Jump to content

Native Darter Journal


Fish Folk

Recommended Posts

I’ve decided to explore several species of native U. S. Darters. Currently, I have a single pair of Ohio native Etheostoma caeruleum (Rainbow darters).

723F396A-B935-4F96-ABFE-96508FC2BF99.jpeg.4484a0dea66f4a5680e0db025229ec3a.jpeg

I’m ordering a second pair to bring out color in the males, and increase visibility. I’ve upped the flow in this aquarium significantly by adding a small powerhead.

E35C078C-B66E-4DBD-94AA-A2E6AB82C68D.jpeg.42fa73e657b140438566246a5f7b732e.jpeg

I’m also ordering two pairs of Etheostoma zonale (Banded Darters).

7AAAC19C-4C5E-4137-AD34-54B24B2ABBA4.jpeg.71f6a02032d714a3ebb5749649132e22.jpeg

I’ve got a second tank prepped for them, also with heavy flow boosted by a small powerhead.

DB0667AE-E614-4C06-BFFF-8D3575A6235F.jpeg.799dc4f0649964dcbd3f0d9a2a5b2633.jpeg

There are excellent articles available to read up on these species from the NANFA website. My particular interest is breeding fish.

Here is one on breeding the Rainbow Darters.

And here’s another on breeding Banded Darters.

  • Like 14
  • Love 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm getting excited about these new Darters! I've had to push off ordering until the first week in October, but had a great chat with my seller by phone today. He's been in the U. S. Native fish collection / sale / shipping business for over two decades. Just a massive ton of knowledge to share. I love talking with people who know sooooo much more than me about fish. It just feels so cool to know there's much, much more to learn.

He explained that Darters all have unique ways of spawning, and have preferred places where they like to deposit their eggs. Rainbow Darters like to bury their eggs in the substrate / gravel. Banded Darters will use surfaces -- e.g. rocks, tank glass, as well as plants -- to deposit their eggs. Here's a pair of Banded Darters spawning against a rock...

386463802_ScreenShot2021-09-22at4_57_11PM.png.392fbf0bd488a9a5702f111928997298.png

With respect to coloration, Banded Darters tend to mimic their surroundings.Here's one camouflaged in tan / brown rocks in a river bed...

1686871938_ScreenShot2021-09-22at4_44_34PM.png.51045f1675375f9d41374421d117c602.png

And here's a darter (not sure of species) against a long vein of algae in a stream. This is a fairly common type of location for Banded Darters...

1149499538_ScreenShot2021-09-22at5_00_52PM.png.af0127bd670e20ba69283fac67769c33.png

I inquired about temperature: "Do I need a chiller?" He told me he didn't really think so. The big issue is added flow and aeration, because water absorbs _more_ oxygen when it is _cooler_ but at warmer temperatures, more air is needed to help fish thrive. With Darters, this is especially so, as they do not swim freely, due to their undeveloped swim bladder. So their health is improved by strong flow.

I've got a start at strong flow...

What I want now is _more_ greens. I may jam wisteria and Valisneria everywhere I can and hope that it stays rooted.

One more tip (I've heard this before): Native fish do best when their light / photo period mimics nature. So . . . shorten days heading into winter, and lengthen days heading into summer. 

___________________________________

I understand that this type of aquatic excursion is not everyone's "cup of tea." I just think it's incredible how much there is to explore in aquatics. I'm loving this, but also am thrilled with what someone like George Farmer is working on with Aquascaping . . . or what Scott Fellman is doing over at Tannin Aquatics . . . what Dean is breeding . . . etc.

Enjoy it all! 

 

Edited by Fish Folk
  • Like 4
  • Thanks 1
  • Love 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/22/2021 at 2:15 PM, Fish Folk said:

I understand that this type of aquatic excursion is not everyone's "cup of tea." I just think it's incredible how much there is to explore in aquatics. I'm loving this, but also am thrilled with what someone like George Farmer is working on with Aquascaping . . . or what Scott Fellman is doing over at Tannin Aquatics . . . what Dean is breeding . . . etc.

