Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1986
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record: 1986
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record:

General Invasion History:

Red Shiners (Cyprinella lutrensis) are native to the central and western Mississippi River basin from south Wisconsin and western Indiana to South Dakota and Wyoming, and south from Mississippi to New Mexico, and also northern Mexico (Page and Burr 1991; Froese and Pauly 2018). They are a widely used baitfish and an occasional aquarium fish with exceptional colonizing abilities. Introduced populations occur in 15 states (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2018). In the East, there are scattered introduced populations in the Appalachians from Alabama to Virginia. In the West, there more extensive populations in the Colorado River and its tributaries, north to Wyoming (Poulos et al. 2012; USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program). In the 1980s, they were found in several creeks in southern California (Swift et al. 1993), and in the San Joaquin Valley (Jennings and Saiki 1990). By 1999, they were found at the head of the San Joaquin Delta (.USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the West Coast:

Red Shiners were reared for bait and catfish-food at an Arizona fish farm on the Colorado River, and escaped and colonized streams on the Colorado side of the river in 1953. Some fish were brought to the Central Valley Hatchery for use as forage fish, in Sacramento County, but were not stocked (Dill and Cordone 199). However, the Colorado River populations did spread rapidly, becoming abundant in freshwater streams into the Salton Sea by 1976. In 1983, they were found in Big Tujunga Canyon, east of Los Angeles. In 1986, in San Diego Creek, at the head of Newport Bay, and in the lagoon at the mouth of San Juan Creek (Swift et al. 1993). Occurrences in these small Southern California estuaries are likely to fluctuate with rainfall and stream flow.

From 1980 to 1982, Red Shiners were collected in Millerton Lake, Fresno County, on the upper San Joaquin River. By 1986-1987 they had been collected at 17 of 27 sites on the San Joaquin River, including sites ~20-30 km upstream from Stockton (Jennings and Saiki 1990). In 1999 they were collected at the Tracy Fish Collection Facility in the Delta, by 2001 they were at the Yolo Bypass, on the Sacramento River, and by 2012 they were found near Sherman Island, on the lower San Joaquin River (Glotzbecker et al. 2016). In surveys from 1993-1999 (Feyrer and Healey 2002) and 2001-2003 (Brown and Michniuk 2007), Red Shiners were <1% of the total of fish caught in the Delta.

Invasion History on the East Coast:

Red Shiners have been introduced and are established from streams in the Appalachian Mountains from Alabama to Virginia, but have not been reported from the Coastal Plain (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2018). A population was found in 1972 in a pond near the Connecticut River in Chicopee, MA, but is now extinct. In the Great Lakes region, they were reported from lagoons bordering Lake Michigan in Chicago, in 1958, but there are no recent records (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2018).

Given the prevalence of this fish in the bait industry, further introductions are likely. Maxtent modeling indicates that potential invasions are likely in southern and central coastal California, and along the southern Appalachians, but not on the southern Coastal Plain (Poulos et al. 2012).


Red Shiners (Cyprinella lutrensis) are small freshwater minnows. Like other fish in the family Cyprinidae (the carp and minnow family), they have a single dorsal fin, abdominal pelvic fins, and a lateral line and lack true spines in their fins. Red Shiners have a deep body and a terminal mouth on a rounded snout. Scales on their sides appear diamond-shaped. There are 8 rays in the dorsal fin, and 8-10 rays in the anal fin. The lateral line is curved downward. Breeding males have many small tubercles on the head. They reach 80-90 mm and have olive-to blue backs and silvery sides. There is usually a dusky triangle behind the head, which is faint in younger fish. Breeding males have red pectorals, anal, and caudal fins, a deeper blue color on the back and a darker blue triangle behind the head, followed by a bright reddish bar (Page and Burr 1991; Moyle 2002).

The Red Shiner is the only Cyprinella on the West Coast, where it is introduced, but there are 21 species in Eastern and Gulf drainages (Page and Burr 1991). As a widely sold baitfish, Red Shiners have been widely introduced east and west of their native range, and has hybridized with other Cyprinella spp. (Poulos et al. 2018; Walters et al. 2018). Cyprinella lutrensis, itself, appears to be a complex of four genetically divergent lineages, which may, themselves, deserve species status. Populations in the western USA are a mixture of western and mid-western lineages, while eastern USA populations come from the mid-western lineage. Genetic evidence supports multiple independent introductions in both regions (Glotzbecker et al. 2016). Hybridization of these mixed populations with native species may pose challenges for future geneticists, taxonomists, and conservationists


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Chordata
Subphylum:   Vertebrata
Superclass:   Osteichthyes
Class:   Actinopterygii
Subclass:   Neopterygii
Infraclass:   Teleostei
Superorder:   Ostariophysi
Order:   Cypriniformes
Family:   Leuciscidae
Genus:   Cyprinella
Species:   lutrensis


