Iowa darter
Etheostoma exile (Girard, 1859)

member of the Perch Family (Percidae)

Stream name, County, State day month year












What's In a Name?
Iowa darter: named for the state in which it was discovered

Etheostoma (ee-thee-os´-toe-mah) taken from etheo, which means "to filter" and from stoma, which means "mouth" in Greek
exile (x´-ill-eh) means "slim" in Latin


    Where Do They Live?
The Iowa darter is another colorful darter that can be found throughout Minnesota, but it is most common in the waters of central and northern Minnesota. Unlike most darters, Iowa darters prefer still or slow-moving water. The medium to small lakes, bog ponds, streams, and slow rivers that they live in tend to have clear to moderately turbid (cloudy) waters with plenty of submerged aquatic plants and algae. Iowa darters often live with blackchin shiners, northern redbelly dace, creek chubs, bluntnose minnows and sometimes Johnny darters.


How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
Females get a little bit bigger then males do. The biggest ones reach 65 mm (2.5 in) long and weigh a little over 2 g (0.07 oz). These little fish sometimes reach the ripe old age of 4 years, but more often they live for only 2 or 3 years.

    What Do They Eat?
In lakes and ponds Iowa darters eat mostly copepods, waterfleas of various sorts, and midge larvae. As they grow they add sideswimmers and larger midge larvae. In streams and rivers Iowa darters eat mostly midge and mayfly larvae.

What Eats Them?
Since the Iowa darter is colorful and lives in the shallows, it probably falls prey to piscivorous (fish-eating) fish, like northern pike, yellow perch and largemouth bass. However, we have not found Iowa darters in the stomachs of these predators. Fish-eating birds, such as herons, might also eat Iowa darters, but again there are no reports of this.


How Do They Reproduce?
Most Iowa darters become sexual mature when they are 1 year old. They are early spawners and may begin as early as late April and continue through June in lakes. The spawning site is normally in areas of shallow water (10-12 cm deep) among submerged vegetation, algae, or exposed roots. The male establishes a definite territory that he defends from all other male Iowa darters. When a female enters the territory, the male then swims around her until she stops over the roots or vegetation. The male mounts the female. She vibrates and releases her eggs while the male fertilizes them. The eggs stick to the vegetation and are given some indirect protection by the male as he guards his territory. Females produce eggs in clutches (groups of eggs that become ready for laying at the same time), which average about 250 eggs. How many clutches a female lays in a season we do not know. Embryos develop for 12-26 days before they hatch, depending on water temperature.


Conservation and Management
The Iowa darter has no special conservation status in Minnesota. These fish make excellent aquarium fish, but as do many fish from the wild they need a special permit to be collected and kept.




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