Carpiodes cyprinus (Lesueur, 1817)

member of the Sucker Family (Catostmidae)

photo by Konrad Schmidt












What's In a Name?
Quillback: refers to the long, quill-like first ray on the dorsal fin (the fin on its back)

Carpiode (car-pee-oh´-deez) means "carp-like" in Latin
cyprinus (sigh-prin´-us) named after the genus of carp; refers to the island of Cyprus where the Romans first encountered carp


    Where Do They Live?
The quillback is most common in rivers and their connected lakes in the southern half of Minnesota. It occurs less frequently in the northern drainages, but us absent from the upper Mississippi River and Lake Superior drainages. This species normally occurs in the more quiet waters of medium to low gradient, rivers including their sloughs and flood plain lakes.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
The quillback is our largest carpsucker and can reach 200 mm (20 in) and 2.7 kg (6 lbs). They live for about 10 years, although we know of specimens from Wisconsin as old as 12 years.

    What Do They Eat?
Quillbacks are vacuum cleaners of the stream where the bottom is soft. So, they consume all kinds of bottom detritus (decaying matter), plant matter, and insect larvae, especially midge larvae. They probably consume as much dead matter as living matter. Larval quillbacks begin life eating waterfleas and other small plankton (floating microscopic plants and animals) from the water column.

What Eats Them?
Young quillbacks undoubtedly are eaten by piscivorous (fish-eating) fishes, but predation on them has not been reported. Small quillbacks often associate with sand and mudflats in larger rivers. So, they are probably preyed upon by herons and eagles. The number of quillbacks taken by humans is very small.


How Do They Reproduce?
We know very little about the spawning times or habitats of quillback in Minnesota. Based on the occurrence of young-of-the-year, we suspect that they spawn fairly late for a sucker species, perhaps in May and June. Ripe males and females have been observed in Ohio streams as late as September, but we have no evidence of such late spawning in Minnesota. According to observations in other states, quillback ascend small streams to spawn over sand and mudflats in slow-moving water. They probably broadcast their eggs over the spawning area and abandon them immediately after spawning. Fully developed juveniles (young-of-the-year) begin to appear in June at about 25 mm (1 in) long.


Conservation and Management
Quillbacks have no special conservation status in Minnesota. They are not abundant in Minnesota but are more common then our other two carpsuckers species. In more southern midwestern states, the quillback is a commercial species of modest value.




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