Moxostoma macrolepidotum
Shorthead Redhorse

Shorthead Redhorse

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The natural history of the northwoods



  • Moxostoma, from the Greek, "mouth to suck"
  • macrolepidotum, from the Greek, "large scaled"
  • Common name from size of head relative to other redhorse species
  • Other common names include: Bigscale Sucker, Common Mullet, Common Redhorse, Des Moines Plunger, Mullet, Northern Redhorse, Red Sucker, Redfin, Redfin Sucker, Redhorse Mullet, Shorthead Mullet


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
    • Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Ostariophysi
        • Order Cypriniformes, minnows and suckers
          • Family Catostomidae, suckers
            • Genus Moxostoma, the redhorses
  • Formerly named the northern redhorse (Moxostoma aureouim), this species was renamed to the present nomenclature in 1973.


  • A colorful sucker of large lakes and streams
  • Length 10"-22"
  • Weight 1-4 lbs
  • Coloration
    • dark back
    • silvery sides
    • bronze or copper reflection
    • paired fins with red, orange, or copper tint
    • tailfin bright red
  • Body
    • slender
    • large, coarse scales
    • dorsal fin strongly curved inward, with 12-13, sometimes 14, soft rays
    • lateral line complete, with 41-45 scales
  • Head
    • shorter than other redhorse species
    • upper lip often has a "pea shaped" swelling in the middle
    • rear margin of lower lip nearly straight with the lip folds divided into prominent papillae
    • pharyngeal teeth thin, comb-like, with about 53 per arch
    • scale count around the caudal peduncle is 12


  • Distinguished as a sucker by its prominent sucking mouth and its large scales
  • Distinguished from other suckers by its small head and bright red tail
  • Distinguished from the Golden Redhorse by
    • smaller mouth and shorter head
    • lower lips meeting in straight, rather than angular fashion


  • Hudson Bay to Alberta; south to Georgia and the Chesapeake.
  • The only redhorse found in the Lake Superior drainage of Minnesota


  • Prefers large lakes and streams.
  • Moderate to swift current over sand and gravel substrate
  • Adaptable to high turbidity, but occurs most frequently in clear to slightly turbid water in the deeper stretches of the channel.


  • Aquatic insect larvae, some plant material, mainly algae.
  • Bottom feeders
  • Probably their greatest importance is as food for game fish.


  • Minnesota Record: 7lb 15oz, from the Rum River (Anoka County)


  • Used as food in the spring by some people.


  • Upstream spawning movements in large schools is common for male redhorses during early April at water temperature ranges of 47º to 60º F. Males congregate and defend spawning territories that contain gravel riffles and rubble shoals.
  • Actual spawning ritual occurs when a female moves into the gravel-lined troughs or nests and two males mate with a single female. The semi-adhesive eggs are broadcast and left unattended, hatching in 4 or 5 days.



Boreal border

Last updated on 6 November 1999