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Montana Field Guides

Western Silvery Minnow - Hybognathus argyritis

Native Species

Global Rank: G4
State Rank: S4
(see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status


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State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Currently ranked a S4 because it is apparently secure, though it may be quite rare in parts of its range, and/or suspected to be declining. Not vulnerable in most of its range.
General Description
The western silvery minnow has been recognized as a separate species only since 1971. It is very difficult to field separate from the plains minnow which it is frequently collected with. This native fish is found in perennial streams and rivers in the prairie ecoregions of eastern MT, and is an indicator species of the Medium Warmwater River Fish Assemblage. Western silvery minnows have long intestines, indicating they are adapted for eating plants and detritus as well as other food items. Specimens grow to a size of about 7 inches in length.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Overall very silvery; back dusty or yellowish olive, underside white. The western silvery minnow has 11 to 17 scales across the belly from lateral line to lateral line.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Western Hemisphere Range


Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 701

(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)

Makes spawning run to lower Marias River.

Seems to prefer large streams and is less common in creeks and impoundments. Bottom of silt or sand. Showed a preference for pools and backwaters in middle Missouri River study.

Food Habits
Feeds mainly on bottom ooze containing a variety of algae, organic materials and some invertebrates.

Reproductive Characteristics
Sexually mature at 1 yr. Spawning occurs June - July on middle Missouri River with peak occurring late June - early July.

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Musuem of Natural History. 867 p.
    • Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Rainbow trout, Kamloops trout, Steelhead trout Salmo gairdneri Richardson. pp. 184-191. In: Freshwater fishes of Canada. Ottawa, Canada: Fisheries Research Board of Canada, Bulletin 184. 966 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Barfoot, C.A. 1993. Longitudinal distribution of fishes and habitat in Little Beaver Creek, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 66 p.
    • Duncan, M.B. 2019. Distributions, abundances, and movements of small, nongame fishes in a large Great Plains river network. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 255 p.
    • Gould, W.R. 1979. The identity of Hybognathus nachalis (Cyprinidae) in Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 38:11-12.
    • Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
    • Mullen, J.A. 2007. Spatiotemporal variation of fish assemblages in Montana prairie streams. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 102 p.
    • Mullins, M.S. 1991. Biology and predator use of cisco (Coregonus artedi) in Fort Peck Reservoir, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 68 p.
    • Stringer, A.L. 2018. Status of Northern Pearl Dace and chrosomid dace in prairie streams of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 150 p.
    • Wuellner, M.R. 2007. Influence of reach and watershed characteristics on fish distributions in small streams of eastern Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 80 p.
    • Young, B.A., T.L. Welker, M.L. Wildhaber, C.R. Berry, and D. Scarnecchia (eds). 1997. Population structure and habitat use of benthic fishes along the Missouri and Lower Yellowstone Rivers. 1997 Annual report of Missouri River Benthic Fish Study PD-95-5832 to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. 207 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Western Silvery Minnow — Hybognathus argyritis.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from