The Rainbow Darter, Etheostoma caeruleum, is a freshwater fish that inhabits creeks and small rivers throughout portions of eastern North America (Ray et al. (2006). They are most common in the Great Lakes and the Ohio River Valley regions, but can be found as far south as northern Alabama. Within Wisconsin, Rainbow Darters can be found in the southern two-thirds of the state of Wisconsin.

 The streams and rivers that Darters prefer are temperate shallow riffles which are characterized by high velocity water movement, with coarse-bedded bottom, like gravel,  that are highly oxygenated (Weston et al. 2010). This fast moving water is more typical for adult Darters while the young spend more time in slower, shallower pools. Rainbow Darters are highly sensitive to pollution and other changes in their habitat so they are often used as biological indicators of an environment, so human activities such as pollution has a negative effect on populations of this species. 

Rainbow Darters can be found amongst many other species that share the same habitat including Northern Brook Lamprey, White Suckers, Northern Hogsuckers, Stonerollers, Blacknose Dace, and many other species of Darters.





 Next, read about the form and function of the rainbow darter, or revisit the home page.