Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Notropis stramineus



Notropis stramineus


  • Last modified
  • 25 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Notropis stramineus
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Notropis stramineus, commonly known as the sand shiner, is a small minnow native to parts of the United States, Canada and Mexico. The species has been introduced and has subsequently established populations in...

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Adult Sand shiner, Notropis stramineus.
TitleAdult Sand shiner
CaptionAdult Sand shiner, Notropis stramineus.
CopyrightPublic Domain: Original artwork by Ellen Edmonson and Hugh Chrisp.
Adult Sand shiner, Notropis stramineus.
Adult Sand shinerAdult Sand shiner, Notropis stramineus.Public Domain: Original artwork by Ellen Edmonson and Hugh Chrisp.


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Notropis stramineus Cope, 1865

Other Scientific Names

  • Alburnus lineolatus Agassiz 1863
  • Cyprinella ludibunda Girard 1856
  • Hybognathus stramineus Cope 1865
  • Notropis ludibunda Girard 185

International Common Names

  • English: sand shiner

Local Common Names

  • Canada/Quebec: méné paille
  • Czech Republic: jelecek durhamský; jelecek písecný
  • Mexico: carpita arenera

Summary of Invasiveness

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Notropis stramineus, commonly known as the sand shiner, is a small minnow native to parts of the United States, Canada and Mexico. The species has been introduced and has subsequently established populations in a number of states in the USA, including Utah and Wyoming. It has been reported as a problem in the Yampa River and other parts of the Colorado River basin where it negatively interacts with native species (Whitmore, 1997). In particular, it has been recorded by the USFWS (2008) as impacting the nationally endangered woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus) and Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda).

The species has no federal or state listings but is a species of special concern in Arizona (Magana and Rinne, 2001; NatureServe, 2012).

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Cypriniformes
  •                         Family: Cyprinidae
  •                             Genus: Notropis
  •                                 Species: Notropis stramineus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Notropis ludibundus (Girard, 1856) has been used in some literature for the sand shiner, but the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature in 2002 gave the ruling to conserve the more commonly used name Notropis stramineus (Cope, 1865) (Poly, 2004). 

There are two subspecies of the sand shiner, the plains sand shiner (N. stramineus subsp. missuriensis) and the eastern sand shiner (N. stramineus subsp. stramineus).


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N. stramineus has a slender body, 8 dorsal rays, 7 anal rays and a complete lateral line of 35-38 scales. The pores are outlined above and below the pigment making distinguished ‘mouse tracks’ (Rook, 1999). The pharyngeal teeth count is 0,4-4,0. The mouth is subterminal and horizontal (Hassan-Williams and Bonner, 2012). The longest sand shiner to be recorded was approximately 8.2 cm but most are about 4.4 cm in length (Hugg, 1996). It has a light olive coloured body with silvery sides and a silver white underside. The prominent black mid-dorsal stripe widens to a wedge before the dorsal fin and extends towards the tail. An inconspicuous spot may be present at the end of the caudal peduncle (Rook, 1999).


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N. stramineus is native to much of North America and can be found in the ‘St. Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and Mississippi River basins from St. Lawrence River in Quebec to Saskatchewan, and south to Tennessee and Texas, USA; west to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, Trinity River to Rio Grande in Texas and New Mexico, and Mexico’ (USGS, 2012). The two subspecies of the sand shiner have slightly different distributions to one another; the plains sand shiner ‘inhabits the Great Plains and is present in all major drainages west and including the Missouri River, while the eastern sand shiner occupies the central lowlands, interior highlands and coastal plains and is present in eastern drainages of South Dakota’ (Hayer et al., 2006).

The sand shiner has been introduced to a number of areas in the USA, including Arizona, Colorado, New York, Utah and Wyoming, and is found throughout the Colorado River basin (USGS, 2012).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

North America

CanadaPresentNativeITIS, 2012East from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians, south from Saskatchewan and Manitoba
-ManitobaPresentUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008
-QuebecPresentNatureServe, 2012
-SaskatchewanPresentNatureServe, 2012
MexicoPresentNativeITIS, 2012
USAPresentITIS, 2012; NatureServe, 2012Native and introduced
-ArizonaPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedNatureServe, 2012
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedNatureServe, 2012Potentially introduced as bait fish
-IowaWidespreadIRIS, 2012One of the state's most abundant and widely distributed minnows
-New YorkPresentIntroducedNatureServe, 2012
-TexasPresentNatureServe, 2012
-UtahPresentIntroduced1982NatureServe, 2012
-WyomingPresentNatureServe, 2012Present in the Bighorn drainage, where it may have been introduced