Leuciscus lutrensis (Baird and Girard, 1853 2001-06-11, None)
Notropis lutrensis ((Baird and Girard, 1853) 2001-06-11, None)

Potentially Misidentified Species



Red Shiners (Cyprinella lutrensis) are small freshwater minnows. Breeding males develop bright colors, and tubercles on the head, sides, and fins. Males can start breeding at 30 mm, when less than one year old, but more usually breed in their second year (Moyle 2002). Males can defend territories and attract females, but they can also chase females. Males and females swim side by side while courting. The males use the tubercles to attach to the female. Eggs are laid on aquatic plants, tree roots, and gravel (Moyle 2002). Females are fractional spawners, meaning they release of eggs at intervals. Their total fecundity ranges from 485 to 1,200 eggs (California Fish Website 2018).

Red Shiners are tolerant of a wide range of conditions, and habitats, including temperature extremes, intermittent streams, hypoxic conditions, acidity, and alkalinity. They are often most abundant in conditions that other species do not tolerate (Page and Burr 1991; Moyle 2002; Poulos et al. 2012; Leidy 2007; California Fish Website 2018). They have been collected in hot springs at 39.5 C, at sites where winter air temperatures reach -20 C, and at pH range from 4 to 11 (Poulos et al. 2012; California Fish Website 2018). In an uncontrolled experiment, with only two fish, Red Shiners tolerated a salinity of 10.5 PSU (Renfro 1959). In the San Joaquin valley, Red Shiners preferred habitat in shallow, silty, slow-moving streams with vegetative cover. They are often seen swimming in schools. They feed on small insects, crustaceans, and algae (Moyle 2002). As a small minnow, Red Shiners are vulnerable to predators, but they are common in habitats where predators are scarce.


invertebrates, algae



Trophic Status:




General HabitatFresh (nontidal) MarshNone
General HabitatNontidal FreshwaterNone
General HabitatTidal Fresh MarshNone
General HabitatUnstructured BottomNone
General HabitatCanalsNone
General HabitatGrass BedNone
Salinity RangeLimnetic0-0.5 PSU
Salinity RangeOligohaline0.5-5 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatNektonicNone

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Temperature (ºC)0Based on geographical range.
Maximum Temperature (ºC)39.5Field, Carlander 1969
Minimum Salinity (‰)0This is a freshwater fish.
Maximum Salinity (‰)10.5Salinity- The maximum survival limit was based on an uncontrolled experiment, with only 2 fish (Renfro 1959).
Minimum pH4California Fish Website 2018
Maximum pH11California Fish Website 2018
Minimum Reproductive Temperature15Moyle 2002
Maximum Reproductive Temperature30Moyle 2002
Minimum Length (mm)30.5 Herrington, Steven J. and Dennis R. DeVries Source: Southeastern Naturalist, 7(3):413-428. 2008.
Maximum Length (mm)90Page and Burr 1991
Broad Temperature RangeNoneCold temperate-Warm temperature
Broad Salinity RangeNoneFresh-Oligohaline

General Impacts

Red Shiners (Cyprinella lutrensis) are currently rare in tidal waters on the West Coast. Their widespread use in the live-bait trade means that they are potential invaders in much of North America (Poulos et al. 2012), additionally they are also sold and kept as an aquarium fish (de’Vivo 1995). The largest impacts of the Red Shiners are on isolated populations of fishes in desert and prairie springs and streams (Poulos et al. 2012).

Economic Impacts

Red Shiners (Cyprinella lutrensis) are commercially reared and sold as bait fishes because of their tolerance of temperature extremes, crowding and low oxygen conditions typical of bait-buckets. They are illegal to use as bait in some states, including Georgia (deVivo 1995), because of the risk of competition and hybridization with other species. In 1979, the California Fish and Game Commission attempted to ban the use of this fish for bait outside the Colorado River valley, but because of protests from the fishing community, the Commission compromised and allowed their restricted use in Northern California (Dill and Cordone 1997).

Ecological Impacts

In the western part of its introduced range, the Colorado basin, and the Great Basin, Red Shiners are aggressive competitors with endemic fishes in desert and prairie springs and streams, including Red River Pupfish (Cyprinodon rubrofluviatilis, Fowler, 1916), Colorado Pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius, Girard, 1856), Spikedace (Meda fulgida, Girard, 1856), and Razorback sucker (Xyrauchen texanus, Abbott,1861) (Poulos et al. 2012). In the eastern part of its introduced range, where it coexists with other species of Cyprinella, hybridization with native fishes, as well competition, is a concern (deVivo 1995; Walters et al. 2018).

