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Southern Company River Scout

Smallmouth buffalo

Smallmouth buffalo

(Ictiobus bubalus)

The smallmouth buffalo is a North American freshwater fish that occurs in the Mississippi River drainage from Pennsylvania and Montana, south to the Gulf of Mexico. It is also found in the watershed of Lake Michigan. This species inhabits pools, backwater areas and main channels of large rivers, as well as warm lakes. It prefers clean, deep-water areas.

The smallmouth buffalo is a member of the sucker family and can be distinguished from the related bigmouth buffalo by its small, downward-oriented mouth compared to the larger, forward-facing mouth on the bigmouth buffalo. Both species feed on benthic invertebrates, insects and algae.

See if you can identify the smallmouth buffalo in the overhead freshwater exhibit in the River Scout gallery.

Fun Facts

  • The smallmouth buffalo is an important commercial fish in many states in its range.
  • Adults can grow to about 30 inches and weigh 30 to 40 pounds.
  • It has a life span of 15 to 20 years.
  • The smallmouth buffalo has bony plates in its throat for grinding its food.
  • This species is also called the “razorback buffalo” or the “roachback”.
  • Download full fact sheet

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