History of Introduction and Spread

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The sand shiner has been introduced to many parts of the USA, mostly by accident or through fish bait releases. It was first introduced to the lower Colorado River in 1938 and was first collected in the upper Colorado basin in 1971, but is thought to have been present for a number of years before its collection. It was most probably introduced as bait to the upper Colorado basin, the Willard Bay Reservoir in Utah and possibly the Shawangunk Kill of New York (USGS, 2012). Although it may no longer be present in Arizona, the sand shiner was introduced by accident along with shipments of largemouth bass (M. salmoides) from New Mexico (Rinne, 1995).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Arizona New Mexico 1935-1938 Stocking (pathway cause) Unintentional stocking
Colorado North America Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes
Utah North America   Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes
Wyoming North America   Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes

Risk of Introduction

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Unintentional release into new areas of the USA is possible when the animal is used as bait or as a bioassay animal.


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The sand shiner inhabits freshwater and is benthopelagic. It is most commonly found in shallow, sandy pools of medium sized creeks and prefers little or no vegetation and moderate to slow moving currents (NatureServe, 2012). It can be found in small streams to large rivers and is most abundant in reasonably clear, flowing waters (Robison and Buchanan, 1988). However, it will also occupy sandy margins of lakes. It is rarely found in upland areas (Mueller and Pyron, 2010).  

Although it only occupies habitats with low to moderate turbidity, it is slightly more tolerant of cloudy waters than some similar species, such as the mimic shiner N. volucellus (ODNR, 2012).

Habitat List

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Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Arkhipchuk (1999) reported that the haploid (n) and diploid (2n) chromosome numbers for N. stramineus in the USA were n = 25 and 2n = 50-50 (Froese and Pauly, 2012). The genetics of the species have been well studied, for example the whole mitochondrial genome has been sequenced (Broughton and Reneau, 2006).  

Reproductive Biology

The sand shiner is reproductively mature between one and two years of age (Summerfelt and Minckley, 1969). Spawning takes place between May and August with eggs being released over clean gravel and sand (Miller and Robison, 2004). Peak spawning has been correlated with dry environmental conditions (low rainfall) and high temperatures (ranging from 21-37°C). Summerfelt and Minckley (1969) concluded that spawning during hot and dry conditions might increase the survival rate of the fry.

During spawning, the colour of the males intensifies in order to attract females. Like other minnows, no parental care is given to their young (ODNR, 2012).

Fecundity can increase in relation to the standard length and age of the sand shiner. Females can produce anything from 150 eggs to 1000 eggs per year (Hassan-Williams and Bonner, 2012).

Physiology and Phenology

The sand shiner is commonly mistaken for other Notropis spp.


Generally, the sand shiner can live up to three years (Froese and Pauly, 2012).

Activity Patterns

In the Platte River in Nebraska, USA, the sand shiner was reported to be more abundant during the day (Yu and Peters, 2003).

Population Size and Structure

Populations have been recorded as stable in much of the southern United States and in its native ranges (the Pecos, Canadian, and Dry Cimmaron drainages) (Sublette et al., 1990; Warren et al., 2000).


The sand shiner is an opportunistic feeder and has a varied diet of aquatic insects, plant material, crustaceans and detritus (Rook, 1999). It mainly feeds on bottom particulate matter. Its feeding habits were investigated in Buffalo Creek, Washington, where it was found to consume predominantly terrestrial and aquatic insects between September and October, switching to mainly insects in the benthic environment (stonefly nymphs, mayfly nymphs) between November and December. Gillen and Hart (1980) compared the diet of the sand shiner with the striped shiner (N. chrysocephalus) and noted that the two species’ diets overlapped from September to November but differed significantly in December. They concluded that the consumption of different prey items later in the year might reduce interspecific competition when food resources are declining (Gillen and Hart, 1980).


The sand shiner is often found in large schools feeding in shallow waters. In Iowa, it has also been found in large schools during the spawning season (Starett, 1950; Hassan-Williams and Bonner, 2012).

The sand shiner can be a host for the mussel Lampsilis radiate luteola (O’Dee and Watters 2000).

Environmental Requirements

The sand shiner prefers low to medium velocity streams and rivers and is commonly found in waters with a pH of around 8.0. It will avoid acidic waters with a pH below 7.0 and will tolerate low alkaline conditions (below pH 9.6) (Mendelson, 1975; Sublette et al., 1990). Ideal environmental conditions include clear shallow waters, less than 20 cm deep, with little to no vegetation and a sandy or gravely bottom substrate (Sublette et al., 1990). They are rarely found at high altitudes in upland areas or in still bodies of water.

