15 Fin-tastic Facts About The Tessellated Darter For Kids

Interesting tessellated darter facts for kids to enjoy.

Tessellated darters are small fishes growing up to 4.3 in (11 cm), native to Canada and North America. Their distribution ranges from Ontario and St. Lawrence River up to Florida. Being carnivorous eaters, they search for small crustaceans and insects as prey. They have an elongated slender body with dark brown zigzag markings on their sandy-yellow to olive-brown bodies. The dorsal fins are big and have alternating dark brown and pale white pigments. Egg distribution is done on the underside of rocks and logs, while males act as caretakers until they hatch. Males swim over the eggs using their dorsal fins to keep predators at bay. At present, they have Least Concern status, but over time this status might change if their conservation efforts are neglected.

Want to know more intriguing facts about tessellated darters? Read on to know more facts about this interesting fish species.

For more relatable content, check out these snail darter facts and fantail darter facts for kids.

Tessellated Darter

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Small crustaceans, insects, insect eggs, snails, and algae

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?


How long are they?

Up to 4.3 in (11 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Pale yellow, olive-brown, and creamy white

Skin Type

Dark brown mottled scales

What are their main threats?

Large fish, herons, kingfishers, and humans

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Rivers, small streams, gravel, and sand or mud bottoms of freshwater lakes


Native to rivers of North America and Canada, mainly in St Johns river, St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario up to Florida, draining into the Atlantic Ocean





Scientific Name

Etheostoma olmstedi





Tessellated Darter Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a tessellated darter?

The tessellated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi) is a freshwater fish species native to the temperate North American rivers. They are a member of the Perch family and can swim up to 443 ft (135 m) deep in coastal waters.

What class of animal does a tessellated darter belong to?

Tessellated darters belong to the class of Actinopterygii.

How many tessellated darters are there in the world?

At present, there are no records on the exact population size of this fish species.  

Where does a tessellated darter live?

The tessellated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi) is native to North American freshwaters. Their distribution is found in Atlantic drainages of St. Lawrence, southern Quebec, to Altamaha River, Georgia, and Florida. Also, they can be found in Lake Ontario in New York and near the coastal plain of Virginia.

What is a tessellated darter's habitat?

The distribution of tessellated darters is mostly confined to freshwater, living in the dark sand or mud bottoms of a river or lake. They are an inland fish species that wander in their habitat range in search of prey and spawning. Breeding takes place mostly in dark cave-like hollows of river beds.

Who does the tessellated darter live with?

A tessellated darter prefers to live on its own at times other than during spawning. To avoid interaction, they often dive deep with their dorsal fins to hide in the dark bottom of a river.

How long does a tessellated darter live?

The average life expectancy of this fish species is more than three years.

How do they reproduce?

Springtime is ideal for spawning and breeding. The otherwise loner males start wandering around females looking for a perfect match. The eggs are deposited by the females in a single layer under rocks, boulders, pebbles, or logs in the river. After laying eggs, the mother abandons them and the male takes care of the eggs, guarding them against danger. After protecting the eggs for about 21 days, hatching takes place. Usually, no two males will stay with the eggs adjacent to each other, unless there is a space crunch.

What is their conservation status?

At present, the tessellated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi) is listed as a species of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List. Due to their wide range of distribution in streams and shallow coastal shelves of North America, they are found in abundance. Although humans pose a threat to their survival, this fish is not at the risk of overfishing at present.

Tessellated Darter Fun Facts

What does a tessellated darter look like?

The tessellated darter (Etheostoma olmstedi) is a small size fish ranging up to 4.3 in (11 cm) with a slender scaly body. They are pale and sandy-yellow to olive-brown in color with a creamy white belly and numerous dark zigzag markings. They have nine to 11 'X' and 'W' shaped dark mid-lateral markings on their elongated body. Their dorsal fins are large and brown in color, attached with eight to 10 spines. Other fins are small and marked with dark blotches all over their body. Their snouts are small and sharp and eyes are closely set on their small head which helps them to dive deep and tactfully search for prey.

Tessellated darters are extremely tactful.
* Please note that this is an image of a fantail darter, not a tessellated darter. If you have an image of a tessellated darter please let us know at

How cute are they?

