Miscellaneous Fish Families


 AMERICAN EEL - Anguilla rostrata

american eel fish

Fish Notes

The American eel is a catadromous fish (fish that live in fresh water and breed in the ocean) that spends its adult life in the streams and rivers of the county and then travels to the Sargasso Sea to breed. Their distribution in the county is restricted by Great Falls on the Potomac River and by the reservoir dam on the Occoquan River.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 40 inches

Diet: Fish, insects and invertebrates

map of american eel distribution 



  BANDED KILLIFISH - Fundulus diaphanus

banded killifish  

Fish Notes

The banded killifish favors slow moving streams and tidal areas. With its tendency to swim just below the surface of the water and its lack of dorsal spines, it has become one of the northern snakehead’s favorite prey.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 3 inches, rarely larger

Diet: Midge larvae and microcrustaceans

map of banded killifish distribution

  MUMMICHOG - Fundulus heteroclitus

mummichog fish 

Fish Notes

The mummichog is a species of killifish that mainly lives in estuaries with a small number of freshwater populations. The name mummichog is derived from an Indian term meaning “going in crowds.” This refers to its propensity of travelling in large schools.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 3 inches, rarely larger

Diet: Probably similar to the banded killifish diet of midge larvae and microcrustaceans

map of mummichog distribution


 EASTERN MOSQUITOFISH - Gambusia holbrooki

 eastern mosquitofish

Fish Notes

The eastern mosquitofish is the only live bearing fish in Fairfax County. As its name implies, the mosquitofish preys on larval and pupal mosquitos and is used as a mosquito control agent in ponds. This fish is able to breathe air from the water’s surface, enabling it to survive in low oxygen conditions.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 2 inches, rarely larger

Diet: Mosquito larvae and other small invertebrates

map of eastern mosquitofish distribution


 EASTERN MUDMINNOW - Umbra pygmaea

eastern mudminnow fish

Fish Notes

The eastern mudminnow is a nocturnal fish that feeds at night and hides during the day. This fish has the ability to bury itself in mud to survive droughts.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 4 inches, rarely larger

Diet: Midge larvae and small crustaceans

map of eastern mudminnow distribution


 GIZZARD SHAD - Dorosoma cepedianum

gizzard shad fish 

Fish Notes

Gizzard shad are filter feeders that strain plankton from the water column. They are inhabitants of medium to large rivers and lakes. The few individuals collected by Fairfax County have been below lakes and near the Potomac River.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 14 inches, rarely larger

Diet: Plankton

 map of gizzard shad distribution


 LEAST BROOK LAMPREY - Lampetra aepyptera

least brook lamprey fish

Fish Notes

Unlike the well-known parasitic sea lamprey, the least brook lamprey is a filter feeder. The adult form of the lamprey does not eat and dies shortly after spawning. They require sandy or silty bottomed small streams to survive.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: Typically 4 to 5 inches

Diet: Adults do not eat.  Larval form diet is unknown but probably feed on planktonic organisms

map of least brook lamprey distribution



northern snakehead fish

Fish Notes

The northern snakehead is an introduced species to the Potomac River that is native to parts of Asia. It has been introduced into parts of Florida also. Urban myths say that this fish can walk on land and survive three days out of water. The northern snakehead can survive out of water longer than other fish because of its ability to breathe air, but it does not have the ability to walk on land. This species has spread rapidly because it can spawn up to five times a year and the parents guard the young.

Fairfax County Native: No

Size: Usually up to 33 inches but can get larger

Diet: Any animal small enough to fit in its mouth

map of northern snakehead distribution


 POTOMAC SCULPIN – Cottus girardi

potomac sculpin fish 

Fish Notes

As its name implies, the potomac sculpin is only found in the Potomac River watersheds.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 4 inches

Diet: Insect larvae and rarely small fish

map of potomac sculpin distribution 




 WHITE PERCH - Morone americana

white perch fish

Fish Notes

The white perch is generally found in the tidal areas of the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers. The individuals collected in Fairfax County were at a site not far from the confluence of the Occoquan River. The white perch is not a perch at all but is in the same genus as the striped bass. The Virginia state record is 2 pounds, 8 ounces.

Fairfax County Native: Yes

Size: 10 inches, rarely larger

Diet: Crustaceans and aquatic insects

 map of white perch distribution


Jenkins, R. E., N. M. Burkhead, 1994, Freshwater Fishes of Virginia, 1079 pgs., American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD

For more information, please email the Stormwater Planning Division or call 703-324-5500, TTY 711



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