Southern Redbelly Dace
• Family: Cyprinidae (Minnows and carps)
• Other Names: None
• Ohio Status: No special status
• Adult Size: Typically 2-3 inches, can reach 3.5 inches.
• Typical Foods: Feeds in groups along the bottom on detritus (decaying organic matter) and some aquatic invertebrates.
Southern redbelly dace have extremely small scales giving them the appearance of having none at all. They have a very distinctive color pattern unlike any other Ohio species of minnow and a relatively small terminal (ending at tip of snout) mouth. There is a row of small dark spots or blotches down the center of their back starting just behind the head and extending to the tail. On the upper part of their sides starting just behind the head and running to their tail they have a thin dark (sometimes almost black) stripe. Immediately below that stripe is a wide silvery-gold stripe that extending from just above the eye to their tail. That stripe is then followed by a second dark (sometimes almost black) stripe that is thicker than the first dark stripe. This one goes completely around the tip of the nose, across the gills, and all the way down the sides to the tail. Below this on the lower sides and across the belly is white to a yellowish cream color in young and non-breeding adults. The fins are a light yellow to white color and are fairly transparent. Breeding males have bright red across the entire belly and throat up to the edge of the lower dark stripe. Their fins are often bright lemon yellow and they sometimes have a red spot at the base of the dorsal fin. Breeding females also have some red on their belly and yellow on fins but they are less distinctly colored.
Habitat and Habits
Southern redbelly dace prefer permanent small headwater streams of clear unpolluted water. Many of these streams are less that 5 ft wide and have moderate to high gradients with well developed pools and riffles. Good streams for this species are found in forested areas that are well shaded. They are found in pools with some flow and an abundance of hiding places such as undercut banks, down trees, and logs in the stream. This species relies heavily on the presence of these habitat features to sustain a large population in a given stream. This species in found through out much of the state but is absent in North West Ohio where the small streams are slow moving and have very few riffles.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Southern redbelly dace spawn in large groups in late April or early May. Like many smaller minnows species they usually spawn in the nest of larger minnows or suckers such as creek chub, striped shiners, common shiners, and common white suckers. These nests are found just above or just below fast riffles in course sand or fine gravel. They leave the eggs to be guarded by the larger species and provide no parental care.