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
P090 San Francisco Bay 1999 Def Estab
P027 _CDA_P027 (Aliso-San Onofre) 1986 Def Failed
P040 Newport Bay 1986 Def Unk
GL-I Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan 1958 Def Unk

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


Bespalaya, Yulia (2022) A taxonomic reassessment of native and invasive species of Corbicula clams (Bivalvia: Cyrenidae) from the Russian Far East and Korea, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 20: 1-23

Brown, Larry R.; Michniuk, Dennis (2007) Littoral fish assemblages of the alien-dominated Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California, 1980-1983 and 2001-2003., Estuaries and Coasts 90: 186-200

Carlander, Kenneth D. (1969) Handbook of freshwater fishery biology. Vol. 1., In: (Eds.) . , Ames. Pp. <missing location>

Dill, William A.; Cordone, Almo J. (1997) History and status of introduced fishes in California, 1871-1996, California Department of Fish and Game Fish Bulletin 178: 1-414

Feyrer, Frederick; Healey, Michael P. (2003) Fish community structure and environmental correlates in the highly altered southern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta., Environmental Biology of Fishes 66: 123-132

Froese, R.; Pauly, D. (Editors). 2002-2024 FishBase.(World Wide Web electronic publication).. <missing URL>

Kazi, Mudassar Anisoddin; Kavale, Monica G.; V. Singh. Veerendra (2016) Morphological and molecular characterization of Ulva chaugulii sp. nov., U. lactuca and U. ohnoi (Ulvophyceae, Chlorophyta) from India, Phycologia 55(1): 45-54
DOI: 10.2216/15-11.1

Keith, P. (2003) Biology and ecology of amphidromous Gobiidae of the Indo-Pacific and the Caribbean regions, Journal of Fish Biology 65: 831-847

Lapointe, Brian E.; Bedford, Bradley J.; Baumberger, Rex (2005) Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne Remove Blooms of the Invasive Green Alga Caulerpa brachypus forma parvifolia (Harvey) Cribb from Coral Reefs Off Northern Palm Beach County, Florida, Environmental Biology of Fishes 29(6, A): 966-971

Leidy, R. A. (2007) <missing title>, San Francisco Estuary Institute, Oakland. Pp. <missing location>

Miladi, Ramzi; ,Manghisi; Antonio; Armeli, Simona Minicante; Genovese. Giusspa;, Abdelkafi, Slim; Morabito, Marina (2022) A DNA Barcoding Survey of Ulva (Chlorophyta) in Tunisia and Italy Reveals the Presence of the Overlooked Alien U. ohnoi, Cryptogamie - Algologie 39(1): 85-107

Olds, A. A.; Smith, M. K. S.; Weyl, O. L. F.; Russell, I. A. (2011) Invasive alien freshwater fishes in the Wilderness Lakes System, a wetland of international importance in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, African Zoology 46: 179-184

Page, Lawrence M.; Burr, Brooks M. (1991) Freshwater Fishes: North America North of Mexico, Houghton-Mifflin, Boston. Pp. <missing location>

Pirian, Kiana; Piri, Khosro; Sohrabipour, Jelveh; Jahromi, Saied Tamadoni; Blomster, Jaanika (2016) Molecular and morphological characterisation of Ulva chaugulii, U. paschima and U. ohnoi (Ulvophyceae) from the Persian Gulf, Iran, Botanica Marina 59(2-3): 47–158
DOI 10.1515/bot-2016-0009

Poulos, Helen M.; Chernoff, Barry; Fuller, Pam L.; Butman, David (2012) Mapping the potential distribution of the invasive red shiner, Cyprinella lutrensis (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) across waterways of the conterminous United States, Aquatic Invasions 7: in press

Renfro, William C. (1959) Survival and migration of fresh-water fishes in saltwater, Texas Journal of Science 11: 172-180

Salmon, Terry and 21 authors 2014-2022 California Fish Website.

Shaiek, Moez El Zrelli, Radhouan Crocetta, Fabio Mansour Lamjed Rabaoui, Lotfi (2021) On the occurrence of three exotic decapods, Callinectes sapidus (Portunidae), Portunus segnis (Portunidae), and Trachysalambria palaestinensis …, BioInvasions Records 10(Crustacea/Decap): 158-169

Simon, Carol A.; van Niekerk, H. Helene; Burghardt, Ingo; ten Hove, Harry A.; Kupriyanova, Elena K. (2019) Not out of Africa: Spirobranchus kraussii (Baird, 1865) is not a global fouling and invasive serpulid of Indo-Pacific origin, Biological Invasions 14(3): 221–249.

Soares, and 19 authors (2022) Lionfish on the loose: Pterois invade shallow habitats in the tropical southwestern Atlantic, Frontiers in Marine Science 9: Published online
doi: 10.3389/fmars.2022.956848

Swift, Camm C., Haglund, Thomas R., Ruiz, Mario, Fisher, Robert N. (1993) The status and distribution of the freshwater fishes of southern California, Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Sciences 92(3): 101-167

USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2003-2024 Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database.