Comely Shiner

Notropis amoenus (Abbott, 1874)

Notropis amoenus (Comely Shiner)
NY Watershed Biosurvey (image provided by NYS DEC)

Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
Cyprinidae (minnows and carps)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Imperiled in New York - Very vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 20 populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or steep declines.
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?

Comely Shiner was misidentified as Rosyface Shiner (Notropis rubellus) during the New York watershed surveys from 1926 to 1939 (Carlson 2016). In fact, Comely Shiner was once considered a subspecies of Rosyface Shiner. Genetic studies have revealed that Comely Shiner is more closely related to Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides) despite the morphological similarities with Rosyface Shiner (Smith 1985).

State Ranking Justification

Comely Shiners are native to three watersheds in New York, but populations have remained stable in only the Delaware watershed. The species is assumed to be extirpated in the Chemung watershed and declining in the Susquehanna watershed. One of the reasons for the decline could be the introduction of Mimic Shiner (Notropis volucellus). As with many aquatic species, water quality may affect the population.

Short-term Trends

Comely Shiner populations continue to decline in the Susquehanna watershed and have not been collected from the Chemung watershed in recent years. However, populations appear to be stable in the Delaware watershed (Carlson 2016, Grasso 2023).

Long-term Trends

This species is native to three watersheds in New York and is considered introduced in four watersheds. Within the native range, it appears that it is extirpated from the Chemung watershed where it was captured in 11 streams with a frequency of 10% in the 1930s (Carlson 2016, Grasso 2023). Fish were then captured two more times in the 1970s and has not been found since then. Catch frequency in the Susquehanna watershed was 5% during the late 1930s surveys where it was found in 11 streams. During the 1970s, Comely Shiners were captured at 5% of the sample sites. However, the catch rate has declined in recent years throughout the watershed. Populations appear to be stable in the Delaware watershed (Carlson 2016, Grasso 2023).

