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.

Ictiobus niger
Ictiobus niger
(Black Buffalo)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Ictiobus niger (Rafinesque, 1819)

Common name: Black Buffalo

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The body of the Black Buffalo is slightly compressed, nearly round, and more slender than other Ictiobus spp. The back is slate to bronze, with a greenish overcast, sides are bronze, and the belly is lighter in color. FIns are dark olive to slate. The head and snout are broadly rounded. The mouth is small and contains short, narrow, and fragile pharyngeal teeth. There are approximately 195 teeth per arch. The dorsal fin is sickle shaped with 27-31 rays, the anal fin has 8-9 rays, and pelvic fin 9-11 rays. Breeding males will have minute tubercles (small bumps) on the sides of its head. Breeding males can also be blackish in color and without tubercles (Becker 1983). Common hybridization among buffalo species has caused difficulty in identifying individual species (Dahline 2014). Current genetic analyses methods cannot consistently distinguish Black Buffalo from other buffalo species (Underhill and Schmidt 2016).

Size: 93 cm.

Native Range: Mississippi River basins from Ohio to South Dakota and south to Louisiana; on Gulf Slope in Sabine Lake, Brazos River, and Rio Grande drainages in Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico (Page and Burr 1991).

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 Ictiobus niger are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL200920091Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding
AZ191820043Lower Colorado Region; Lower Salt; Upper Salt
OH198619861Lake Erie
WI198320182Lake Michigan; Upper Rock

Table last updated 6/12/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The Black Buffalo has received little biological study but is assumed to be similar to the Smallmouth Buffalo. Ictiobus spp. are known to be successful in reservoirs, medium-large rivers, and some natural lakes. The Black Buffalo and Smallmouth Buffalo have been observed to prefer deeper waters than the Bigmouth Buffalo (Etnier and Starnes 1993). In Minnesota Black Buffalo are known to be vulnerable to habitat degradation. Dams are expected to have significant impacts to this species due to impaired fish passage and reduced habitat availability (Underhill and Schmidt 2016).

Spawning most likely occurs in April and May (Becker 1983). Black Buffalo are known to breed in streams and ponds with rapid flow, and in sand, gravel, and vegetative substrate (Breder and Rosen 1966). Spawning is not well studied but fish have been observed to aggregate in large numbers to spawn, post-spawning large amounts of eggs were found in the vegetation at the spawning site (Becker 1983). One female may mate with several males (Breder and Roseen 1966).  This species will hybridize with Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus).

The Black Buffalo may have a more benthic diet that other Ictiobus spp. Reportedly the introduced Asiatic clam is the largest part of its diet in addition to small amounts of algae, diatoms, crustaceans, and presumably native mollusk species (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Becker (1983) also notes that insects and water plants including duckweed have been observed to be a part of this species’ diet. Other fish species including Rock Bass prey on Black Buffalo and their eggs (Dahline 2014).

Means of Introduction: Accidental introduction in Arizona in 1918 as stock contamination with bigmouth buffalo I. cyprinellus (Minckley 1973; Rinne 1994). Wisconsin introduction likely the result of transplant associated with fish rescue operations from the Mississippi River in the 1930s (Becker 1983).

Status: The status of the Saguaro Lake and Canyon Lake populations is unknown. They are established in Apache Lake, and were extirpated from Roosevelt Reservoir by a drought (Minckley 1973). Extirpated from Lac La Belle, Wisconsin (Becker 1983).  The species is frequently reported, not likelybut possibly not established in the Great Lakes (Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000).  

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: In the early 1900s all three species of buffalofishes were stocked; I. bubalus, I. cyprinellus, and I. velifer (Leach 1921, 1923). However, when the stockings were reported they were lumped together as "buffalofish" and it is not possible to determine which species were planted. Stocking of buffalofishes occurred outside their native ranges in Lake Erie in Ohio, the Pee Dee and Catawba drainages in North Carolina, and in unknown locations in Massachusetts (Leach 1921, 1923).

References: (click for full references)

Becker, G. C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI.

Breder, C.M., and D.E. Rosen. 1966. Models of reproduction in fishes. T.F.H. Publications, Neptune City, NJ.

Cudmore-Vokey, B. and E.J. Crossman. 2000. Checklists of the fish fauna of the Laurentian Great Lakes and their connecting channels. Can. MS Rpt. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2500: v + 39p.

Dahline, C. 2014. ADW: Ictiobus niger. http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ictiobus_niger/. Accessed on 08/22/2017.

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

Minckley, W. L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Rinne, J. N. 1994. The effects of introduced fishes on native fishes: Arizona, southwestern United States. World fisheries congress, May 1992, Athens, Greece.

Underhill, J. C. 1986. The fish fauna of the Laurentian Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Lowlands, Newfoundland and Labrador. Pages 105--136 in C. H. Hocutt, and E. O. Wiley, editors. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Underhill, J.C. and K.P. Schmidt. 2016. Species Profile: Ictiobus niger Minnesota DNR. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/rsg/profile.html?action=elementDetail&selectedElement=AFCJC07030. Accessed on 08/23/2017.w York, NY.

FishBase Summary

Author: Fuller, P. and K. Hopper

Revision Date: 1/10/2024

Peer Review Date: 8/23/2004

Citation Information:
Fuller, P. and K. Hopper, 2024, Ictiobus niger (Rafinesque, 1819): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=363, Revision Date: 1/10/2024, Peer Review Date: 8/23/2004, Access Date: 6/12/2024

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 [6/12/2024].

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