New York Natural Heritage Program
Eastern Sand Darter
Ammocrypta pellucida (Agassiz, 1863)
Ray-finned Fishes

Identifying Characteristics [-]
The eastern sand darter is a long and slender fish. Adult length ranges from 4-7 cm. The body is almost translucent; pale yellow in color with dark spots along the lateral line, dorsal ridge, and the sides and tip of the pointy snout, making it blend easily into its preferred habitat of streams with sandy bottoms. The fins and tail are transparent, except for in males where the bases of the pelvic fins are dark. There is a gap between the dorsal fins. The anal fin is directly below the posterior dorsal fin. Scales are only present on the lateral line and in an area just before the slightly forked tail. During breeding season, tubercles develop on the pelvic and anal fins (Spreitzer 1979; Smith 1985; Page and Burr 1991). The eggs are spherical and sticky, and range from 0.7-1.2 mm in diameter (Spreitzer 1979).

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
The long, slender, nearly translucent, and scaleless body are characteristics most useful in positively identifying eastern sand darters.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
The adult stage is the best stage to properly identify this species. Newly hatched and young fry may be confused with young johnny or tessellaterd darters but even then they exhibit the long and slender body characteristic of the eastern sand darter (Smith 1985).

Behavior [-]
Eastern sand darters typically live for three summers. Spawning generally occurs between May and July, with eggs hatching in less than a week after being laid. The most significant behavior exhibited by the eastern sand darters, like all members of the genus Ammocrypta, is the ability to bury itself in the sand (Spreitzer 1979; Daniels 1993). The significance of this has been explained by the work done by Daniels (1989). He tested the three hypotheses as to why this species buries itself: to avoid predators, ease prey capture, and conserve energy. His experiments largely rejected the first two hypotheses and showed that the eastern sand darter primarily buries itself to retain position in its uniform habitat (Daniels 1989).

Diet [-]
Eastern sand darters feed primarily on midge larvae, but have been known to take other small pray such as small crustaceans and fly larvae when midge larvae are scarce (Spreitzer 1979; Smith 1985).
Eastern Sand Darter Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
The fish are present year-round, with spawning beginning in May and lasting until mid-August (Spreitzer 1979).
Active Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find Eastern Sand Darter active (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.