The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Labidesthes sicculus
Labidesthes sicculus
(Brook Silverside)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Labidesthes sicculus (Cope, 1865)

Common name: Brook Silverside

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Body slender, elongate, only slightly compressed laterally. Head distinctly flattened above. Long, pointed snout and relatively large, beaklike mouth. Teeth long, sharp, conical and recurved in three rows on jaws. Two dorsal fins, first spiny and second soft. Forked tail with one anal spine. Well developed pelvic and pectoral fins. Pale green to olive, often transparent (swim bladder and spine often visible) with a brilliant silvery lateral band. Scales on the back are usually outlined with fine dark spots. Males and females have no dimorphism and are nearly identical. See Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994).

Brook Silverside can be distinguished from Golden Silverside/Stout Silverside (Labidesthes vanhyningi) by the ratio of thoracic length to abdominal length (>2 in L. sicculus vs. <2 in L. vanhyningi) and the shape of the midlateral stripe (tapered in front of the first dorsal fin in L. sicculus vs. not tapering in L. vanhyningi) (Werneke and Armbruster 2015)

Size: Average adult total length of 7.6 cm and a maximum of 13.0 mm (Nelson 1968).

Native Range: Freshwaters of eastern North America including the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes except for Lake Superior (although Roth et al. (2013) listed Brook Silverside as a ‘probable native’); the Mississippi River basin from southern Quebec to eastern Minnesota and south to Louisiana; and the Atlantic and Gulf slopes from Santee River drainage, South Carolina to Galveston Bay drainage, Texas (Page and Burr 1991).

Native to Lake Erie and Lake Ontario (and their tributaries) and the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers.  Also native to Lake Michigan tributaries (Hocutt and Wiley 1986). Type specimen for the species was collected in 1865 near Grosse Ile in the Detroit River, Michigan (Cahn 1927).

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Labidesthes sicculus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
CA196319631Upper Cache
CO199819981South Platte
IA193420053Keg-Weeping Water; Skunk; South Skunk
KS199819981Middle Kansas
MI197420102Lake Superior; Menominee
MN199920083Pine; Root; St. Louis
MO201020101Upper Chariton
NE1901200613Keg-Weeping Water; Loup; Lower North Loup; Lower North Platte; Lower Platte; Lower South Platte; Middle Platte; Middle Platte-Buffalo; Middle Platte-Prairie; Salt; Tarkio-Wolf; Upper Lodgepole; Upper Republican
NY193520086Grass; Hudson-Hoosic; Lower Hudson; Middle Hudson; Mohawk; Oneida
ND200920091North Fork Grand
OK200720071Medicine Lodge
SC200920092Saluda; Wateree
TX197720147Little; Lower Brazos; Lower Brazos-Little Brazos; Middle Brazos-Lake Whitney; Middle Brazos-Palo Pinto; San Marcos; Yegua
VT199820003Lake Champlain; Mettawee River; Richelieu
WV197020094Conococheague-Opequon; Greenbrier; Middle New; Upper Kanawha
WI199119911Lake Dubay

Table last updated 6/22/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Inhabits clear, weedy lakes – restricted to the top meter of water, usually the top few centimeters (Cahn 1927; Becker 1983). Adapted for living at the surface, usually with their flattened head in contact with the surface film. School during daylight, but disperse at night. The young are extremely temperature sensitive and are positively phototropic. These reactions, coupled with a preference for a narrow pH range of 7.65 to 7.7 result in the daily inshore-offshore migrations noted in the fall (Cahn 1927). Mortality begins at temperatures below 7ºC (Nelson 1968) and adults have a lethal thermal maxima of 35.1ºC (Farless and Brewer 2017).

Brook Silverside is an annual species that mature at age 1 and usually die before reaching 18 months (Marsden et al. 2000). They spawn in spring and early summer in and around vegetation, esp. Scirpus and Potamogeton when water temperatures reach 20ºC and spawning climaxes at 22.4ºC (Cahn 1927). Females produce 400 to 700 eggs, which are orange and attached by a ~2.0 cm long adhesive filament – hatching in 8-9 days (Becker 1983).  Juveniles exhibit extremely rapid growth with 70-80% of total length achieved within the first year prior to winter (Scott and Crossman 1973; Becker 1983). Liifespans rarely exceed 2 years as individuals die after spawning.

It is a specialized feeder, preying on cladocera, small flying insects, and Chaoborus larvae. Their diet is dominated by terrestrial insects (Johnson et al. 2017). This species feeds with a snapping action, often jumping to capture flying insects (Scott and Crossman 1998). Brook Silverside are consumed by a variety of organisms, including waterfowl, turtles, water snakes, crayfish, minks, and fish (Becker 1983) and may be an important forage fish for Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu), Cisco (Coregonus artedi) and Gar (Lepisosteus osseus) (Cahn 1927).

Means of Introduction: Accidental and bait bucket release as well as canal connections and stocking for forage.

Page and Burr (1991) reported that the species had been introduced, usually into impoundments, as forage for sport fishes. Apparently, therefore, most introductions have been intentional (e.g., Jenkins and Burkhead 1994, and references cited therein). The species was accidentally introduced in Nebraska at the Sutherland cooling pond in July 1979 (Rowe 1992).

Introductions in New York and Vermont are a result of canal connections. Lake Champlain is connected to the Hudson and Mohawk rivers via a canal (Marsden et al. 2000).

Status: Established in Nebraska; the New River, West Virginia; Lake Champlain, Vermont and in the Erie/Mohawk and Hudson drainages in New York. Eradicated in California. Unknown status in Colorado and Potomac River, West Virginia.

