SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ameiurus nebulosus
CHARACTERISTICS: This species’ attractive, well-defined black or brown mottling on its gray or tan body distinguishes it from most members of the bullhead family. (The spotted bullhead, Ameiurus serracanthus, also has a mottled or spotted body, but its dorsal, caudal, and anal fins have dark or black margins.) Other characters include pigmented chin barbells, 21 to 24 anal fin rays, pectoral spines with several well-developed teeth on their posterior margins, and a slightly notched caudal fin. All fins are dark to light gray; the dorsal and caudal fins are occasionally clear near their edge. Barbels surrounding the mouth are dark gray to black, a characteristic shared with the black bullhead, A. melas, and spotted bullhead, A. serracanthus.
ADULT SIZE: 12 to 18 in (300 to 460 mm)
DISTRIBUTION: Most brown bullhead records in Alabama are from the eastern part of the state, where rivers have not been dredged to maintain navigable channels. Glodek (1979b) concludes that populations throughout most of the Mobile basin are native, whereas those in the southern part of the Black Warrior drainage and the northern part of the lower Tombigbee drainage may be introduced. Boschung (1992) notes that brown bullheads are apparently absent in the Coosa drainage; most of our Mobile basin collections came from the Coosa River system in Georgia. We also collected specimens at several stations in the Conecuh, Choctawhatchee, and Chattahoochee river systems in southeastern Alabama and in the Tennessee River drainage in northeastern Alabama.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: We have collected this species in rivers and reservoirs, streams, oxbow lakes, and swamps characterized by clear to muddy water and low to moderate flow over sand and mud substrates. Like several other members of this group, brown bullheads usually occur near undercut stream banks and the edges of aquatic vegetation. Spawning begins in the spring or early summer when water temperatures reach 72º to 75ºF (22º to 24ºC). Food items include aquatic insect larvae, crayfish, freshwater shrimp, and minnows.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Lesueur described the brown bullhead in 1819.
Ameiurus means unforked caudal fin.
Nebulosus means clouded, referring to this species’ mottled sides.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.