• Family: Percidae (Perches and darters)
• Other Names: None
• Ohio Status: No special status
• Adult Size: Typically 2.5-3.5 inches, can reach 4.5 inches.
• Typical Foods: Insect larvae, crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates.
The variegate darter is a relatively large darter species. They have a red-orange band on the outer edge of their first dorsal fin followed by a clear space, then a blue-green band, another clear space, and lastly a rusty red-brown band at the base of the fin. They have scattered red spots on the second dorsal fin and tail which often form rows. They also have these red spots on their very large pectoral fins which they use to help hold themselves in place on the bottom of the stream in fast riffles. Variegate darters have 4-6 dark saddles that go over the top of their back. Typically 3 or 4 of these saddles are very dark and clearly visible. Breeding male variegate darters have a large bright red-orange patch on their sides followed by alternating wide blue-green and thin blotchy red-orange vertical bars between the red-orange patch and the tail. Male variegate darters also have a blue-green anal fin. Female variegate darters are less brightly colored but do have faint blue-green and red-orange alternating bars on the back half of their body.
Habitat and Habits
Variegate darters are found in medium to large streams and rivers. They are found in swift flowing riffles with gravel, cobble, or boulders on the stream bottom. This species is typically found in the fastest flowing portion of a riffle. In Ohio the variegate darter is found in the Ohio River basin only and are well distributed in most of the major river systems in that drainage. They are also an indicator of good water quality and are most abundant in high quality streams such as the Kokosing River, Little Miami River, and Big Darby Creek.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Variegate darters spawn in spring from mid April to mid May. They lay their eggs in riffles burying them in sand or gravel. They provide no further parental care for the eggs or young.