Plants and Animals

Moxostoma duquesnei Black redhorse

Key Characteristics

The black redhorse is a slender, long-bodied fish with a long slim caudal peduncle and a gray caudal fin. It has plicate lips on a subterminal mouth and a broadly “V”-shaped rear edge on the lower lip. It usually has 44 to 47 scales in its lateral line and one or both pelvic fins have 10 rays. Other redhorse species have a red colored caudal fin and 9 rays on the pelvic fins. Body color of the black redhorse is darker than the silver redhorse, which is silvery, and the golden redhorse, which has a bronze color. Maximum length is 51 cm.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S2 - Imperiled


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Allegan 1 1982
Arenac 2 1986
Berrien 1 1963
Clinton 2 2002
Gratiot 1 1921
Ionia 1 2002
Isabella 2 1927
Kent 3 2018
Lenawee 2 2020
Livingston 1 2012
Macomb 2 1932
Monroe 1 2015
Montcalm 1 1927
Muskegon 1 2005
Newaygo 1 2005
Oakland 1 1924
Ottawa 1 2018
Saginaw 3 2019
Shiawassee 1 1941
Tuscola 2 2018
Washtenaw 6 2016
Wayne 1 2017

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


The black redhorse inhabits swift flowing areas in medium- to large-sized rivers with clear water and sand, gravel, and rock substrates. Black redhorse is less tolerant of turbid water, low gradient rivers, and siltation than golden redhorse. Young black redhorse feed in schools near emergent aquatic vegetation by the edge of pools. Adults typically feed in schools just upstream or downstream of riffles. This fish eats microcrustaceans, aquatic insects, detritus, and algae. Eggs are buried in a substrate of fine rubble, sand, and gravel in water 15 to 60 cm deep, typically at the upstream or downstream end of a riffle. Black redhorse spawn when water temperatures reach 13 to 17℃ (55-62℉).

Natural Community Types

  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), pool
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), run
  • Mainstem stream (3rd-4th order), riffle
  • River (5th-6th order), pool
  • River (5th-6th order), run
  • River (5th-6th order), riffle

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Maintaining and creating riparian buffers along rivers is an important method of mitigating non-point source impacts such as excessive sedimentation and turbidity. Black redhorse are very sensitive to these impacts because many species of microcrustaceans and aquatic insects they rely on for food require clean water and substrates. Avoiding impacts to headwater streams and wetlands benefits all downstream habitats and species like black redhorse that rely on clear water and river substrates. Black redhorse populations are particularly vulnerable to the loss of habitat used by young-of-the-year fish, given current levels of habitat availability. The blockage of migratory routes by dams and reservoirs with degraded tailwater habitats have contributed to the decline of black redhorse populations in the U.S. Remove barriers to fish migration such as dams that are no longer functioning and/or are not economically viable, and restore natural river flow to impounded areas.

Active Period

Spawning from second week of May to first week of June

Survey Methods

Boat mounted electrofishing gear may be required in larger rivers.


Survey References

  • Page, L. M. and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. 432pp.
  • Trautman, M.B. 1981. The Fishes of Ohio. Ohio State University Press, Columbus. 782pp.

Technical References

  • Bowman, M.L. 1970. Life history of the black redhorse, Moxostoma duquesnei (Leseur), in Missouri. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 99: 546–559.
  • Jenkins, R.E. 1970. Systematic studies of the catostomid fish tribe Moxostomatini. Cornell University, Ithaca. PhD Thesis. 779pp.
  • Reid, S.M. 2006. Timing and demographic characteristics of redhorse spawning runs in three Great Lakes Basin rivers. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 21: 249–258.
  • Santucci, V.J., S.R. Gephard, and S.M. Pescitelli. 2005. Effects of multiple low-head dams on fish, macroinvertebrates, habitat, and water quality in the Fox River, Illinois. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 25: 975–992.
  • Velez-Espina, L.A., and M.A. Koops. 2009. Quantifying allowable harm in species at risk: Application to the Laurentian black redhorse (Moxostoma duquesnei). Aquatic Conservation-Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 19: 676–688.