A silvery, rather deep and slab-sided minnow with moderately large eyes and a terminal, oblique mouth lacking barbels. Front of the dorsal-fin base much closer to tip of snout than to base of tail fin.
Back is light olive with a broad dark stripe along its midline. Sides silvery with scattered dark crescents and with an iridescent golden stripe visible at certain angles. Belly silvery white. Fins plain. Breeding males with head deep lead-blue; body and fins flushed with pink; a broad golden stripe extends along midline of back and another is present along upper side; also has breeding tubercles, mostly on the head.
Similar to striped shiner (L. chrysocephalus) except without dusky pigment on chin, or lines and V-shaped markings on back and upper sides.