Hello Folks! As promised, we will try to add new Blogs on a semi-regular basis! We are excited to be working with several new species this year. One of these is the Sickle Darter, Percina williamsi.
This handsome darter was once considered to be the Longhead Darter, P. macrocephala, but was recognized as distinct in 2007 in a publication by Tom Near and Larry Page. This uncommon darter is found in several rivers of the upper Tennessee drainage. More often than not, Sickle Darters will be found in the calmer sections of the river, usually associated with woody debris.
We are maintaining a small breeding group of these guys in a 300 gallon vat. The vat is supplied with a moderate current and a number of woody branches. They seem to prefer to hang out in or near the branchy cover. As our hatchery water temperatures have began to exceed 50°F, there has been more and more activity in their tank! Since the fish cannot be easily observed in the vat, we have installed a small video camera that can be viewed on a DVR system over my desk! From there, I can see that the females are VERY gravid now, and the males have developed a "shield-like" pattern along their sides. I am beginning to see some chasing of the females by the males as well as some "light" territoriality between the males. Fortunately, they do not appear to be overly aggressive toward one another.
We anticipate that, like other members of the genus, they will bury eggs in the sandy substrate. I will plan on a follow-up blog with details of their romantic encounters and our experiences in raising their children! Best wishes until then! J.R.