• Family: Percidae (Perches and darters)
• Other Names: None
• Ohio Status: Species of concern
• Adult Size: Typically 1-1.5 inches, can reach 1.75 inches.
• Typical Foods: Insect larvae, crustaceans, and other aquatic invertebrates.
The least darter is a very small fish rarely reaching a size of more than 1.5 inches in length. They have an over all light olive brown body color covered in darker brown speckles. The lateral line is often absent or when it is present it is very short. They have 7-15 dark blotches along their side which are wider than they are tall. The second dorsal and tail fins have many small dark spots that tend to form wavy rows. Least darters also have a distinct tear drop under the eye and often several other dark lines radiating outward from the eye on their head and snout. Breeding male least darters have a band of red spots in the middle of their first dorsal fin. Males also have over sized pelvic fins and their pectoral, pelvic, and anal fins are flushed with orange or red. Females look very similar to males but are lacking any of the red or orange and have smaller pelvic fins.
Habitat and Habits
Least darters are relatively well distributed in the western part of Ohio in small sluggish prairie streams that have clear water and profuse amounts of aquatic vegetation. They are also found in natural lakes and permanent wetlands that also contain large amounts of aquatic vegetation and clear waters. Historically this species was probably more widely distributed where appropriate habitat was present.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Least darters spawn on vegetation in spring. Males guard small territories from other males and also guard the eggs until they hatch.