Perches and Darters (Percidae)

Perches and darters silhouette.

Perches are distributed throughout temperate fresh waters of the Northern Hemisphere. However, all of the many species of diminutive darters are native only to North America. The larger members of the perch family are important gamefish. The family is characterized by two unconnected dorsal fins (one spiny, one soft). There are one or two spines on the forward edge of the anal fin. The pelvic fins are thoracic and the scales are firmly attached.

There are four freshwater perch species in Connecticut, three of which are native.

Click on the species' names below to learn more.

Walleye (Sander vitreus) - Introduced



Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) - Native

Yellow perch.


Tessellated Darter (Etheostoma olmstedi) - Native

6 cm tessellated darter.


Swamp Darter (Etheostoma fusiforme) - Native

38 mm swamp darter.


Darters are challenging to keep in home aquariums because they are small, passive fishes that don’t do well in the presence of large, aggressive species. They prefer live food, but can be conditioned to accept prepared foods such as frozen brine shrimp or tubifex worms. Darters stay close to the bottom and tend to be nervous, readily jumping out of tanks when frightened. Walleye and yellow perch vary in their ease of care. See under the “Habits” sections for aquarium information on these species.


Text and images adapted from Jacobs, R. P., O'Donnell, E. B., and Connecticut DEEP. (2009). A Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. Hartford, CT. Available for purchase at the DEEP Store.