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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Black Bullhead - Ameiurus melas

Non-native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNA

Agency Status


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General Description
The black bullhead is the most common bullhead in Montana. It is an introduced species with scattered populations statewide but primarily concentrated in small ponds and backwater sloughs of eastern Montana. Black bullheads are extremely tolerant of high water temperature and turbidity and low dissolved oxygen, thus making them a good fish for certain ponds. Their feeding and spawning habits are similar to channel catfish. Newly-hatched bullhead fry swim in a large mass which looks like a moving black ball, attended by the parents, often providing a unique curiosity to a first-time observer. They seldom exceed 1 pound in weight and thus are rarely a desirable game fish in Montana waters.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Rear edge of spine in pectoral fins smooth or nearly so. Membranes between fins darker than rays.

Species Range
Montana Range


Western Hemisphere Range


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 730

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Turbid, mud bottomed lakes and ponds; also pools and backwaters of streams. Tolerates high water temperatures and low levels of dissolved oxygen.

Food Habits
Omnivorous. Mostly aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and vegetation matter. Young feed during day, while adults feed at night.

Reproductive Characteristics
Sexually mature in 2nd or 3rd year. Spawns May-early July in shallow water, often among aquatic vegetation.

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Citation for data on this website:
Black Bullhead — Ameiurus melas.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from