Native Fish of the Rio Grande

Only about one-third of the native fish species known or likely to have occurred historically in the Rio Grande of southern New Mexico and west Texas can still be found there. The others have disappeared, the victims of dams, channelization, disruption of natural flow patterns, droughts, and habitat loss.

The missing include shovelnose sturgeon and American eels, both commercially valuable species in other parts of the U.S. See the complete list below.

There is hope that these natives can one day be returned, if their habitat can be restored and flow needs met. Only one species has gone extinct--the phantom shiner. The others can still be found elsewhere.

The Southwest Environmental Center is working to restore as many native fish as possible to the Rio Grande through advocacy and on-the-ground habitat projects like the La Mancha Wetland. We have also released a report detailing a novel way to restore native fish entitled Conserving Native Rio Grande Fishes in Southern New Mexico: a Conceptual Approach. 

shovelnose sturgeon
American eel
Mexican tetra
speckled chub
flathead chub
Rio Grande chub
Rio Grande silvery minnow
Rio Grande shiner
Rio Grande bluntnose shiner
phantom shiner
roundnose minnow
fathead minnow
gray redhorse
blue catfish
blue sucker
longnose gar


gizzard shad
red shiner
river carpsucker
flathead catfish
smallmouth buffalo
headwater catfish?

Sources: 1) The Fishes of New Mexico. James E. Sublette, Michael D. Hatch, Mary Sublette. University of New Mexico Press. 1990.

2) Historic Reconstruction of the Ecology of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo Channel and Floodplain in the Chihuahuan Desert. Nancy G. Stotz. Report prepared for the World Wildlife Fund. 2000.