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceFood Source DatasheetLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
Algae Adult
Aquatic insects Adult/Fry/Larval
Crustaceans Adult
Terrestrial insects Adult/Fry


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C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Water pH (pH) 8.0 Optimum Tolerated range: pH 7.0-9.6

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Micropterus salmoides Predator Adult/Fry not specific
Pylodictis olivaris Predator Adult/Fry not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The sand shiner is an important source of food for some piscivorous fishes and birds. The flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) predates on both juveniles and adult sand shiners. Other game species such as largemouth bass (M. salmoides) will feed on sand shiners.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

The sand shiner may have entered some areas due to its natural movement through drainage channels.

Accidental Introduction

The species was accidentally introduced to many areas through the stocking of other species. It was introduced to Arizona from Dexter, New Mexico, with largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in the 1930s. It may have then moved into the Shawangunk Kill of New York via the Delaware-Hudson Canal system (Hassan-Williams and Bonner, 2012).

Intentional Introduction

Although it is not as widely used for baitfish as other minnows, such as the fathead minnow, the introduction of sand shiners to new areas can largely be attributed to bait bucket releases.

Economic Impact

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Economic Value

The sand shiner is important to the angling industry as it can be used as bait.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Biodiversity

Although the impacts of the sand shiner on other species are largely unknown, it has been reported to negatively affect native species within the Colorado River basin, including woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus) and Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda) (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008). Furthermore, it was identified as a problem in the Yampa River in Colorado in 1997 (Whitmore, 1997). Like other non-native minnows, such as the red shiner (Cyprinella lutrensis), the sand shiner is likely to compete with native species for resources and habitat, and may even prey on the eggs and larvae of native species.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Gila seminuda (Virgin River chub)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); National list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesUSACompetition - monopolizing resources
Plagopterus argentissimus (woundfin)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesUSA; Arizona; New MexicoCompetition - monopolizing resources

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field


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Economic Value

The sand shiner is important to the angling industry as it can be used as bait.

Social Benefit

It can be sold as an aquarium pet as it adapts well to aquarium conditions and has an attractive colour.

Environmental Services

The sand shiner has been frequently used as a bioassay animal, as they ‘transport and hold well, eat dry food readily and withstand low dissolved oxygen conditions’ (Carlander, 1997). A study monitoring sand shiners in the Smokey River Basin used them to assess the effects of pesticides on the ichthyoforna in the area (Summerfelt and Minckley, 1969).

It is also an important forage species in many rivers and streams.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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The sand shiner closely resembles other shiners, such as N. dorsalis and N. volucellus. N. volucellus can be differentiated from N. stramineus by having 8 anal rays instead of the 7 anal rays present in N. stramineus, elevated lateral line scales and a rounded snout (Robison and Buchanan, 1988). The life histories of the Notropis spp. have been widely acknowledged as being similar (Gillen and Hart, 1980).

The Arkansas River shiner (Notropis girardi) also has a similar appearance to the sand shiner. However, N. girardi usually has 8 anal fin rays instead of 7 like the sand shiner, so this feature can again be used to distinguish the two similar species. The sand shiner also differs in that it has an ovate pectoral fin rather than falcate and that it appears to have a midlateral stripe. Each lateral line pore is accented with paired melanophorees (Sublette et al. 1990).

The two subspecies of the sand shiner, the plains sand shiner (N. stramineus subsp. missuriensis) and the eastern sand shiner (N. stramineus subsp. stramineus), are similar in appearance but can be differentiated by the post-orbital diameter of the head, orbital diameter, head width, circumference of the scales and predorsal scale-rows (Hayer et al. 2006).

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

The extent to which the sand shiner causes negative impacts on native or endangered fish is unknown. Increasing public knowledge on the effects of releasing any non-native species into an ecosystem could result in fewer bait bucket releases.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Further research needs to be carried out in order to determine the invasive potential of this species, particularly within the Colorado River basin.


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Arkhipchuk V, 1999. Chromosome database. Database of Dr. Victor Arkhipchuk.

Broughton RE; Reneau PC, 2006. Spatial covariation of mutation and nonsynonymous substitution rates in vertebrate mitochondrial genomes. Mol. Biol. Evol, 23(8):1516-1524.

Carlander KD, 1997. Handbook of freshwater fishery biology: Volume 3. Ames, USA: Iowa State University Press, xix + 397.

