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Robyn's Orangethroat Darter Page

Last Updated: 9/16/03

I have never had orangethroat darters and do not know anything first hand about them. I wrote this page when I thought I would be getting some but I did not after all. All of the following information comes from books and internet sources. If you have any information on the orangethroat darter, please send it to me. In the cases where I state "unknown," it means that I do not know but others may know. Also, please let me know if any of this information is incorrect or if you can add to it. This is the only page I have on a specific fish that I have never had (or seen in person).

Quick Information
Setup and Water Preferences
My Orangethroat Darters
Links and Pictures

Quick Information

Common name: Orange-throated darter, orangethroat darter
Scientific/Latin names: Etheostoma spectabile
Maximum length: 2 to 3 inches
Colors: Natural with orange/yellow, red, and blue striping for mature males, drabber for females; most of the colors of the rainbow
Temperature preference: 33 to 81 degrees F, cooler preferred
pH preference: 7
Hardness preference: Unknown, probably soft to moderate
Salinity preference: Unknown, probably low
Compatibility: Good
Life span: Unknown
Ease of keeping: Moderate
Ease of breeding: Moderate


The orangethroat darter, Etheostoma spectabile, is a good aquarium fish or perhaps for a pond (though you would rarely see them). They require cool water. Being in the perch family, they lack swim bladders and tend to stay at the bottom. These darters grow to about 1 to 2.5 inches and have dark bars on their backs. They have red, blue, green, yellow, and natural colors on their pretty bodies. Their gills are orange. Males are brighter. Unlike other darters, they are not overly shy.

Setup and Water Preferences

The orangethroat darter is usually found in small, clear streams with sand and gravel bottoms. They like it cold but not as cold as most other darters. They can live in water up into the low 80's degrees F.

The orangethroat darter is often found in association with the rainbow darter. Non-breeding orangethroat darters may be thought to be rainbow darters.

They eat mostly aquatic insect larvae. Blood worms are a favorite.


During spawning season, males have much more bright orange and blue coloration. They are also more aggressive. Breeding males may have tubercles on their fins.


Orangethroat darters breed in the spring and summer. Breeding takes place inside a cave (flower pot or rock) that a male takes over. The male will coax the female to enter and lay a few hundred eggs. The eggs stick where they land. Another source says that they spawn by the female entering his territory, burying herself in gravel, then he buries himself and they spawn. I do not know which account is correct. Up to 1000 eggs can be laid at one time. They love to eat their own eggs (like most fish!). Eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days. Newborns can be fed newborn brine shrimp or infusuria.

My Orangethroat Darters

I do not have any. I had planned to add some to my 153 gallon pond but changed my mind (and the person who was going to give them to me thought that prudent).

Links and Pictures

Orangethroat darter - picture and some information

Orangethroat darter - some information

Orangethroat darters - as aquarium fish; two page article

North American Native Fishes Association

Native Fish Conservancy - I am a member since 10/99

North American Freshwater Fishes

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