Common Name: Little Colorado Spinedace

Scientific Name: Lepidomeda vittata

Appearance: LC Spinedace have large eyes and a shortened rounded snout. They are silvery fish darker (blue or grey) on the dorsal side and fading to white on the belly. Occasionally they will also have small pepper-like black spots on their sides.

Diet: LC Spinedace are opportunistic feeders eating mostly aquatic and terrestrial insects, but have been found to also feed on green algae and small fish.

Habitat and Range: LC Spinedace prefer pools with sand to rocky substrate throughout the upper Little Colorado River and its north flowing tributaries, from 4,000 to 8,000 ft in Arizona. Historically they may have also occurred in New Mexico. LC Spinedace are found in both clear and murky water and are frequently found in pools that become isolated in the summer.

Breeding: Breeding occurs from late spring through fall. Courtship behavior has been observed in laboratory settings in which the male will follow the female nibbling her fins. Eggs are generally laid in small depressions in the sand. During breeding the base of the males fins can turn an orange/reddish color.

Status: Federally Listed as Threatened in 1967.

Threats: Major threats the continued existence of the LC Spinedace include degradation of habitat due to catastrophic fire, damming, water loss, and non-native introductions. Green Sunfish, Fathead Minnows, and Northern Crayfish were all illegally introduced into the range of LC Spinedace through the use of live bait and by people without permits for stocking fish. These actions have detrimental effects on historic and repatriated populations of native fish throughout the state.

Actions: Since listing the LC Spinedace have been introduced to several new locations within their historic range. Their occupied habitat with in the East Clear Creek drainage has increased dramatically. Non-native removal projects in both Chevelon and Nutrioso creek drainages have moved forward to reduce threats and increase the range of LC Spinedace. In addition to work on US Forest Service land a private landowner has done significant habitat work and has greatly enhances the population of LC Spinedace in Nutrioso Creek.


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Additional Resources:

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Species Profile for Little Colorado Spindace. Available at:

Bryan, S.D. (1999) Threatened fishes of the world: Lepidomeda vittata Cope, 1874 (Cyprinidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes, 55: 226.

Runck, C. and Blinn, D.W. (1993) Seasonal diet of Lepidomeda vittata, a threatened cyprinid fish in Arizona. The Southwestern Naturalist, 38(2): 157-159.

Minkley, W.L. and Carufel, L.H. (1967) The Little Colorado River spinedace, Lepidomeda vittata, in Arizona. The Southwestern Naturalist, 12(3): 291-302.