Topeka shiner
Notropis topeka (Gilbert, 1884)

member of the Minnow Family (Cyprinidae)

Mound Creek, Rock County, Minnesota June 2002












What's In a Name?
Topeka shiner: named for the city near the stream where it was discovered

Notropis (No-troe'-piss) means "back keel" in Greek, referring to the keel shape of the back of a dried out specimen used to describe this genus
topeka (toe- peak'-ah) named for the city near the stream where it was discovered


    Where Do They Live?
In Minnesota, Topeka shiners occur only in streams of the Missouri River drainage in the southwestern corner of the state. They inhabit the Rock River and many of its tributaries, as well as many of the streams that flow into Big Sioux drainage of South Dakota. These low-gradient, slow-moving streams are naturally winding, with bottoms made of sand, gravel, or rubble usually covered by a deep layer of silt. We have recently discovered that Topeka shiners prefer pool-like areas that are outside the main channel courses. These pools are in contact with groundwater and usually contain vegetation and areas of exposed gravel. Topeka shiners almost always are found with sand shiners, orange-spotted or green sunfish, fathead minnows, white suckers, and black bullheads.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
Topeka shiner size varies considerably by sex and location. The largest males reach 70-74 mm (2.8-3 in) and a little over 5 g (0.18 oz). The largest females reach 60-64 mm (2.4-2.6 in) and a little over 3 g (0.11 oz). They typically reach about 2 years in age, but a few live as long as 3 years.

    What Do They Eat?
Topeka shiners are omnivorous (eat plant and animal matter) opportunists (they eat what's available). We have found over 25 different food groups in their stomachs in Minnesota. These groups include 9 orders of insects, 5 kinds of waterfleas, snails, fingernail clams, water mites, worms, freshwater sponge, moss animals, sideswimmers, algae, plant stems and seeds, and fish larvae. If it is not too big, they eat it!

What Eats Them?
Topeka shiners could be eaten by larger creek chubs, black bullheads, yellow perch, and the occasional northern pike. However, we have found their remains in only a few stomachs out of 100s that we examined. However, in Kansas and Missouri, largemouth bass that have been stocked in ponds are a major predator and may be partly responsible for their decline in those states.


How Do They Reproduce?
Most Topeka shiners mature sometime during the spring or summer of their second year (at 11-13 months of age). Their spawning season lasts for 8-10 weeks starting in mid-May to early June when water temperature reaches 22° C (71.6° F). They do not build their own nest, but share a nest with orange-spotted or green sunfish. Males establish small territories around the nest and aggressively defend it from all other Topeka shiners. Female may enter a territory only to be chased out repeatedly. If she is persistent she will finally he accepted by the male. The two spawn head to head above the nest. The female releases only a few eggs during each brief spawning episode. Topeka females produce clutches of eggs (groups of eggs that become ready for spawning at about the same time). A single clutch varies from 150-800 eggs depending on the size and condition of the female. We do not know how many clutches a female produces in a season, but we suspect it is several. At 22° C it takes about 5 days for the eggs to hatch and another 4 days before the larvae begin to feed.


Conservation and Management
Minnesota populations of Topeka shiners seem to be doing well and have been designated as "special concern" because of their limited distribution in the state. Elsewhere the species is doing very poorly. On January 14, 1999, the Topeka shiner was designated an endangered species by the Federal government. Thus, it became Minnesota's first endangered fish species.

"Cool Fact": Minnesota has more Topeka shiners than other state, maybe more than all other states combined.

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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