Golden Shiner

Notemigonus crysoleucas

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Ltshears / Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons / Original

One of the most popular bait fish in the US.


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Golden Shiner Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Cypriniformes
Family
Cyprinidae
Genus
Notemigonus
Scientific Name
Notemigonus crysoleucas

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Golden Shiner Conservation Status

Golden Shiner Locations

Golden Shiner Locations

Golden Shiner Facts

Prey
Insects, crustaceans
Name Of Young
Fry
Group Behavior
  • School
Fun Fact
One of the most popular bait fish in the US.
Biggest Threat
Predators
Most Distinctive Feature
Golden scales
Distinctive Feature
Scaleless, fleshy keel on belly
Average Spawn Size
200,000
Habitat
Ponds, lakes, ditches
Predators
Crappie, bluegill, bass, trout
Diet
Omnivore
Lifestyle
  • Crepuscular
Location
North America
Nesting Location
Vegetation, algae, brood parasite

Golden Shiner Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Yellow
  • White
  • Gold
  • Silver
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
Up to 8 years
Weight
1 lb
Length
Up to 12 inches
Age of Sexual Maturity
1 to 3 years
Venomous
No
Aggression
Low

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The golden shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) is a member of the Old World true minnow family Leuciscinae. You can find golden shiners throughout eastern North America, including the United States and Canada. Anglers often used golden shiners as bait fish to catch larger fish, including largemouth bass, crappie, and walleye. Thanks to their shiny golden scales, they are also frequently introduced into public and private ponds. Keep reading to learn all about the golden shiner. 

5 Golden Shiner Facts

  • You can often find golden shiners living in large groups that will traverse large distances together.
  • Golden shiners contain a special chemical in their skin cells that – when released – alerts other nearby shiners of potential danger. 
  • You can teach golden shiners to associate food with certain parts of their environment at certain times of the day. 
  • Golden shiners are very heat tolerant and capable of tolerating temperatures up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • In addition to feeding using sight cues, golden shiners filter feed when in the presence of high zooplankton densities. 

Golden Shiner Classification and Scientific Name

The golden shiner belongs to the carp and minnow family Cyprinidae. The word Cyprinidae derives from the Greek word kyprinos, meaning “carp,” and the Latin ending -idae, meaning “resemblance” or “appearance.” It is a member of the Old World “true minnow” subfamily Leuciscinae. As the name implies, most species in Leuciscinae live or originated in Eurasia, hence their other common name, European minnows. The golden shiner is the exception to this rule, representing the only true minnow outside Eurasia. 

The golden shiner belongs to the genus Notemigonus, of which it is the sole member. Its genus name derives from the Greek words noton, meaning “back,” and gonia, meaning “angled.” This name refers to the noticeable downward curve of the back between the front and rear of the dorsal fin. The golden shiner’s specific name, crysoleucas, stems from the Greek words cryso, meaning “gold,” and leucas, meaning “white.” Like its genus name, the golden shiner’s specific name refers to its physical appearance. In this case, it refers to the golden color frequently seen on the sides of larger specimens and the white color on the belly. 

Similarly, the golden shiner’s common name refers to its typical golden hue. The name “shiner” refers to several small cyprinid and perch fish found in North America, including eastern shiners, redside shiners, and flagfin shiners. Most shiners appear partially silver, which is true of smaller or juvenile golden shiners. In the French-speaking parts of Quebec, Canada, the golden shiner is named “Mene jaune” or “Chatte de l’Est.” Mene jaune translates roughly to “led (me to) yellow,” while Chatte de l’Est roughly means “cat of the East” or “eastern cat.” 

Golden Shiner Appearance

On average, most golden shiners measure between 3 and 5 inches long. That said, especially large individuals can grow up to 12 under certain conditions. Golden shiners possess deep bodies and feature a noticeable downward curve to the lateral line along the back. They possess small, upturned mouths and large scales. The back appears olive or dark green, while the belly appears white. Additionally, the belly sports a fleshy keel between the anal and pelvic fins that lack scales. It is the only minnow known to feature such a keel. Juvenile or smaller golden shiners typically have silvery sides, while larger specimens have golden sides, hence their name. The dorsal fin always contains 8 rays, while the anal fin can feature anywhere from 8 to 19 rays. 

Golden Shiner Distribution, Population, and Habitat

The golden shiner is the only Old World true minnow in the family Leuciscinae found outside of Eurasia. Its native range stretches throughout the eastern half of North America. You can find it as far north as the St Lawrence River and the Great Lakes region and as far south as Florida. Its native range extends from the eastern coast of Canada and the United States to central Texas and the western parts of the Dakotas. Due to its popularity as a bait fish has also been introduced into many ponds and waterways outside its native range. While relatively rare in the western half of North America, established populations exist in California, Arizona, Montana, and Colorado

Golden shiners tend to live in quiet, slow-moving waters. As a result, you can usually find them in lakes, ponds, ditches, or sloughs. However, they may also inhabit some slow-moving rivers or streams. They like areas with plenty of weeds and other vegetation that grant them access to food and cover from predators. Golden shiners can tolerate water conditions that would kill or significantly impact other fish. They possess amazing tolerance to heat, pollution, low oxygen, and turbidity. 

