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Red Shiner (Cyprinella Lutrensis) Profile & Care Guide

Looking for attractive small fish that look so appealing in your home aquarium? Then you should look no further than the Red shiners.

The shoaling species isn’t only good-looking but they also have enjoyable behavior as the bottom-dweller.

Red horse minnow or popularly known as Red shiners has become popular among aquarists. You can find them pretty similar to the White Cloud Mountain Minnows or those Danios in terms of size, behavior, and preferences. They can be good mates in the community tank.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
AppearanceLaterally compressed body with silvery-green coloration
Life Expectancy3 years
SizeUp to 4 inches
Tank Size20-gallon or larger
Tank EnvironmentCool water, dense plants, rocks, and substrates
Tank MatesSame size species Better kept in a group of six

Red shiner is a small species very popular in the aquarium trade. It’s an adorable freshwater species that can live in the tank with no problem. Still, you need to learn more about them to provide the best possible care in captivity.

Behavior & Temperament

Red shiners are a shoaling species with active behavior and peaceful temperaments. They live in groups and that’s how they should be kept in captivity.

They would appreciate an environment with hiding places including dense plants, bogwoods, or rocks. Cleanliness of the water is also the crucial element to keep them in domestic tanks.


Red shiners appear with a silvery-green body that’s laterally compressed with considerable depth and comprehension.

Male would develop temporal red tips on their fins while the body coloration would get intensified pinkish-blue. They have pointed noses and terminal mouths with tiny eyes.

You can find males to have up to 10 rays in their anal fin, eight rays on their dorsal and pelvic fins.

They also have concave caudal fins and broad caudal peduncles that are pretty obvious. Overall, Red shiners have an attractive appearance that makes them a favorite choice among aquarists.

Natural Habitat

Cyprinella Lutrensis (Common names: Red Horse Minnow, Rainbow Dace and Red Shiner) is a small freshwater fish species naturally found in the Mississippi River.

They have also been introduced to the environment throughout the United States. Formerly known as baitfish, they have been introduced to different environments including home aquariums.

Red shiners inhabits backwaters, creek mouths, pools, riffles, and those streams hosting sandy and silty substrates.

These can adapt to new environments better than most fish species but they don’t have highly acidic water. You can even find Red shiners to thrive in polluted water environments.

It isn’t a migrating species while the bait bucket releases are the main cause of most introduced Cyprinella lutrensis populations in other areas outside Mississippi.

Red Shiners can grow up to 3.6 inches even though they’re generally found smaller. They’re omnivores that eat aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, and aquatic insects while they can accept pretty much everything you provide.

Tank Setup & Care

In general, Red Shiner requires minimum care and tank maintenance. However, you can certainly work on the best possible setup and conditions to make them happier and more active in the aquarium environment.

Tank size

Red Shiners are a shoaling species so you’d likely keep the fish in a group in a tank. While it’s a cool water species and requires no heater for indoor keeping, you can’t put them in the pond. Since they’re active and must be kept in the group, a 20-gallon aquarium would be a minimum requirement.

The actual tank size must prioritize the length and width rather than the height. Larger tanks are better for long-term investment and as you expect the growing their populations in the future. Community tanks with more species certainly require larger measurements.

Water Conditions

Since Red Shiners prefer cool water just like in their natural habitats, you can maintain the water temperature in a range of 59 – 77 F. An internal heater isn’t necessary as long as your aquarium is placed in the room that’s heated in the winter. However, you need to keep the water not too acidic with pH values of 7.0 -7.5 while the hardness at 10-15.

Heating & Filtration

While they don’t necessarily need heaters, you must provide the tank with an awesome filtration system, especially when it comes to the community tank. They can be sensitive to water conditions, especially in terms of acidity.

You can resemble the natural habitat of Red Shiner in the tank. Get some inspiration from those rocky pools, rivers, riffles, or those creeks. Generally speaking, the tank environment must be spacious and mature despite being well-filtered.

