Swamp Darter (Etheostoma fusiforme) - Native

38 mm swamp darter.

A 1.5-inch swamp darter. Note the snub nose and that the front of the lateral line is arched upward.

Identification. Small, slender fish. Small mouth (reaching only to front of eye). Stubbier snout than tessellated darter. Lateral line incomplete (ends before end of caudal peduncle) and arches upward above the pectoral fin. Tail slightly rounded. Dark blotches on sides typically do not form Ws or Xs. Dark vertical bar under and passing through eye. Two anal spines. Rows of many small dark spots on pectoral, dorsal and tail fins usually present. Dark brown on back, fading on sides; belly translucent.

Swamp darters next to a dime for scale.

Swamp darters are small and inconspicuous and are thus easily missed during standard surveys.

Size. Commonly 0.7 to 1.5 inches. State survey max. size 2.4 inches. Max. reported size elsewhere 2.3 inches.

Distribution. Coastal-plain waters from southern Maine to Florida, west to the Mississippi River. In Connecticut, swamp darters are limited to lowland areas in the eastern part of the state, mostly east of the Quinebaug River, where they are typically uncommon to rare in abundance.

Swamp darter distribution map.

All maps created in 2009. See CT DEEP Fish Community Data for updated distributions.

Habits. Bottom-dwelling fish that prefer ponds, swamps and backwater areas of slow-moving streams. Usually found in areas of vegetation or detritus over mud bottoms. They can be captured with small-mesh dip net or seine.

Comments. Swamp darters are very small, camouflaged and secretive. Primarily for this reason, their distribution in Connecticut is not fully-defined, nor is it clear whether their range has changed over time. Due to its limited distribution and habitat needs, the swamp darter is a species of conservation concern in this state.


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.