Striped Killifish

Fundulus majalis

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Striped killifish prefer high salinity waters and can be found in large schools swimming in the Bay’s tidal creeks, sand flats and underwater grass beds.

  • Range

    Found in coastal waters and river mouths from New Hampshire to Florida.

  • Diet

    Feeds on worms, insects and small crustaceans and mollusks

  • Lifespan

    3 to 5 years

  • Status

    Stable

The striped killifish is a silvery, minnow-like fish that lives in the tidal creeks and sad flats of the Chesapeake Bay region.

Appearance

Striped killifish grow to be about eight inches long, with females growing slightly larger than males. They are the largest killifish found in the Chesapeake Bay. Both males and females have slender, compressed bodies with long, pointed snouts. Males have 15 to 20 black vertical bars on each side, whereas females have two to three black, irregular, horizontal stripes on each side, with a few vertical black stripes near their tail fins. Both are silvery-olive in color with lighter bellies.

Feeding

Feeds primarily on polychaetes (bristle worms), insects and small crustaceans and mollusks.

Predators

Predators include wading birds like herons and egrets, aerial birds like terns and gulls and predatory fishes such as striped bass and bluefish. Striped killifish are also used as bait for anglers.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

In the Chesapeake Bay region, striped killifish spawn in calm, shallow water close to shore from April to September. Females have been observed to actively bury their eggs. Depending on water temperature, eggs can hatch in 12 to 41 days, with eggs in warmer water hatching more quickly. Striped killifish may spawn several times in one season. Most killifish reach maturity in their second year.

Did You Know?

  • The striped killifish is closely related to the mummichog, and is often called the “striped mummichog.” However, mummichogs rarely enter fully-saltwater environments, and striped killifish almost never enter freshwater environments.
  • Striped killifish are more tolerant of sandy environments than other killifish, and are known to burrow into the mud during the winter months.
  • Killifish stay close to shore and are rarely found more than 100 yards from the shoreline. During receding tides, they can become stranded in tide pools and puddles, but they are able to flop head over tail on land for several yards in order to reach the water again.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Striped killifish prefer high salinity waters and can be found in large schools swimming in the Bay’s tidal creeks, sand flats and underwater grass beds.

  • Range

    Found in coastal waters and river mouths from New Hampshire to Florida.

  • Diet

    Feeds on worms, insects and small crustaceans and mollusks

  • Lifespan

    3 to 5 years

  • Status

    Stable