SOuthern Reedbelly Dace.....

 "The Southern Redbelly Dace (phoxinus erythrogaster) as an
                     Aquarium Species."
                         Robert Rice
                    2213 Navarre Florida
      Many aquarist have finally realized the folly of the
cycle of continual importation and exploitation of exotic
fish. These aquarist have begun to seek practical
alternatives to the current situation. Aquarist are joining
Naturalist and many others and beginning to  take a second
look at the value of aquarium rearing and study of our
native species. With this fundamental shift, natives have
taken on a greater and more respected role within the
Aquarium field. With that  increased interest in natives, it
is not surprising that we are rediscovering suitable
aquarium species that were once forgotten. The Orange Spot
Sunfish is established in Europe and is just beginning to
creep into the American fish trade. Almost all of the Gar
and Pickerel Family are alive and well in Asian Aquariums.
While various Darters, Pygmy Sunfish and the odd Longear
Sunfish appear occasionally in both European and American

     Not surprisingly the shiner family has a diversity that
lends itself very well to domestic life. Species such as the
Blue Nose Shiner (Notropis Welaka) make fascinating species
for the Aquarium but due to their limited population and
delicate nature are only for the experts. However there are
many Species out there who's range ,temperament and  beauty
make them an excellent aquarium fish. they will make you
wonder why you ever keep Danio's and tetras.

 The Redbelly Dace in all it's forms is one of those species
, Currently it is classified as Northern Redbelly Dace,
Southern Redbelly Dace and last but certainly not least
Mountain Redbelly Dace. I prefer the Mountain Redbelly for
sheer beauty but I realize that for durability ,availability
and beauty the Southern Redbelly Dace rules supreme.

     Here is how Bill Plieger in his classic book "The
Fishes of Missouri" describes the Southern Redbelly Dace .
Life Colors: Back olive-brown with scattered dark spots and
a narrow dusky stripe along the midline. Side with two black
lengthwise stripes, the upper narrower than the lower,
separated by a broad, golden or yellowish stripe. Belly
     Breeding males are among the most beautiful of Missouri
fishes. The pattern of light and dark markings is more
intense at this time, the undersurface of the head and body
are crimson red, the lower fins and undersurface of the
caudal peduncle are lemon yellow. Small tubercles are
scattered over the head , body and fins.

 For many aquarist interested in Natives acquiring suitable
species is a concern. In the case of the Southern Redbelly
dace that is not a problem. They occur in a broad range from
Northern Illinois south past Tennessee and west to Kansas.
Recent collecting Data indicates they are expanding their

     While in Missouri last year I took my brother in Law on
his first  "real " collecting trip and on a small creek in
southern Missouri on our first pass through with a seine we
pulled up a basketball size mass of foaming ,wriggling
Redbelly Dace. Our bait license allowed us to keep three
hundred each per day so we spent the next hour bagging and
identifying then headed home .Offspring of that collecting
trip occupy tanks in twelve states and three countries! As a
matter of fact a NANFA friend while in Europe stopped in at
a pet store and was surprised to see Southern Redbelly Dace
proudly displayed for sale at a hefty price.

     The Southern Redbelly Dace is extremely hardy, taking a
variety of Aquarium conditions in stride . It will take all
forms of food  with no apparent problems and is as easy to
breed as any egg scatterer can be! What is perhaps most
surprising to most aquarist  is the day to day changes in a
Redbelly Dace. As environmental fluctuations and feedings
occur the Dace literally will change from a golden color to
a blood red in the belly (as the name implies). It's fins
will go from clear to lemon yellow as it begins to display
to a potential mate. Its overall behavior is in my opinion
one of the most fascinating of our Native shiners.

     I find the Redbelly Dace an excellent community tank
fish. Their willingness to adapt to a variety of aquarium
conditions makes them an excellent choice for the aquarist
who is a novice to natives.Not terribly surprising given the
lack of research data on North American Native Fish,
Redbelly Dace are continual spawners if given the right
conditions. I've found that at a water temperature of
Seventy two degrees F, a strong current from a powerhead
just a few inches from a pea size or larger gravel bed and
an extended photo period and you are almost set for

     I say almost for a couple of reasons. Of all the fish I
have kept, I have never seen a fish with as quick a response
time to food availability and visual stimulation. What I
mean is this , if you keep the above set up and don't have
success. Try this  add lot's of quality food  (Yep, Southern
Redbelly Dace are chow hounds!) and add a red colored fish
of similar size and shape (I prefer neon tetras). That will
most likely get `em going within twenty four hours. Foods I
have found that work well include Crawfish tails (raw and
cooked), oysters, bloodworms (frozen and live), earthworms
and large quantities of mosquito larvae (live only). You
will notice females will began to get a lumpy appearance and
the other fish will begin "The Chase". I prefer spawning
groups of larger than six fish, and in the wild have
observed spawning aggregations in the hundreds! Again
contrary to most data I find that BOTH males and females
will color up, the males of course are more intense. After
about thirty six to forty eight hours of this activity you
will notice alot of considerably thinner fish! Now remove
all fish from the tank turn off all filters and powerheads
and in seven to ten days, if you have been successful, you
will see free swimming young. I feed mine on powdered flake
food and baby brine and they seem to do fine. In my
experience it is not uncommon to bring one hundred young up
to juvenile size out of a  spawning aggregation of six

     As you can see from the information here the Redbelly
Dace is among my favorite Native fish. I am sure that you
also have local species of fish that would make excellent
aquarium species . Perhaps the Redbelly Dace is one of
them.Take a look around and give it a try and let me know
what you find! Until next time good luck and good fishing.

     The author is involved with NANFA (North American
Native Fish Association) and speaks regularly about native
fish. He can be reached at Robert_Rice at Oblique_org or 2213
Prytania Circle Navarre Fl. 32566