Atlantic Silverside

Menidia menidia (Linnaeus, 1766)

Atlantic Silverside
U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
Atherinopsidae (New World Silversides)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Imperiled or Vulnerable in New York - Very vulnerable, or vulnerable, to disappearing from New York, due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines. More information is needed to assign either S2 or S3.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

The sex of the Atlantic silverside is determined by the water temperature that the larvae are exposed to. Cold water will produce more females than males, and warm water will produce more males than females (Fay et al. 1983). It is also the subject of many experiments involving the effects of water temperature, chemical toleration, and harvest regimes (Conover et al. 2005).

State Ranking Justification

The rank is based on a limited distribution in the state. Additional information on the population and threats is needed to better inform the state rank.

Short-term Trends

The short-term trends are unknown (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 2006).

Long-term Trends

The long-term trends are unknown (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 2006).

Conservation and Management


The impacts of potential threats are not known (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 2006).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

A management plan that addresses the needs for mitigating impacts to estuarine forage fish should be developed (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 2006).

Research Needs

Field studies to determine the habitat requirements of all life stages should be initiated. Field and laboratory studies should also examine the effects of mosquito control and predation on all life stages (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation 2006).



Atlantic silversides inhabit fresh, brackish, and salt water marshes in the lower Hudson River estuary and Long Island from the spring through the fall, although they may not be as inclined to enter fresh water as the inland silverside (Smith 1985). They migrate out to deeper waters during the winter (Fay et al.1983).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Tidal river (guide)
    The aquatic community of a river under the influence of daily lunar tides. We restrict this community to the continuously flooded portions of the river where plants do not grow out of the water. A deepwater zone has depths averaging more than 2 m (6 ft) at low tide. Salinities at any one place in the river may fluctuate as the tides flow in and out.

Associated Species

  • Inland Silverside (Menidia beryllina) (guide)


New York State Distribution

The range includes fresh, brackish, and salt water marshes in the lower Hudson River and tributaries of Long Island Sound, although this species may be less inclined to enter fresh water than the inland silverside (Menidia beryllina) (Smith 1985). Atlantic silversides migrate out to deeper waters during the winter (Fay et al.1983).

Global Distribution

Atlantic silversides can be found along the Atlantic coast from the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada to northeastern Florida (Smith 1985).

Best Places to See

  • Various creeks emptying into the Shelter Island Sound (Suffolk County)
  • Hudson River tidal marshes in lower Putnam County (Putnam County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

The Atlantic silverside is a small fish, approximately 3 to 6 inches (8 to 15 cm) in length. The upper sides are translucent green-yellow, gradually turning iridescent white on the sides to pale white on the underside. A metallic-silver stripe, bordered by a thin, dark line, runs along the length of the fish. The lateral line is composed of tubes passing through the lateral line scales. The posterior end of the dorsal fin is in front of the posterior end of the anal fin and the tail is forked. The eggs are small, ranging from 0.04 to 0.06 inches (0.9 to 1.5 mm) in diameter and are transparent yellow-green in color with tiny filaments. These filaments help the eggs adhere to aquatic vegetation located along shorelines and to each other (Fay et al. 1983, Smith 1985).

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The tubular lateral line composition, higher lateral scale count, and the end of the dorsal fin being in front of the end of the anal fin are the most useful characteristics in distinguishing the Atlantic from the inland silverside (Smith 1985).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

The adult is the best life stage for determining the differences between Atlantic and inland silversides.


Atlantic silversides are short-lived, generally dying in the winter after they spawn, although several two-year-old fish have been caught. Year zero fish migrate from the shallows of the estuaries to deeper offshore waters by winter. They come back to the shallows of tidal marshes the following spring and spawn in schools. Spawning generally occurs during the day at high tide and is centered around the lunar cycle, roughly starting during the first new or full moon phase of the spring. Between five and 20 spawning events can occur throughout the season, every 15 days or so, with individual females releasing up to 5,000 eggs total. Incubation time depends on water temperature, with eggs laid in higher temperatures hatching earlier than those laid in cooler temperatures. Growth rates vary with latitude and fish in the northern range grow faster than those in the southern part of the range, although they reach about the same maximum size throughout their range. To avoid predators, they form large schools and flee when approached (Conover et al. 2005, Fay et al 1983).


Atlantic silversides feed in schools during the ebb tide on plankton composed of various amphipods, copepods, isopods, and insects (Carpenter 2002, Gilmurray and Daborn 1981).

Best Time to See

Atlantic silversides can be found in the shallows of the Hudson River estuary and other tidal rivers and creeks in southeastern New York and Long Island from the spring to the fall. They move out away from the shorelines and enter deeper water during the winter (Fay et al. 1983).

  • Active
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Atlantic Silverside active and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Inland Silverside (Menidia beryllina) (guide)
    The composition of the lateral line in the inland silverside is pit-like and there are fewer lateral scales. The end of the dorsal fin lines up with the end of the anal fin (Smith 1985).

Atlantic Silverside Images


Atlantic Silverside
Menidia menidia (Linnaeus, 1766)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Craniata
      • Class Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
        • Order Atheriniformes (Silversides)
          • Family Atherinopsidae (New World Silversides)

Additional Resources


Carpenter, K.E., editor. 2002. The living marine resources of the western central Atlantic. Volume 2: Bony fishes part 1 (Acipenseridae to Grammatidae). American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and the Food and Drug Administration.

Conover, D.O., S.A. Arnott, M.R. Walsh, and S.B. Munch. 2005. Darwinian fishery science: lessons from the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia). Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. 62(4):730-737.

Fay, C.W., R.J. Neves, and G.B. Pardue. 1983. Species profiles: life histories and environmental requirements of coastal fishes and invertebrates (Mid-Atlantic) - Atlantic silverside. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Biological Services, FWS/OBS-82/11.10. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, TR EL-82-4. 15 pp.

Gilmurray, M. C. and G. R. Daborn. 1981. Feeding relations of the Atlantic silverside, Menidia menidia in the Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy. Marine Ecology Progress Series. 6:231-235.

Greeley, J.R. 1937. The fishes of the area with annotated list. pp. 45-104 in a biological survey of the Lower Hudson watershed. Suppl. to 26th annual report, 1936. Albany, NY.

Greeley, J.R. 1939. Fishes and habitat conditions of the shore zone based upon July and August seining investigations. pp. 72-91 in a biological survey of the salt waters of Long Island. Suppl. to 28th annual report, 1938. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife, and Marine Resources. 2006. New York State Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Albany, NY: New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Robins, C. R., and G. C. Ray. 1986. A Field Guide to Atlantic Coast Fishes of North America. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, Massachusetts. 354 pp.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The Inland Fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 522pp.

Warkentine, B. E., and J. W. Rachlin. 1989. Winter offshore diet of the Atlantic silverside, MENIDIA MENIDIA. Copeia 1989:195-198.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: January 4, 2008

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Menidia menidia. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.