Etheostoma exile
    Iowa Darter

Iowa Darter

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Etheostoma, from the Greek, etheo, "filter", and stoma, "mouth"
  • exile, from the Latin, "slim"
  • Common name, from its swimming behavior and its occurence in the state of Iowa.


  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Chordata, animals with a spinal chord
    • Subphylum Vertebrata, animals with a backbone
      • Superclass Osteichthyes, bony fishes
      • Class Actinopterygii, ray-finned and spiny rayed fishes
      • Subclass Neopterygii
      • Infraclass Teleostei
        • Superorder Acanthopterygii,
        • Order Perciformes, the perch-like fishes
        • Suborder Percoidei
          • Family Percidae, the true perches
            • Genus Etheostoma


  • A moderate-sized darter of clear, northern waters.
  • Length 2½"
  • Weight
  • Color
    • males bright green with dark brown blotches and small red spots
    • females grey brown without bright pigmentation
    • belly fading to yellow or gold and white
    • prominent black bar below the eye in both sexes
  • Body
    • very slender
    • dorsal fin of 9-11 rays
    • anal fin of 7 rays
    • incomplete lateral line of about 60 scales
    • cheeks, opercles and nape scaled; the breast naked
  • Head
    • somewhat "bug-eyed"


  • Small size and prominent, double dorsal fin distinguishes as a darter.
  • Male best distinguished from other darters by its bright coloration. Look for black eye bar in both sexes.


  • Saskatchewan to Quebec, and south to Colorado, Iowa, and Ohio.
  • The most common darter in the lakes and streams of the BWCA. Generally limited to lakes in central Minnesota.


  • Clear, sluggishly vegetated streams and weedy portions of glacial lakes, marshes, and ponds.
  • Forest clearing and drainage practices have reduced its habitat and warmed the remaining waters enough to eliminate this species in the southern portions of its range. In the US it is now common only in non-agricultural areas.


  • Primarily midge larvae, mayfly larvae, and amphipods




  • Spawns in sandy areas or beneath stream banks in April and May.
  • Only a few eggs are laid in each spawning sequence.


  • Look for this one in the clear shallows at portage landings in Canoe Country.


Boreal border

Last updated on 15 October 1999