Etheostoma caeruleum | Rainbow Darter

The Rainbow Darter is widely distributed through the uplands of the Missippippi River basin, and is common across much of the eastern United States. It also occurs in many of the Great Lake tributaries with the exception of the tributaries flowing into Lake Superior.  The Rainbow Darter can be found in small upland streams and rivers.  Adults prefer fast-flowing riffle habitat while young are usually found in slightly slower areas.  


These fish start breeding in early March when water temperatures just reach 55 F, and continue breeding through June.  Although this is a common fish, the Biology Dept at Missouri State University (with Professor Dr. Chris Barnhart) funded CFI to propagate rainbow darters in 2010 to serve as fish hosts for their endangered mussel restoration program. CFI was quite successful in their production efforts and were able to document the life history characteristics of this darter.  Other agencies have used CFI to propagate fish as mussel hosts because it lessens the impact on native streams, as well as increases the mussel production given propagated fish have not developed immune responses to mussel glochidia exposure.