Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.





Florida Fish: Sucker Fish
 Blacktail redhorse are found in all major river systems in the western Panhandle, from the Perdido River, eastward to the Choctawhatchee River system.Blacktail Redhorse (Moxostoma poecilurum)  The blacktail redhorse may be readily separated from all other Florida suckers by the color pattern of the tail fin. The lower lobe of the tail fin is bordered lengthwise by a white band. Above this white edge is a parallel black band which extends from the base of the tail to the rear edge of the fin. Otherwise, this elongate, cylindrical, moderately compressed sucker superficially resembles the spotted sucker, river redhorse and greyfin redhorse. General body coloration is bronze to brownish over the back, with silvery sides and a white bottom. Color of all fins, except the tail, varies from reddish to white. Blacktail redhorse are found in all major river systems in the western Panhandle, from the Perdido River, eastward to the Choctawhatchee River system. Blacktail redhorse are abundant in moderate-size streams and large rivers of northwestern Florida and apparently face no immediate threats to their continued existence. Blacktail redhorse inhabit both large rivers and their tributary streams and may sometimes be found in reservoirs. Bottom types in typical streams may vary from soft sand or silt to gravel and rock. Spawning takes place in shoal areas of small streams from March to May. Two or three males may spawn with one female. They may reach 20 inches in length and weigh 3.1 pounds.

The grayfin redhorse is restricted to the Apalachicola River drainage of Florida, Georgia and Alabama.Grayfin Redhorse (Moxostoma) As its name implies, this sucker has plain dusky or gray fins. Florida's other Moxostoma suckers, the blacktail redhorse and river redhorse, have distinctively colored fins. The lower portion of the tail fin is black and white in the blacktail redhorse, and the tail fin is red in the river redhorse. In addition, neither of these two suckers occur together with the grayfin redhorse. The grayfin redhorse does somewhat resemble the spotted sucker, with which it does co-occur. However, the spotted sucker is readily identified by the numerous black spots along its sides. The grayfin redhorse is restricted to the Apalachicola River drainage of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Throughout its limited range it inhabits a wide variety of stream types, ranging from small streams to large rivers. Although it has been collected from reservoirs, it rarely inhabits standing waters, and the impoundment of many sections of rivers within the Apalachicola River system has been a cause of its decline in some areas. It has been found in both clear and turbid waters, in sluggish to moderate velocity currents, and over sand, silt, gravel, rock rubble and bedrock. Although its abundance has been reduced elsewhere, primarily by impoundments, it is in no immediate danger of extinction in Florida. Preservation of high quality habitat, such as the Chipola River, will be the key to maintaining viable populations in Florida.


In Florida highfin carpsuckers are restricted to moderate-to-large sized rivers Highfin Carpsucker (Carpiodes velifer) Along with its cousin, the quillback, the highfin carpsucker superficially resembles the common carp. However, both carpsuckers may easily be separated from carp by the absence of barbels and lack of spines in dorsal and anal fins of the two carpsuckers. Both carpsuckers have the mouth positioned on the underside of the head and the snout extends forward beyond the jaws. In addition, the first ray of the dorsal fin may be very long, forming an elevated filament. Quillback and highfin carpsuckers are quite alike in appearance, but may be separated by looking at the lower lip. The highfin carpsucker bears a small, nipple-like structure, or knob, at the middle of the lower lip, while the quillback lacks this nipple. Both carpsuckers may be distinguished from other Florida suckers by body shape. Carpsuckers are deep-bodied and compressed from side-to-side, while other Florida suckers are more elongate or somewhat cylindrical. General body color is silvery or brassy on the sides, with the upper surfaces somewhat darker and the lower body white or yellowish. Along the Gulf Coast, these suckers range from Louisiana eastward to the Choctawhatchee River of Florida. In Florida highfin carpsuckers are restricted to moderate-to-large sized rivers and do not enter the smaller tributary creeks, but in other areas they may do so. They prefer clean waters and apparently are intolerant of siltation and turbidity. Highfin carpsuckers may live as long as eight years and reach a maximum size of about 20 inches and three pounds. The highfin carpsucker is common in the Escambia and Choctawhatchee rivers and appears to face no obvious threats to its existence. However, it does appear to be susceptible to siltation and other forms of environmental degradation.

Lake chubsuckers have been recorded from a wide variety of habitats, including lakes,and ponds in FloridaLake Chubsucker (Erimyzon sucetta) The lake chubsucker and its close relative, the sharpfin chubsucker, are chubby, heavy-bodied fish, but although they are somewhat compressed from side-to-side, they are not nearly so slab-sided as the carpsuckers and also lack the long, elevated dorsal fins of the latter. The remaining Florida suckers, the spotted sucker, and the three redhorses, have much more elongate and streamlined body shapes than the chubsuckers. In addition, while the mouth of the chubsuckers is located somewhat beneath the head, the mouth of the spotted sucker and the redhorse suckers is definitely positioned beneath the head in a down-turned fashion. Adult males have a bilobed (two-lobed) anal fin. In Florida, this species can only be confused with the sharpfin chubsucker, with which it occasionally occurs in the western Panhandle. As its name suggests, the sharpfin chubsucker has a much more pointed dorsal fin than does the lake chubsucker, the dorsal fin of which is somewhat rounded in profile. General body coloration of lake chubsuckers is dark bronze, brown or olive on the upper surfaces and lighter bronze over the sides, with the undersides whitish. While most species of suckers prefer to live in flowing streams, lake chubsuckers prefer quiet or sluggishly flowing waters, usually being most abundant where the bottom is soft, with much organic debris, and in areas of dense aquatic vegetation. Lake chubsuckers have been recorded from a wide variety of habitats, including lakes, ponds, impoundments, oxbows, backwaters, floodplains, sloughs, bayous, roadside ditches, springs, millponds, rivers, creeks, canals, wet prairies, borrow pits, quarry pits and swamps. Lake chubsuckers are common in Florida and face no obvious threats to their existence. However, in other areas of the United States they have become less numerous. 
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