View Full Version : Rainbow Darters

03-19-2009, 12:16 AM
So, I went to Hilton Head today and saw these fish in a stream. I watched them for a while, and realised they behaved a lot like my peacock gudgeons do...except you know, in a swift stream. Well I went and looked them up on google and have guess that they were a small population of Rainbow Darters:


I showed a picture to wolf and we both sort of thought, hmm, I wonder how hard it would be to keep them...

The ones I saw were a bit less colourful than that one, but still pleasing to the eye.

Does anyone have any experience with Rainbow Darters? From what I've read, they sound like lovely fish, though sensitive....what's more, they're the most abundant of all the darter species.

03-20-2009, 12:55 AM
I have not kept them but I have considered them before. You will need some current though. Try to re create a stream.

03-20-2009, 12:59 AM
They are awesome! I just was looking for some from another member on the site.

10-27-2009, 09:05 PM
Hi guys. new to the site. I have a 125 gallon setup with quite a strange variety of fish including an oscar, red tail sharks, bala sharks, tiger barbs, pictus cats, black skirt tetras, serpae tetras, one LARGE crawdad, and some rainbow darters I caught in the stream down the hill from my house this spring. I started out with about 15 various darters. Most of them were rainbow darters, but there were some others which were a totally different species. a few were significantly longer and had vertical black stripes, a couple had some spot patterns that werent listed anywhere on the internet.

Like I said I caught them this spring and put them in their own tank for awhile because my main tank was all tropicals. I slowly brought them up to around 72 degrees and the only change I saw was that their colors werent so vivid as they were in the 50 degree water. I put them in the community tank and they are very inquisitive fish. after a few weeks they started coming up to the glass and watching me walk by. a couple weeks later I started feeding them tubiflex worms from my fingertips. they are totally unafraid of me at this point and if i put my hand in the tank to stick a live plant back in the gravel they come up to my fingers. they are fun to watch because they will turn just their heads to look at stuff and kind of hop on their lower fins like a goby.

I've lost a few unfortunately. I have 8 left at the moment, and the males are quite large at this point. I assume the oscar ate a couple of the slower or more unobservant ones, and one or two refused to eat anything so they slowly shrank and died. the remaining ones are quite healthy and happy, eat voraciously and I get many comments and questions from people who visit and see my tank.

From what i read the males usually die after spawning, so it will be interesting to see how long they live in an aquarium. I have made no effort to simulate a stream environment and they seem happy without constant current, but they refuse to breed. Thats fine with me because I plan on catching some more this coming spring. I may set up a stream tank to see if i can get some to breed, but there are a ton of them in the stream, so it might not be worth the effort.

They are really hard to catch.... the word "darter" is too accurate.... fast little buggers... took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to catch them. basically I stand there bent over in less than a foot of water slowly walking upstream. i take a step, watch. take a step, watch. if i see one i have to slowly bring my net from behind them as close as possible, usually 4" behind them is as close as i can get, then i slam my hand into the water in front of them and hope they go backwards into the net instead of forwards. If I timed it right I'll have one, but it usually takes 5-6 tries per catch.

10-27-2009, 09:36 PM
Great write up Kip and Welcome to the forums!

10-27-2009, 10:01 PM
well I wasn't really doing a write-up, just my experience with the rainbow darters. they arent a very common aquarium fish(extremely rare apparently) and they really should be more available because they are so interesting to watch. if carefully acclimated they can live in 72+ degree water with other more common aquarium fish.

if anyone is interested in some come next spring I can catch some more. I've never mailed fish before, so I really would have no idea how to do it...

10-27-2009, 10:56 PM
kip, if you want your rainbows to breed, you will need a separate tank. You will need to provide plenty of crevasses, and ledges. You will also need to closely adjust photoperiod and water temperature. They will need current as well. You will need the coldest water your faucet can provide and you will need to similate photoperiod to have success spawning.
You will notice that darters like rainbows require cool water temps. Survival will decrease once water temps stay above mid-seventies for any prolonged period of time. Given the proper setup and depending on age, a rainbow darter should live 2-3 years.

In regards to the original post back in March, the darters seen were likely tesselated or blackbanded darters (possibly sawcheek, savannah or swamp darters) as rainbows do not live in that area of the country.

Nice to see some folks enjoying some of USA's native beauties :)

10-29-2009, 11:56 AM
I read up a lot on darters after I caught some. I'll have to build a custom tank for them if I wish to breed them, probably similar to the 30 long sump I built. same footprint as a 55, but only 12" tall. I think I have enough glass left to make another tank..couple 802 powerheads, one at one end pushing water towards the other end, and the other powerhead pushing water back to the other side through a tube under the substrate. maybe use a small beer fridge to run return water through to chill it enough.

these were the fish i always tried to catch as a kid, but could never catch because they were too fast. my 6 year old really enjoys seeing them