Conservation and Management


Any activity which might lead to water contamination, siltation, warming of waterways, or the alteration of natural hydrology could directly and indirectly impact riparian habitats and Comely Shiner populations. Such threats might include roadway and agricultural runoff, industrial pollution, dams, bridge construction and maintenance, logging activities, and development near riparian habitats (NYS DEC 2005). In addition, siltation decreases the amount of sunlight that reaches aquatic plants (EPA 2005) and lowers the quality of habitats needed for a variety of aquatic species (NYS DEC 2005). Point source pollution, such as effluents from municipal and industrial facilities, contribute to the degradation and pollution of aquatic habitats (EPA 2022, Grasso 2023, NYS DEC 2005, Mahar and Landry 2013, Strayer et al. 2004).
Altering natural waterflow can degrade habitat and restrict species movement. Dams directly restrict or impede species movement, alter the flow of water, change the water temperature, and contribute to sedimentation (NYS DEC 2005, Grasso 2023, Zaidel et al. 2021).
While modern day agricultural and silvicultural practices are an important aspect of the New York State economy, it is important to consider the effects on ecosystems and species. As these practices move closer to rivers, the natural riparian buffers are often removed. Riparian buffers maintain stream temperature and slow or prevent runoff of sediments from upland soil disturbances. Furthermore, they slow or reduce runoff from farm fields and pastures, such as contaminants from pesticides, fertilizers, manure, and sludge, into waterways (EPA 2005, NYS DEC 2005, Souza et al. 2020). Excessive fertilizer use can lead to algal blooms that can be deadly to aquatic life and overgrazing of livestock in fields could introduce pathogens, oxygen-demanding organics and solids, and invasive species to aquatic ecosystems (EPA 2005).
Approximately 10% of introduced, non-native species could have an impact on the health of ecosystems (McCormick et al. 2009). Invasive plants tend to outcompete native plants and can change natural processes (NYS DEC 2005). There is an increased risk of runoff and erosion when these plants are along streams and rivers. Aquatic invasive plants and animals can alter the water chemistry, change the nutrient regime, or decrease the dissolved oxygen levels. Introduced fish can alter trophic relationships resulting in a change in native fish populations and decreased water quality (McCormick et al. 2009). Mimic Shiner (Notropis volucellus) populations are increasing and expanding in New York and may be outcompeting Comely Shiner as it is suspected with other shiner species (Grasso 2023).
Climate change is another threat that is likely to have lasting effects on riverine systems. Irregular weather patterns can cause extreme drought, flooding, and temperature fluctuations. Heat waves are expected to be more intense (Frankson et al. 2022). The Northeast Region of the United States is expected to experience an increase in precipitation, more frequent storms, and higher than normal temperatures (EPA 2016, EPA 2022). Precipitation is expected to increase 10% to 15% in southern New York and 15 to 20% in northern New York by 2050 (Frankson et al. 2022). Extreme flooding can cause widespread erosion and runoff with added risk of contamination if flooding occurs at remediation sites, industrial sites, or wastewater treatment facilities (EPA 2016, EPA 2022). Temperature increases can significantly alter ecosystems. As water temperatures rise, the amount of dissolved oxygen decreases and evaporation increases, potentially lowering lake and stream levels (EPA 2022). Any combination of these events could change species distributions (EPA 2022) and those that cannot adapt or migrate may be extirpated from some areas (NYS DEC 2005).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Protect water quality and reduce contamination and hydrological alteration (such as agricultural or road runoff, shoreline development, and damming) (NYS DEC 2005). Protect stream quality by maintaining both a riparian buffer that includes herbaceous and/or woody vegetation along the shoreline, and a significant forested buffer. These buffers reduce sediment and contaminant runoff (EPA 2005, NYS DEC 2005, Souza et al. 2020), provide shade, regulate temperature, and provide organic matter to animals (Hughes and Vadas 2021). Riparian zones with herbaceous and woody vegetation have high “indicator scores” for macroinvertebrates and fishes (Hughes and Vadas 2021).
Remove barriers to maintain or restore natural flow to waterways. Where removal is not possible, research alternatives that allow flow above and below a barrier.
In general, avoid stream crossings. If crossings are unavoidable, use Best Management Practices (BMP) to minimize disturbance to streams. Time periods of disturbance when water flow is low or normal, and install stream-crossing structures at a right angle to the stream (Watershed Agricultural Council Forestry Program 2018). Temporary methods to reduce runoff include water bars, gravel, geotextile fabric, rubber belt deflectors, open top culverts, strawbales, silt fencing, control blankets, and straw wattles (Watershed Agricultural Council Forestry Program 2018). Restore the disturbed area with native species as soon as possible. Areas that have been logged may also need ruts to be smoothed to reduce surface runoff (Watershed Agricultural Council Forestry Program 2018). Hughes and Vadas (2021) suggest that Best Management Practices may need to be applied to entire stream lengths and catchments to fully restore an aquatic ecosystem. If this is not possible, restore or manage a larger area around the directly disturbed area.
In general, tailor agricultural management plans to local conditions (e.g., soils, slope, land use). Often these plans aim to reduce pollution and increase farm productivity, but incentives could also be used to encourage sustainable farming practices. Proper management typically reduces runoff by 20-90% (EPA 2005). Consider using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as an alternative to pesticide use. If pesticides and fertilizers are used, they should only be applied when needed, in the proper amount, and timed appropriately. In addition, rotate livestock to avoid overgrazing and to allow for vegetation regrowth. If needed, provide alternative water sources and shade to keep animals out of sensitive areas (EPA 2005).
Invasive species management can be time consuming and costly. Reduce the likelihood of non-native species being introduced into waterways. Boat-washing stations at boat launches can reduce transport of invasive plants and animals to new waterbodies. Educate anglers about the risk of releasing unused baitfish. If vulnerable species are present, consider a baitfish ban. Mechanical removal of some invasive plants may be needed in some rivers and streams. The use of pesticides to remove invasives can have a negative effect on ecosystems (McCormick et al. 2009) and should be a last resort to control invasive species.
Climate change is a global challenge. However, there are local actions that can help mitigate extreme weather events. Industrial and municipal infrastructure should be improved or replaced to be more resilient to flooding events (EPA 2016, NYS Comptroller 2023). Some suggested actions include installing or improving pumps to remove floodwater from facilities and installing protective structures, such as floodwalls. Ensure that existing bridges, dams, levees, seawalls, retaining walls, and wind barriers are prepared for extreme weather (NYS Comptroller 2023). Decrease runoff and erosion severity by installing large culverts, planting vegetation along riverbanks, and protecting and restoring wetlands (EPA 2016, NYS Comptroller 2023).

Research Needs

Additional research is needed about habitat needs and this species response to climate change. It should be determined if Mimic Shiner (Notropis volucellus) is outcompeting Comely Shiner.



Comely Shiners are most often found in creeks and medium to large rivers that are at least 2 feet deep (Smith 1985, NatureServe 2023). They tolerate a variety of currents (Smith 1985), but are primarily found in pools and backwaters with sand, gravel, rubble, or silt substrates (NatureServe 2023). Smith (1985) stated that lakes and reservoirs are considered marginal habitats.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Confined river (guide)
    The aquatic community of relatively large, fast flowing sections of streams with a moderate to gentle gradient.
  • Unconfined river (guide)
    The aquatic community of large, quiet, base level sections of streams with a very low gradient.


New York State Distribution

Native populations of Comely Shiner are known to occur in the Chemung, Delaware, and Susquehanna watersheds, although it appears to be extirpated in the Chemung Watershed. Introduced populations have been found in the Lower Hudson, Mohawk, Newark Bay, and Oswego watersheds (Carlson 2016, Grasso 2023).

Global Distribution

Comely Shiner is found in the Atlantic Slope drainages (upper Coastal Plain and Piedmont) from Hudson and Susquehanna drainages in New York south through Cape Fear drainage in North Carolina. There is a recent record from Rocky Creek, Yadkin River system, Montgomery County, North Carolina, and one old record from Seneca Lake (Lake Ontario drainage), New York (Lee et al. 1980, Page and Burr 1991).

