Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Swamp Darter

Swamp Darter
Etheostoma fusiforme

New York Status: Threatened


swamp darter image

Cryptically colored with natural camouflage the swamp darter is well suited to its environment. Its back is dark olive with 8-12 dark blotches and the sides are mottled with mid-lateral blotches in tan to green. Its belly is whitish with dark specks, the first dorsal fin has dark bands and the tail is barred with 3 dark spots at its base. The swamp darter has a short snout, shorter than the eye, with a groove (called a frenum) separating the tip of the upper lip from the snout. A small fish, it grows to 1 to 2 inches in length.

Life History

Spawning occurs during late April and May. Not a nest builder, the swamp darter deposits its eggs singly on the leaves of aquatic plants. It feeds on amphipods, small crustaceans and insects. The swamp darter matures at age one and rarely lives beyond its second summer.

Distribution and Habitat

In the United States, the swamp darter has a wide range. They are found from southwestern Maine to south Florida west to Texas. In the Mississippi Valley, they are found northward to Tennessee and Kentucky. The distribution of the swamp darter closely follows the fall line, the border between the hilly piedmont and the flat coastal plain. However, in New York, its range is extremely limited, occurring in only a few ponds near to, and in the Peconic River in eastern Long Island. The typical habitat of the swamp darter is quiet or slow moving water with a sand, detritus or muck bottom and with an abundance of aquatic vegetation.

Population Status

The current population trend is unknown but because the swamp darter occurs in such a restricted area they may be very vulnerable. Since 1999 the swamp darter has been confirmed in 8 of its 16 historical locations.

Management/Research Needs

The swamp darter is a hardy species able to tolerate a variety of water conditions, and their management includes the protection of the wetlands in eastern Long Island.

  • PDF Help
  • For help with PDFs on this page, please call 518-402-8924.
  • Contact for this Page
    Bureau of Fisheries
    625 Broadway
    Albany, NY 12233-4753
    Send us an email
  • This Page Covers
  • Page applies to all NYS regions