Once upon a time, a humble fish called the roundtail chub (Gila robusta) successfully occupied the warm, slow-flowing habitats adjacent to faster moving waters in New Mexico’s Gila River.
These days, however, the long-living roundtail (10 years or more) is listed as endangered in New Mexico and is considered a “sensitive species” by the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, reduced from 45% of its historical range throughout the rivers of the west (USFS report 2005).
Many plants and animals suffer from the consequences of human intervention like dams and other water diversions. As vital streamside habitats dwindle and reduce spawning areas for the chub and many other native fishes, it also increases opportunities for invasive plants and animals to thrive in these altered landscapes.
The roundtail chub, however, has additional challenges. On average, the fish doesn’t reach sexual maturity until age 6, and reduced habitats means isolated populations with limited genetic material for the next generation. In the meantime, non-native predators of the roundtail are on the rise.
Return of the Roundtail
But now there’s good news for this fish! Recently the roundtail chub made a comeback in New Mexico. With the collaboration of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF), 84 hatchery-born fish were introduced to the Gila River Preserve farm pond. Their parents were wild-caught in the Verde River and unexpectedly spawned at the Bubbling Springs Hatchery outside of Sedona, Arizona.
As the population grows, the Conservancy and NMDGF staff intend to release the fish back into its native waters of the Gila River.
Roundtail Chub Fast Facts
- Maximum length is 14-20 inches
- Adults will feed on algae, ants, grasshoppers and crayfish
- Females can produce 39,500 to 41,350 eggs per kg of body weight
- Can live for 10 years or more