Blackside darter
Percina maculata (Girard, 1859)

member of the Perch Family (Percidae)

photo by Konrad Schmidt












What's In a Name?
Blackside darter: named for the black band on the sides of the fish

Percina (purr-seen´-ah) means "little perch" in Latin
(mack-u-lah´-tah) means "spotted" in Latin


    Where Do They Live?
Blackside darters live throughout Minnesota, but they are most common in the central and south-central portions of the state. They are common in the St. Croix, Cannon, Zumbro, Cottonwood, and Otter Tail rivers and their larger tributaries. Adult blackside darters live mostly on rocky riffles to pebbly and sandy runs of small to large rivers. Often they seek shelter from the current in debris or vegetation at the downstream end of runs and riffles. Young blacksides prefer quieter water and can be found in slow runs, pools, or backwaters. Adults share the riffle habitats with a variety of other fishes, such as other darters, stonerollers, blacknose dace, white suckers, and creek chubs.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
The blackside darter commonly grows to 70-90 mm (3-3.5 in.) in length, but can reach 95-110 mm (3.7-4.3 in) if the conditions are right. The largest one in the Bell Museum collection is 117 mm (4.7 in). They typically live for 2-3 years in Minnesota, but there are records of them reaching close to 4 years old in Illinois.

    What Do They Eat?
Young blackside darters begin by eating mostly small crustaceans, like waterfleas and copepods, but they switch quickly to insect larvae. Adults eat a greater variety of insect larvae, including mayflies, midges, and caddisflies. They also include a small amount of plant matter, other insect larvae, waterfleas and other crustaceans, fish eggs, and even larval fish.

What Eats Them?
Humans do not eat blackside darters normally because of their small size and sharp bones. We believe these darters are eaten by several species of predatory fishes and fish-eating birds that share the same habitat, but actual records of predation are rare.


How Do They Reproduce?
The blackside darter's spawning season starts in early May and goes through early July in Minnesota. They spawn over fine gravel and sometimes coarse sand in raceways and edges of slow riffles. There is neither nest building nor parenting of the eggs or young after they hatch. When a female enters the spawning area, a male will establish a "moving territory" around her. He will follow her until she leaves the area or swims to a suitable spot in the gravel or sand bottom. If she settle to the bottom, the pair usually will spawn. After a short resting period, the pair will go back to spawning. Repeated acts of spawning can go on for several days, but usually with new partners. The total number of eggs a female lays depends on her size and age and may range from a few hundred to 2000. Most blackside darters do not spawn until they are 2 years old.


Conservation and Management
Blackside darters have no official conservation status in Minnesota, but they are protected by state law as a member if the perch famliy. These fish cannot be used as bait legally, but with a permit, they can be collected and used in a school aquarium. They live well in an aquarium and are fun to watch.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 23 October 2002