Although tessellated darters have a slender body with brown stripes, they do not look cute. However, some may find their dorsal fins to be cute.

How do they communicate?

Dark brown-spotted tessellated darters usually shy away from communication. When in search of a mate, the males wander jovially throughout their entire distribution from Canada's Ontario down to southern Florida in the USA. Also, they are good at aggressively predating smaller fishes and insects by diving deep into the dark in search of prey. Two darter males often fight while protecting their eggs if they are kept in the vicinity of each other.

How big is a tessellated darter?

Tessellated darters are small fishes ranging up to 4.3 in (11 cm) long. This darter is six times the size of a snail.

How fast can a tessellated darter swim?

The exact estimate of their swimming speed is not known. They are known as darters because of swimming swiftly deep into the dark river bottom while looking for prey.

How much does a tessellated darter weigh?

They are brown-spotted small-sized fishes with slender bodies. Their exact body weight is unknown.

What are the male and female names of the species?

There are no separate names assigned to the male and female tessellated species.

What would you call a baby tessellated darter?

No specific names are assigned to their offspring. A baby fish is called a fry.

What do they eat?

Tessellated darters are carnivorous fishes. They swim around in search of prey like fish eggs, insects, snails, and other small crustaceans like small crabs.

Are they dangerous?

To date, there have been no reports of a tessellated darter harming humans. However, they are dangerous predators for small crustaceans, snails, insects, and other fish eggs.

Would they make a good pet?

A tessellated darter requires a large dark area to thrive as they prefer wandering swiftly from one place to another. Keeping them in aquariums should be avoided to maintain their population status.

Did you know...

This fish is neither consumed nor has commercial value, meaning it is saved from overfishing. However, the population status of this species is slowly declining as they are increasingly fished to be fed to other high-value commercial fishes.

Tessellated darters search for mosquito larvae to feed on, keeping mosquito breeding in check.

After spawning and laying of eggs, sometimes males resort to cannibalism by eating their own eggs which are attached to rock undersides up to 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm).

Is the tessellated darter native to Ontario?

The distribution of tessellated darters is native to Lake Ontario which is shared by both Canada and the USA. They are a subspecies of Johnny darter and both look similar in their appearance.

Is the tessellated darter similar to perch?

Tessellated darters belong to the perch family. Breeding adult darters have 12 to 13 'X' or 'W'-shaped dark markings on their fins, while non-breeding ones have dark pelvic and pectoral fins with light-colored tips. The missing dark pigment of non-breeding darters makes them look similar in appearance to a perch.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our catshark facts and red mullet fun facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable realistic fish coloring pages.



At Kidadl we pride ourselves on offering families original ideas to make the most of time spent together at home or out and about, wherever you are in the world. We strive to recommend the very best things that are suggested by our community and are things we would do ourselves - our aim is to be the trusted friend to parents.

We try our very best, but cannot guarantee perfection. We will always aim to give you accurate information at the date of publication - however, information does change, so it’s important you do your own research, double-check and make the decision that is right for your family.

Kidadl provides inspiration to entertain and educate your children. We recognise that not all activities and ideas are appropriate and suitable for all children and families or in all circumstances. Our recommended activities are based on age but these are a guide. We recommend that these ideas are used as inspiration, that ideas are undertaken with appropriate adult supervision, and that each adult uses their own discretion and knowledge of their children to consider the safety and suitability.

Kidadl cannot accept liability for the execution of these ideas, and parental supervision is advised at all times, as safety is paramount. Anyone using the information provided by Kidadl does so at their own risk and we can not accept liability if things go wrong.

Sponsorship & Advertising Policy

Kidadl is independent and to make our service free to you the reader we are supported by advertising.

We hope you love our recommendations for products and services! What we suggest is selected independently by the Kidadl team. If you purchase using the buy now button we may earn a small commission. This does not influence our choices. Please note: prices are correct and items are available at the time the article was published.

Kidadl has a number of affiliate partners that we work with including Amazon. Please note that Kidadl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.

We also link to other websites, but are not responsible for their content.

Read our Sponsorship & Advertising Policy
Get The Kidadl Newsletter

1,000 of inspirational ideas direct to your inbox for things to do with your kids.

Thank you! Your newsletter will be with you soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
No items found.
No items found.