A rather stout, silvery minnow with moderately large eyes and a small, oblique mouth. Scales on forward part of side prominently dark-edged, forming a distinct diamond-shaped pattern. Barbels absent. Midline of back with a prominent dark stripe, broader than dorsal fin base. No prominent dusky stripe along midside. Dorsal fin pointed at tip. Intestine long, with many loops; lining of body cavity uniformly black.
Back yellowish-olive, with emerald reflections and a broad dusky or greenish-golden stripe along its midline. Sides silvery, but without a dusky stripe. Belly silvery-white. Fins plain.
Breeding males lack special colors but have small tubercles on head, forward part of body and on all fins except tail fin.
Distinguished from the Mississippi silvery minnow by its deeper, more slab-sided body; more oblique mouth (front of upper lip above middle of eye); larger eye; distinct cross-hatched pattern from dark-edged scales on forward part of side.