I’m still at the point in my Hobby where almost everything is new, but I know  you’re working with some really special fish and you’re kind enough to make content and share your secrets. I really appreciate it, and I know when I’m ready to tackle some advance breeding projects I’ll have your journals as reference. 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I know that we all do "research." Having been down many a NERM-hole, I know that we all learn in unique ways. I have a window of time here, so I've decided to share how I study something new. Today's goal: learn as much as I can about keeping and breeding Rainbow Darters (Etheostoma caeruleum) and Banded Darters (Etheostoma zonale).

First thing I do? Just like my kids, I Google: "How to breed Rainbow Darters." Up front is a link to a NANFA post. NANFA is "The North America Native Fishes Association." It's main webpage is here, and its primary publication is the quarterly journal American Currents, which you can check out a 2017 sample of here. For my part, I've just become a new NANFA member for $30.

(Note: I've not even read the article that came up first) Glancing at the sample 2017 American Currents, I came across a seller who specializes in selected North American fish -- particularly Darters. I check to see if their website is still active (after all, it's been 4 years). Yes it is! I click through it . . . and want to add this to my short list of possible future suppliers . . . but learn that they are only licensed to sell within their own State. Ah well. I read the short write-ups about the Banded Darter and Rainbow Darter. I also look at photos.

Here's a photo...

94283445_ScreenShot2021-09-22at7_28_52PM.png.a1efc2235df2f06c868d1b5ed0cc96b4.png

I make note to the stone / gravel type, color, and size.

Here's their write-up...

2035867478_ScreenShot2021-09-22at7_29_32PM.png.da9520f95964bff0e5684f9f363c2d42.png

This information is very helpful. It's not specialist-oriented, but intended for the amateur aquarist (like me!). I've definitely got a great start with my current tank. I can't wait to get some of these!

Now . . . back to the Google link, "How to breed Rainbow Darters" (notice how I got all sidetracked with Banded Darters . . . I'm obsessing over both)

This is a thread on the NANFA Forum about how to breed Rainbow Darters. I love these old threads, because they often provide comic relief as two of three old codgers argue while young newbys ask ignorant questions. This thread is a fantastic read!

Now I've become obsessed with _seeing_ my Rainbow Darters. The best way I've found is to thaw a cube of frozen food, and squirt down to the substrate near their "hide." Hmm . . . let me try that, and make a video . . . After about five minutes, both the male and female make a solid appearance. If you're watching below, skip ahead to the 4:50-minute mark to see them emerge for maybe 20 seconds. They literally "dart" through the frame.

I've got a bunch of other perpetually-hungry fish in this tank . . . Rainbow Shiners, and Redtail Goodeids (Xenotoca doadrioi) . . . so the Darters have to claim their chow if they really want any. I'll be parting with the Goodeids, and adding another pair of Rainbow Darters. So things should get lively in the future.

Next in my research . . . I check back at the Google search, and select a 1907 article from the University of Chicago. Looks like the study was actually done at the University of Michigan. (Note: it seems like there's a lot of interest in Darters up in Michigan)

Apparently the Latin name included the name "Storer" -- Etheostoma Caeruleum Storer, who published about them back in 1845. This fish has a proper history! The author did this research in the spring of 1906 (April 24 - June 2). The goal of the study was to determine any possible relationship between breeding, behavior, and coloration. Several interesting observations form this old journal article reinforce observations I've made and read about already: Their base color is informed by their surroundings, and colors are more brilliant when the temperature of the water is low (59-degrees Fahrenheit / 15-degrees C, or lower). Additionally, colors are enhanced with rivalry encounters between males. The author remarks that during spring breeding season, "The breeding areas so swarm with them that, one day, I counted twenty-six in a single square yard."

I'll pin this tab, and definitely read the rest later on when I can't sleep!

Another thing I like to look for are videos of Darters. A picture is worth a thousand words. And a Video is a hundred thousand pictures. So . . . you do the math!

