub: taken from the horn-like bumps (called tubercles) that develop on the heads of breeding males

Nocomis (no-koe´-miss) Native American name applied by Girard to this species
biguttatus (bee-gut-tah´-tuss) means "two-spotted" in Latin


    Where Do They Live?
Hornyhead chubs occur in all the drainages of Minnesota, but are somewhat more common in the central and south-central portion of the state. This species lives primarily in small to medium-sized streams in reaches with bottoms of sand, gravel, and boulders. They do not require clear water, but their numbers decrease as turbidity (cloudiness) increases. They are not found in lakes or large rivers. Hornyhead chubs often share their habitat with common shiners, bluntnose minnows, creek chubs, bigmouth shiners, stonerollers, white suckers, and shorthead redhorse.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
The hornyhead chub is one of the "Big Three" native Minnesota minnows (the other two are the creek chub and the common shiner). It can reach up to 300 mm (12 in) and commonly gets to 200-254 mm (about 8-10 in). Males are bigger than females. This species typically lives for 3-4 years.

    What Do They Eat?
Hornyhead chubs are sight-feeders and are omnivorous (they consume both plant and animal items). The young eat mostly waterfleas and other small-crustaceans, small insect larvae (like midges) and some algae. The adults include a lot more plant matter and algae along with larger aquatic insects, crayfish, snails, and small fish.

What Eats Them?
As far as we know, no one has studied predation of this fish. Others have suggested northern pike, rock bass, and smallmouth bass eat them. Humans do not usually consume this species (even though it is tasty when fried), but it is frequently used as bait.


How Do They Reproduce?
Hornyhead chubs begin spawning in late May in southern Minnesota and late June in the north. Hornyhead chubs are a mound-building species. The male locates an area of gravel in moderate current and digs a pit. He then fills in the pit with gravel, transporting the pebbles with his mouth. He continues until he has created a mound up to 1 m (a little over 3 ft) in diameter and 20 cm (about 8 in) high. The male makes pits or troughs in the mound, the female lays her eggs here, and the male covers the fertilized eggs with gravel. The female leaves the nest to spawn again with another partner. There is no parental care. We are not sure how many eggs females lay at one time or how often they spawn. Some authorities report 450-750 eggs present in females about 90 mm long. The eggs hatch in about 7-10 days. We don't know much else about the early life history of this species.


Conservation and Management
Hornyhead chubs are fairly common in Minnesota and have no special conservation status. It is an important baitfish and is harvested by commercial dealers and individual anglers.




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