Golden Shiner Predators and Prey

Numerous larger fish and other animals prey on golden shiners. Common golden shiner predators include bass, trout, crappie, walleye, pike, catfish, and yellow perch. Large birds such as herons, egrets, and kingfishers also feed on golden shiners. In certain environments, mammals like mink and otters will also prey on golden shiners. When attacked and bitten by a predator, golden shiners release a special chemical from their skin cells called schreckstoff. Nearby golden shiners can detect this chemical and – upon its detection – will quickly vacate the area. 

Golden shiners are crepuscular omnivores that feed mostly around dawn and dusk. Their diet consists primarily of plankton, including phytoplankton and zooplankton. However, they will also readily eat insects, small crustaceans, algae, and other aquatic vegetation. You can find golden shiners feeding throughout the water column, including the surface, bottom, and near mid-water. They find food using both visual cues and filter feeding. Golden shiners move in shoals to find food. Remarkably, the shoal often follows the movements of the fish near the front of the group. These individuals tend to measure smaller than fish in the middle or back of the shoal. Experts believe that smaller fish may possess a greater motivation to find food. The larger fish then follow the visual cues of the smaller fish to find food. 

Golden Shiner Reproduction and Lifespan

In the southern part of their range, golden shiners reach sexual maturity at a young age. In warmer waters, they frequently start to reproduce at around 1 year old. Meanwhile, golden shiners that live in cold waters further north don’t reach sexual maturity until around 3 years old. Regardless, spawning normally occurs in spring when water temperatures reach an optimal range. This range varies but usually falls within the range of 70-to-80-degrees Fahrenheit. 

Unlike some fish, golden shiners do not build their own nests and show no parental care. Instead, female golden shiners normally scatter their eggs over vegetation or algae. Sometimes, females may lay their eggs in the nests of larger fish, such as largemouth bass. Known as brood parasitism, this tactic likely aids both the golden shiner and host fish, reducing the likelihood of the host’s eggs being eaten when predators raid the nest. A single golden shiner female can lay up to 200,000 eggs at a time. 

Most golden shiners live between 3 and 6 years in the wild. However, captive golden shiners that receive adequate food and care can live up to 8 years. 

Golden Shiner in Food and Cooking

Due to their small size and status as bait fish, people rarely, if ever, eat golden shiners. Still, they are edible, and people can and do sometimes cook them. In terms of taste, larger specimens taste similar to – if slightly stronger than – bluegill. They have a lot of bones, but the bones are quite large, making them easy to eat. The meat appears quite white when cooked and rather flaky. If you enjoy eating freshwater fish, you may enjoy the taste of golden shiner. That said, most anglers agree that golden shiners don’t rank as the best-tasting fish in the world.   

Golden Shiner Population

Thanks to its popularity as a game fish and its shiny appearance, golden shiners have been introduced into numerous ponds and lakes throughout North America. In fact, it likely ranks as the most popular pond-cultured fish in the United States. Even before its rise in popularity, golden shiners enjoyed widespread distribution. They live in large shoals and can quickly expand their population due to the high fecundity of the females. As a result, the IUCN lists the golden shiner as a species of Least Concern

Golden Shiner FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are golden shiners carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

Golden shiners are omnivores that feed on various plankton, including zooplankton and phytoplankton. They also feed on plants, algae, insects, and small crustaceans. 

How big are golden shiners?

Most wild golden shiners measure between 3 and 5 inches long. However, they can grow up to 12 inches long in captivity. 

How many eggs do golden shiners lay?

A female golden shiner can lay up to 200,000 eggs. They sometimes lay their eggs in the nests of other, larger fish, such as bass or bowfin. 

What fish can you catch with golden shiners?

Anglers often use golden shiners as bait fish to catch larger, predatory fish. Fish commonly caught with golden shiners include crappie, walleye, and largemouth bass. 

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Golden Shiner FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are golden shiners carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

Golden shiners are omnivores that feed on various plankton, including zooplankton and phytoplankton. They also feed on plants, algae, insects, and small crustaceans. 

How big are golden shiners?

Most wild golden shiners measure between 3 and 5 inches long. However, they can grow up to 12 inches long in captivity. 

How many eggs do golden shiners lay?

A female golden shiner can lay up to 200,000 eggs. They sometimes lay their eggs in the nests of other, larger fish, such as bass or bowfin. 

What fish can you catch with golden shiners?

Anglers often use golden shiners as bait fish to catch larger, predatory fish. Fish commonly caught with golden shiners include crappie, walleye, and largemouth bass. 

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Sources

  1. Texas Parks and Wildlife / Accessed March 29, 2023
  2. U.S. Geological Survey / Accessed March 29, 2023
  3. World Aquaculture Society / Accessed March 29, 2023
  4. Missouri Department of Conservation / Accessed March 29, 2023
  5. Iowa Department of Natural Resources / Accessed March 29, 2023