Set the tank interior with many hiding places that they can explore and venture in the tank. You can add dense plants, rocks, and bogwood to aquascape the aquarium. Since they’re shoaling species, be sure to refer to their schooling behavior and accommodate it into the aquascape.

Red Shiner prefers a well-oxygenated environment and streams so you better invest in a decent powerhead. Actually, investing in a heater is recommended if the aquarium has to get through winter. These are mid-top dwellers that enjoy fast-flowing conditions.

They can deal with higher water temperatures that also flex the list of tank mates. You can find bottom-dwellers to create a balanced ecosystem and view of your aquarium.


These are partially found in the water environment with sandy substrates. Even though they’re mid-top dwellers, they may occasionally venture to the bottom part of your tank. At this point, you can use high-quality sands or gravel and allow Red shiners to venture into larger parts of the tank.

Two red shiners in aquarium

Tank Mates

Shiners can be typically kept with other fish of similar size and temperature. The tank mates should also enjoy the consistent fast-flowing condition. Since it’s a peaceful shoaling fish, you need to keep them in groups of six at the very least.

If you want to enjoy them shoaling at the mid-way point of your tank. You can choose some nemacheilus loaches like Mesonoemacheilus, Nemacheilus, and Schistura that have torpedo shape.

You can also choose similar-sized bottom-dwellers or the ones that occupy lower levels of the community tank.

Avoid any aggressive, larger species that can make shiners fit into their mouth. While it’s tempting you must not keep shiners with Goldfish because they fight each other for food and your minnow would lose the battle. You must also avoid those fin nippers.

On the other hand, cool water species could be good tank mates for Red shiners. Subtropical species can live well with them.

Despite nemacheilus loaches, you can also consider subtropical bottled and Weather loaches.

Peaceful bottom-dwellers of the same size are the best possible mates your Red shiners can have.

Red Shiner Food & Diet

Shiners can accept a different range of foods in the aquarium including live foods, frozen foods,

and dried foods. For live foods, you can feed Shiners with brine shrimp, daphnia, mosquito larvae, and bloodworm.

You can use flake foods or micro granules as staples and supplement their diet with live foods.

Shiners are omnivorous species that eat invertebrates that fit in their mouth in their natural habitats.

They also eat larvae of native fish in the natural environment they’ve been introduced to. Despite meaty flavors, they also have a high appetite for algae so you can use algae wafers to treat them.

While these are not picky on foods, you better keep their diet varied and proportional but don’t overfeed them.

Food leftovers in the tank can decay and reduce the water quality significantly which would make it susceptible to bacteria and infections.

Breeding Guidelines

Shiners have been widely bred in aquariums thanks to their high adaptability. This species can be introduced to a new environment with no problem.

Sexting isn’t difficult as you can identify male and female fish with no problem.

In general, males have smaller sizes but brighter colors that get intensified in the breeding time as well as white tubercles on their heads. Female fish typically have larger and fuller bodies but it has duller coloration than the male fish.

Reproduction of this minnow is seasonal in their natural habitat but you can expect the same in captivity.

Red Shiners usually spawn in the calmer waters but it’s the male fish that decides the exact location and protection. Females produce unique sounds to attract male fish.

Despite laying eggs in the nest, Red Shiners also scatter their eggs on plants or rocks. That’s why you better decorate the tank with rocks and plants that would serve as places to lay eggs in the future.

Female fish can lay up to 600 eggs incrementally in those places and they hatch into fry within five days.

Within a week, you can expect a free-swimming fry in the aquarium and you can start feeding them with infusoria or recommended foods.

A separate breeding tank isn’t necessary but you can set up one with similar decoration.

Unfortunately, there is very limited information about breeding them in home aquariums even though it has become common.

You need to research further or consult with aquaria retailers where you buy the Red Shiners for the actual techniques of breeding.