Great Lakes
Native in Lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. Reproducing and overwintering at self-sustaining levels have been recorded in the St. Louis River, Lake Superior. With the colonization of Lake Superior, this species is now widespread in the Great Lakes.

Impact of Introduction: The impacts of this species are currently unknown, as no studies have been done to determine how it has affected ecosystems in the invaded range. The absence of data does not equate to lack of effects. It does, however, mean that research is required to evaluate effects before conclusions can be made.

Remarks: Large specimens are reportedly used for bait by anglers (Scott and Crossman 1973), but there are no documented records of bait bucket releases. Voucher specimens: Nebraska (UN 3314, 01498, 3291, 3292, 3293, 5603); New York (NYSM 44769, 50568, 50870).

Labidesthes sicculus and L. vanhyningi (Golden Silverside or Stout Silverside) have recently been described as two separate species due to morphological and life history differences (Werneke and Armbruster 2015).

Round Goby invasions in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River have reduced predation pressure which may have indirectly increased Brook Silverside abundance (Morissette et al. 2018).

References: (click for full references)

Bangham, R.V. 1972. A resurvey of the fish parasites of western Lake Erie. Bulletin of the Ohio Biological Survey 4:1-23.

Bangham, R.V. and G.W. Hunter, III. 1939. Studies on fish parasites of Lake Erie. Distribution studies. Zoologica 24(4):385-448. http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/19590802416.html;jsessionid=7D32F7DE636FBE2C0919F5779AD48C24.

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/EcoNatRes.FishesWI.

Berg, R.E., P.A. Doepke, and P.R. Hannuksela.  1975.  First occurrence of the brook silverside, Labidesthes sicculus, in a tributary of Lake Superior.  J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 32:2541-2542.

Cahn, A.R.  1927.  An ecological study of southern Wisconsin fishes; the brook silversides (Labidesthes sicculus) and the cisco (Leucichthys artedi) in their relations to the region, 11.  University of IL, Urbana, IL.  https://www.ideals.illinois.edu/handle/2142/25181

Cook, S.F. 1968. The potential role of fishery management in the reduction of chaoborid midge populations and water quality enhancement. California Vector Views 15:63-70.

Eliopoulos, C. and P. Stangel. 2001. Lake Champlain 2000 status of aquatic nuisance species. Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. Final Report. 6pp.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. Pages 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Hocutt, C.H. and E.O. Wiley.  1986.  The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes.

Hubbs, C.L. and K.F. Lagler.  2004.  Fishes of the Great Lakes region.  Revised Edition.  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD. 1079 pp.

Johnson, J.H., M.A. Chalupnicki, R. Abett, A.R. Diaz, and C.C. Nack. 2017. Feeding ecology of Brook Silverside, Golden Shiner, and subyearling Pumpkinseed in a Lake Ontario embayment. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 8(1):240-248.

Marsden, J.E., R.W. Langdon, and S.P. Good. 2000. First occurrence of the brook silverside (Labidesthes sicculus), in Lake Champlain, Vermont.  Northeastern Naturalist. 7(3):248-254.

McAllister, C.T., and D.G. Cloutman. 2016. Parasites of Brook Silversides, Labidesthes sicculus, and Golden Silversides, L. vanhyningi (Atheriniformes: Atherinopsidae), from Arkansas and Oklahoma, U.S.A. Comparative Parasitology 83(2):250-254.

Morissette, O., Y. Paradis, R. Pouliot, and F. Lecomte. 2018. Spatio-temporal changes in littoral fish community structure along the St. Lawrence River (Québec, Canada) following round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) invasion. Aquatic Invasions 13:501-512.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Rasmussen, J.L. 1998. Aquatic nuisance species of the Mississippi River basin. 60th  Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Aquatic Nuisance Species Symposium, Dec. 7, 1998, Cincinnati, OH.

Roth, B.M., N.E. Mandrak, T.R. Hrabik, G.G. Sass, and J. Peters. 2013. Fishes and decapod crustaceans of the Great Lakes Basin. Pages 105-135 in Taylor, W.W., A.J. Lynch, and N.J. Leonard, eds. Great Lakes fisheries policy and management: a binational perspective. 2nd edition. Michigan State University Press. East Lansing, MI.

Rowe, J.W. 1992. The sturgeon chub and the brook silverside in the Platte River of Nebraska. Prairie Naturalist. 24(4):281-282.

Schmidt, B., J. Goodwillie, and B. Gaiseb. 2007. Hudson River Almanac August 1 - August 7, 2007 - Natural History Notes. http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/37469.html

Scott, W.B., and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bulletin 184. Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman.  1998.  Freshwater fishes of Canada.  Galt House Publications, Ltd., Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Shapovalov, L., A.J. Cordone, and W.A. Dill. 1981. A list of freshwater and anadromous fishes of California. California Fish and Game. 67(1):4-38.

Stauffer, J.R., Jr., J.M. Boltz, and L.R. White. 1995. The Fishes of West Virginia. West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

Werneke, D.C., and J.W. Armbruster. 2015. Silversides of the genus Labidesthes (Atheriniformes: Atherinopsidae). Zootaxa 4032(5):535-550. https://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2015/f/zt04032p550.pdf.

FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P., Sturtevant, R., Bartos, A., Neilson, M.

Revision Date: 3/17/2023

Peer Review Date: 8/3/2021

Citation Information:
Fuller, P., Sturtevant, R., Bartos, A., Neilson, M., 2024, Labidesthes sicculus (Cope, 1865): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=318, Revision Date: 3/17/2023, Peer Review Date: 8/3/2021, Access Date: 6/22/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [6/22/2024].

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