Best Places to See

  • Delaware River (Delaware, Sullivan Counties)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Comely Shiner are small, slender fish that are typically 55 to 75 mm in length. They are a pale silver color and darker above. Live specimens may have an opaque olive-color back. The head is pointed, the snout is approximately equal in size to the diameter of the eye. The upper lip is pigmented. The gill membrane is somewhat joined. A decurved lateral line is present and complete. The angular dorsal fin is closer to the tail than the snout and the caudal lobe (tail) is "bluntly pointed" and basically symmetric. Breeding males can be darker than females, but lack red coloring like the similar Rosy Shiner (Notropis rubellus). Males have tubercles on the fins; females do not (Smith 1985).

Characters Most Useful for Identification

The Comely Shiner has a pigmented lower jaw that forms an "anchor-shaped mark" (Smith 1985).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

Breeding males.


Comely Shiner behavior has not been well studied.


The diet of this species has not been studied. Based on the mouth shape and position, this species likely feeds on insects midwater (Smith 1985).

Best Time to See

Comely Shiner spawn from late spring to summer. Spawning behavior has not been well studied (Smith 1985, Grasso 2023).

  • Active
  • Reproducing

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

Similar Species

  • Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)
    The Emerald Shiner is moderately-sized with a shorter snout and deeper body than the Comely Shiner. It also lacks the anchor-shaped pigment on its chin (Smith 1985).
  • Rosyface Shiner (Notropis rubellus)
    It is difficult to distinguish the two species and misidentifications are common. There is red pigmentation on the head and body of breeding Rosyface Shiner males that is lacking in breeding Comely Shiner males. The Comely Shiner has an anchor-shaped pigmentation on the lower jaw that Rosyface Shiner lacks. The pigmentation behind the anal fin is more developed in Comely Shiner than Rosyface Shiner (Smith 1985).

Comely Shiner Images


Comely Shiner
Notropis amoenus (Abbott, 1874)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Craniata
      • Class Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fishes)
        • Order Cypriniformes (Minnows and Suckers)
          • Family Cyprinidae (minnows and carps)

Additional Resources


Carlson, Douglas M., Robert A. Daniels, and Jeremy J. Wright. 2016. Atlas of Inland Fishes of New York. New York State Museum Record 7. The New York State Education Department and Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, New York.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2005. Protecting water quality from agricultural runoff.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2016. Adapting to climate change northeast.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2022. Region 2 climate adaptation implementation plan.

Frankson, R., Kunkel, K.E., Champion, S.M., Stewart, B.C., Sweet, W, DeGaetano, A.T., & Spaccio, J. (2022). New York State Climate Summary 2022. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information.

Grasso, Kyle. 2023. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation species status assessment for Comely Shiner (updated January 2023).

Hughes, Robert M., and Robert L. Vadas Jr. 2021. Agricultural Effects on Streams and Rivers: A Western USA Focus. Water 13, no. 14: 1901.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, North Carolina. i-x + 854 pp.

Mahar, Amy and Jenny Landry. 2013. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation species status assessment for Lasmigona subviridis (Green Floater).

McCormick, Frank H., Glen C. Contreras, and Sherri L. Johnson. 2009. "Effects of nonindigenous invasive species on water quality and quantity." A dynamic invasive species research vision: opportunities and priorities 29 (2009): 111-120.

NatureServe. 2023. NatureServe Network Biodiversity Location Data accessed through NatureServe Explorer [web application]. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available

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

New York State Comptroller. 2023. New York's local governments adapting to climate change: challenges, solutions, and costs.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 2005. A strategy for conserving New York's fish and wildlife resources. Final submission draft.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 2023. NYS DEC Rare fishes shapefile 1850 to 2022 (updated August 9. 2023).

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes: North America north of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.

Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society, Special Publication 20. 183 pp.

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

Souza, Francine N., Rodolfo Mariano, Tassio Moreia, and Sofia Campiolo. 2020. Influence of the landscape in different scales on the EPT community (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera and Trichoptera) in the Atlantic Forest region. Environmental monitoring and assessment 129: 391-391.

Strayer, David L., J.A. Dowling, W.R. Haag, T.L. King, J.B. Layzer, T.J. Newton and S.J. Nichols. 2004. Changing perspectives on Pearly Mussels, North America's most Imperiled Animals. BioScience 54:429-439.

Watershed Agricultural Council Forestry Program. 2018. New York State forestry voluntary best management practices for water quality. Accessed on June 20, 2023.

Werner, R.G. 1980. Freshwater fishes of New York State. N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. 186 pp.

Zaidel, Peter A., A. H. Roy, K. M. Houle, B. Lambert, B. H. Letcher, K. H. Nislow, C. Smith. 2021. Impacts of small dams on stream temperature. Ecological indicators 120:6-11.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Shaw, Hollie Y.

Information for this guide was last updated on: September 27, 2023

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Notropis amoenus. Available from: Accessed July 19, 2024.