New York Natural Heritage Program
Bluebreast Darter
Etheostoma camurum (Cope, 1870)
Ray-finned Fishes

General Description [-]
Bluebreast darter is a deep-bodied, compressed fish with a blunt, rounded nose. The breast is typically dark blue to blue-green.

Identifying Characteristics [-]
Bluebreast darters are a moderately elongate, compressed fish with a deep caudal peduncle. Adults reach approximately 76 mm (3 in) in length. The upper profile is slightly more curved than the ventral profile. The body color is yellowish olive, but is lighter below. The lateral line is complete. There are irregular dark patches of one to four scales and scattered red scales on the sides. Mature males have bright red spots on the sides and a bright blue-black belly and ventral surface of the head. Some individuals will have eight to twelve conspicuous vertical bands or mid-lateral spots. Females are similar, but less brightly colored. Juveniles are similar to adults. The dorsal fin is contiguous, connected by a low keel of membrane. The spiny dorsal is arched with interspinous membranes a little incised. The soft dorsal fin is high anteriorly. The last rays are about half the length of the first and its margin is nearly straight. The first dorsal fin is dusky except for a light submarginal band. The caudal fin is nearly square. There are two white spots that are about the size of the pupil at the base of the caudal fin. Pectoral fins are asymmetrical, bluntly pointed, and the base is nearly vertical. The soft dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are dusky at the base with a dark marginal band and white along the edge of these fins. Gill membranes are separate. The mouth is low and horizontal with the jaw reaching to below the front of the eye.

Characters Most Useful for Identification [-]
Bluebreast darter has a blunt, rounded snout, gill covers that are not connected across the breast. Breeding males have orange-tinted dorsal fins, small crimson spots on the sides, and a bright blue breast.

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification [-]
It is easiest to identify adults.

Behavior [-]
The males guard a small spawning territory until the eggs hatch. There is no parental care of the young.

Diet [-]
Small larvae and aquatic insects are preferred food.
Bluebreast Darter Images
click to enlarge
The Best Time to See
This species hides behind boulders or large rocks for protection from predators. Spawning adults are found in riffles when water temperatures range from 21-24C (Stauffer et al 2016). Non-breeding individuals are in deeper water.
Active Reproducing
The time of year you would expect to find Bluebreast Darter active (blue shading) and reproducing (orange shading) in New York.
Similar Species
  • Spotted Darter (Etheostoma maculatum)
    Spotted darter lacks the dark margin to the fins, more lateral lines, and has a pointed snout. Eyes are larger than bluebreast darter. The tail is more rounded. Males of both species have red scales with dark margins on the sides of the body.