Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Tennessee
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Mott, R.T., A. E. Rosenberger, and D. Novinger. 2021. Use of non-lethal endpoints to establish water quality requirements and optima of the Topeka Shiner (Notropis Topeka). Environmental Biology of Fishes.


Water quality standards based on sub-lethal effects and performance optima for aquatic organisms, rather than onset of mortality, are more ecologically relevant for management of species of conservation concern. We investigated the effects of hypoxia, temperature (with acclimation), nitrogenous chemical compounds, and chloride on Topeka shiners (Notropis topeka) by monitoring behavioral responses to a reduction in oxygen and, using swimming speed, determining thermal optima and onset of effect for concentrations of nitrogenous compounds and chloride. We found ASR50 (i.e., dissolved oxygen concentrations where 50% of fish use aquatic surface respiration) to be 1.65 mg/L and ASR90 to be 1.08 mg/L of dissolved oxygen. Optimum temperatures for the species ranged from 17.7 to 28.0 °C, while predicted 100% mortality ranged from 33.7 to 40.3 °C, depending on the temperature at which fish were acclimated prior to experiments. Ammonia and sodium chloride reduced swimming speed at concentrations below known LC50 values, while nitrite concentrations did not correspond with swimming speed, but rather, post-experiment mortality. This provides insight into where Topeka shiners can not only persist, but also thrive. Although swimming speed may not be a suitable metric for determining the effects of all contaminants, our focus on optima and sub-lethal effects over tolerance allows selections of the most suitable reintroduction site matching the species’ physiological profile.