Etheostoma caeruleum
Etheostoma caeruleum
(Rainbow Darter)
Native Transplant
Translate this page with Google
Français Deutsch Español Português Russian Italiano Japanese

Copyright Info
Etheostoma caeruleum Storer, 1845

Common name: Rainbow Darter

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994). Similar to orangethroat darter Etheostoma spectabile, redline darter E. luteovinctum, and mud darter E. asprigine, but these three species lack red color on anal fin that is present in E. caeruleum.

Size: 7.7 cm.

Native Range: Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins from southern Ontario and western New York to Minnesota, and south to northern Alabama and Arkansas. Isolated populations in southwestern Mississippi and eastern Louisiana, and in upper Potomac River drainage (Atlantic Slope), West Virginia (Page and Burr 1991).

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Hawaii auto-generated map
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The Rainbow Darter has been introduced into the Genesee River system of New York. The species is now common from Portageville to Caneadea and in Angelica and Caneadea creeks (Smith 1985). In 2009, more than a dozen Rainbow Darters were collected in Schoharie County in the Hudson drainage.  Hocutt et al. (1986) listed this species only as questionably native in the Potomac and the Kanawha drainage above the falls. Found throughout the Potomac River drainage in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia (Cessna et al. 2014).

Means of Introduction: Unknown. Dispersed throughout the Potomac River drainage (Cessna et al. 2014).

Status: The species is established in the Genesee River system, apparently due to a fairly recent introduction (late 1970s). The population was expanding explosively as of the early 1980s (Smith 1985). Also established in Fox Creek, Schoharie County. Established in the Potomac River drainage (Cessna et al. 2014).

Impact of Introduction: Unknown.

Remarks: Cross et al. (1986) reported the Rainbow Darter as introduced into the Middle Arkansas drainage. No records of this species were found from this drainage in Arkansas (Robison and Buchanan 1988), Oklahoma (Miller and Robison 1973), or Kansas (Cross 1967; Cross and Collins 1995). However, Cross (1967) mentioned that E. caeruleum had been reported in Kansas previously, but those records were based on misidentified E. spectabile. Esmond and Stauffer (1983) argue that the Potomac River population is native based on morphometrics; Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) suggest that the population in the New River drainage is introduced due to its recent appearance and spread. Rainbow Darters are abundant in Walker Creek, a tributary of the New River (T. Crail, pers. comm.)

References: (click for full references)

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Madison Press, Madison, WI.

Cessna, J.F., R.L. Raesly, J.V. Kilian, D.A. Cincotta, and R.H. Hilderbrand. 2014. Rapid colonization of the Potomac River drainage by the Rainbow Darter (Etheostoma caeruleum) following introduction. Northeastern Naturalist 21(1):1-11.

Crail, T. 2011. University of Toledo. Personal communication

Cross, F.B. 1967. Handbook of fishes of Kansas. State Biological Survey and University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Miscellaneous Publications, number 45. Topeka, KS.

Cross, F.B., and J.T. Collins. Fishes in Kansas. University of Kansas Natural History Museum, Lawrence, KS.

Cross, F.B. R.L. Mayden, and J.D. Stewart. 1986. Fishes in the western Mississippi Basin (Missouri, Arkansas, and Red Rivers). pp. 363-412 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Esmond, E.F., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1983. Taxometric comparison of the Atlantic slope and Ohio River populations of Etheostoma caeruleum Storer. American Midland Naturalist 109:390-397.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knowxville, TN.

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic coastal plain. Pages 161-212 in Hocutt, C.H., and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons. New York, NY.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Miller, R.J., and H.W. Robison. 1973. The fishes of Oklahoma. Oklahoma State University Press, Stillwater, OK.

Page, L.M. 1983. Handbook of darters. T.F.H., Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Page, L.M., and B.M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to the freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Guide Series, vol. 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetville, AR.

Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

Other Resources:
Ohio A to Z Species Guide (Ohio Department of Natural Resources)

FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 2/12/2018

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Etheostoma caeruleum Storer, 1845: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 2/12/2018, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 2/25/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logoU.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Pam Fuller - NAS Program (
Page Last Modified: Tuesday, January 30, 2018


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [2/25/2018].

Additional information for authors