Here's a fascinating video, lightly edited, from an underwater cam. Some footage is sped up 3x. This provides an excellent sense of how hight the water flow is for these fish, and how intensely colored they can get. Also note how _many_ of them congregate here to breed. This is really, really impressive:

That's all for now. I'd estimate that I spend 4-12 hours of watching videos about every fish I seriously try to breed, and that I read 20-100 "pages" -- or the equivalent thereof. 

 

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/22/2021 at 11:11 PM, Lowells Fish Lab said:

This is great, in full breeding colors they have to be some of the most colorful freshwater fish around. Definitely up there on my bucket list. Are you hoping to breed? 

Oh yes! Breeding fish is pretty much what I'm here for. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

With oxygenation being a key, any thoughts on setting up a long tank with a sump with a wet dry? Figure you'll still need the powerheads for flow, but more agitation in part of the water column for oxygenation couldn't hurt? NA Natives are definitely outside of my scope for experience, so I'll default to your research if that recommendation is garbage. 

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/23/2021 at 12:11 AM, Tihshho said:

With oxygenation being a key, any thoughts on setting up a long tank with a sump with a wet dry? Figure you'll still need the powerheads for flow, but more agitation in part of the water column for oxygenation couldn't hurt? NA Natives are definitely outside of my scope for experience, so I'll default to your research if that recommendation is garbage. 

I bet this would help! I've just never run a sump before. Something to look into though . . .

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Starting my day with more Darter study.

Here’s a very short video about Darters in the Smoky Mountain streams. I learned that stacking stones across a stream actually harms their habitat by restricting flow. Also, I learned that Darters’ presence in a stream indicates quality, clean water.

I really enjoy catching native Tessellated Darters with my five-year-old son in our backyard stream. Due to State regulations, we don’t try keeping these in our aquariums. But they are a really lovely local find.

232EA1BA-1480-469E-8CCE-BB677B709FF6.jpeg.0690a19f72c70d657c42f5e7e50e6597.jpeg

E9B05496-8B56-4E44-BF68-5A07D3460F86.jpeg.f0d3347e04789577ee7ed37e09e40245.jpeg

Alrighty… on to more videos…

I’ve seen this before, but my oh my… I love to see the study and care put into this endangered Vermillion Darter from Turkey Creek:

I note to myself that Darters are adaptable, and can live both on stone bottom, and up in vegetation where there’s a mud bottom. While heavy flow may be preferred, they can adapt to slower moving water too.

 This gets me wondering: since Michigan has a lot of Darter enthusiasm, are there any videos produced by University fish labs?

Didn’t find anything (yet) but came across this:

Very cool! I want to help! These people aren’t far from me. I think there’s going to so be a trip coming up!

That led to this video. I’m SO taking my 5-yr old snorkeling for Darters!

I guess when I “research” and “study,” I like to stretch waaaaaay out with my mind, and learn as much as I can about the whole field of study in something before I get laser-focused on particular things. But, ironically, I always BEGIN looking into a specific, particular fish / topic, and let it unravel awhile. While I didn’t learn a ton about Banded Darter breeding today, I thoroughly enjoyed watching biologists and professional environmental specialists share some of their study and enthusiasm.

Plus! I learned that snorkeling with my kid is in the upcoming future! 

  • Like 3
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess I’ll make another move from my kids’ approach to learning, and mention that the Wikipedia page devoted to Etheostoma zonale is very helpful.

 In particular, the bottom section labeled “References” is always helpful, even when an online group-sourced article like this is slightly suspect. I always like the fishbase link

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just one more thought . . . I've learned that for every academic-type person who spends countless hours carefully researching how to breed some fish successfully, there's probably a kid in Milwaukee who just throws that fish into a tray with stones and a powerhead and gets fry.

I'm also looking out to learn from that kid!  😂

Edited by Fish Folk
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A scientist working on on her Phd in Aquatics, specializing on Darters, shared a few interesting suggestions awhile back in response to an e-mail when I had first purchased Rainbow Darters and inquired about how to get them to spawn.

She first suggested This article published by NANFA about "Fooling Fish with Light"  -- short read, and very interesting.

And then she linked to this really clear video about Orangethroat Darter courtship and spawning (similar to spawning technique of the Rainbow Darter):

 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...