Froese R; Pauly D, 2012. Fishbase [ed. by Froese, R. \Pauly, D.]. Fishbase (online).

Gillen AL; Hart T, 1980. Feeding Interrelationships Between the Sand Shiner and the Striped Shiner, 80(2):71-76.

Hassan-Williams C; Bonner TH, 2012. Texas Freshwater Fishes. Texas, USA: Texas State University (San Marcos Biology Department).

Hayer C; Harland BC; Berry Jr CR, 2006. Recent range extensions, name changes and status updates for selected South Dakota Fishes, 85:247-265.

Hugg DO, 1996. MAPFISH georeferenced mapping database. Freshwater and estuarine fishes of North America. Freshwater and estuarine fishes of North America. Maryland, USA: Life Science Software.

IRIS, 2012. Iowa Rivers Information System (IRIS). Iowa Rivers Information System. Iowa, USA: Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

ITIS, 2013. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). Washington, DC, USA: Smithsonian Institution/NMNH.

Magana HA; Rinne JN, 2001. Notropis stramineus., USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mendelson J, 1975. Feeding relationships among species of Notropis (Pisces: Cyprinidae) in a Wisconsin stream. Feeding relationships among species of Notropis in a Wisconsin stream, 45:199-230.

Miller RJ; Robison HW, 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma. Norman, Oklahoma, USA: University of Oklahoma Press, 450 pp.

Mueller Jr R; Pyron M, 2010. Fish assembalages and substrates in the Middle Wabash River, USA:47-53.

NatureServe, 2012. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life. Arlington, Virginia, USA: NatureServe.

O'Dee SH; Watters GT, 2000. New or confirmed host identifications for ten freshwater mussels. Columbus, Ohio, USA: Proceedings of the Conservation, Captive Care, and Propogation of Freshwater Mussels Symposium, 77-82.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), 2012. Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Ohio, USA: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife.

Poly WJ, 2004. The scientific names Notropis stramineus (Cope) and N. ludibundus (Girard). The scientific names Notropis stramineus and N. ludibundus, 151(1):164.

Rinne JN, 1995. The effects of introduced fishes on native fishes: Arizona, Southwestern United States. In: Protection of aquatic diversity. Proceedings of the World Fisheries Congress, Theme 3. In: The effects of introduced fishes on native fishes: Arizona, Southwestern United States [ed. by Philipp, D. P. \Epifano, J. M. \Marsden, J. E. \Claassen, J. E. \Wolotina Jr, R. J.]. New Delhi, India: Oxford and IBH Publishing Company. [Proceedings of the World Fisheries Congress.]

Robinson HW; Buchanan TM, 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. Arkansas, USA: University of Arkansas Press, 536.

Rook EJS, 1999. Flora, fauna, earth and sky - the natural history of the Northwoods. Notropis stramineus, Sand Shiner. Notropis stramineus, Sand Shiner. Minnesota, USA: Earl. J.S. Rook.

Starett WC, 1950. Distribution of the fishes of Boone County, Iowa, with special reference to the minnows and darters. Distribution of the fishes of Boone County, Iowa, 43(1):112-127.

Sublette JE; Hatch MD; Sublette M, 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. Albuquerque, New Mexico: University New Mexico Press, 393 pp.

Summerfelt RC; Minckley CO, 1969. Aspects of the life history of the sand shiner, Notropis stramineus (Cope), in the Smokey Hill River, Kansas. Aspects of the life history of the sand shiner, 3:444-453.

US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008. The Virgin River fishes: Woundfin (Plagopterus argentissimus) and Virgin River chub (Gila seminuda) 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. Woundfin and Virgin River chub 5-Year Review., USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

USGS, 2012. Non Indigenous Aquatic Species Database. Reston, Virginia, USA: US Geology Surveys.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, 2012. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. Utah, USA: Utah Department of Natural Resources Wildlife (UDN).

Warren Jr LW; Burr BM; Walsh SJ; Bart Jr HL; Cashner Jr RC; Etnier DA; Freeman BJ; Kuhajda BR; Mayden RL; Robison HW; Ross ST; Starnes WC, 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States, 25(10):7-29.

Whitmore S, 1997. Aquatic nuisance species in Region 6 of the Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife Management Assistance Office, Pierre, South Dakota, USA: US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yu SL; Peters EJ, 2003. Diet and seasonal abundance of fishes in the Platte River, Nebraska, USA, 69:154-160.


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31/12/12 Original text by:

Nicola Wakefield, CABI, UK

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