Atlantic silverside drawing.
Atlantic silverside drawing.
Courtesy: NMFS

Atlantic Silverside (Menidia menidia)

Alternate common name: Baitfish.
Color: Translucent grey-green above and pale below with thick, dark brown speckles on the upper sides. Distinct silver band along the sides. The top of the head, nose, and chin are dusky gray.
Size: 5 1/2 inches long.
Habitat: Sandy or gravel shores, near shoreline, brackish estuaries, saltwater river mouths.
Seasonal appearance: All year.


The Atlantic silverside is a long, slender, and thin-bodied fish with two dorsal fins, a rounded white belly, and large scales. It has a short head with large eyes and a small mouth. Along each side, from the pectoral fin to its caudal fin, is a distinct silver band outlined by a narrow black stripe. Atlantic silversides resemble anchovies, differing mainly by a smaller mouth.

The Atlantic silverside frequently interacts with a similar species, the inland or waxen silverside Menidia beryllina. The inland silverside is smaller and stouter than the Atlantic silverside, and is duller in color.

Life History and Behavior

Atlantic silversides congregate in large schools that usually consist of similar-sized fish. They are found along the shore, often within a few feet of the shoreline. They are commonly found in brackish waters where streams and rivers meet the sea. They swim among submerged grasses. They are rarely found in water deeper than a few feet in the summer, but will descend to greater depths in the winter to avoid the colder temperatures at the water's surface. These omnivorous fish feed on zooplankton, copepods, shrimp, amphipods, young squid, worms, insects, and algae.

Special Notes

Adapted from The Uncommon Guide to Common Life on Narragansett Bay. Save The Bay, 1998.