Rainbow Darter

Etheostoma caeruleum

About This Animal

SIZE: To 3 inches (7.7 cm)

RANGE: Great lakes and Mississippi River basins including the Tennessee River drainage in Alabama

HABITAT: Fast gravel and rubble riffles of creeks and small to medium rivers

DIET: Copepods, midge larvae, caddis fly larvae, mayfly nymphs and fish eggs

ON EXHIBIT: Tennessee River Gallery in River Journey

Rainbow darters are members of the perch family which comprises the greatest number of species for any freshwater fish family in the U.S.  The darters exhibit sexual dimorphism.  This is a condition in which one can easily tell the difference between males and females.  The males exhibit much more color and diverse color patterns than the females.  This is especially true during breeding season.  All darters lack a swim bladder which gives most fish the ability to control their buoyancy.  However, they are very strong swimmers maneuvering against strong currents with ease.