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NFC: Othroat breeding ?


The Orangethroat Darter as an (Etheostoma spectabile) Aquarium Species
Robert Rice

Most people are completely unaware that darters exist. Darters are thosesmall mystery fishes that one occasionally sees literally darting around theedges of streams. Unless you are unusually perceptive or aggressive you haveprobably just not noticed them.

All darters are in the perch family, and as a general rule have no swimbladder and thus stay on the bottom feeding and living out theirlives. Darters display a surprising range of color and body types and asgeneral rule make a fascinating aquarium pet. They display a degree of sexualdimorphism with the males being the brighter and more aggressive of thesexes. Which makes them all the more interesting!

The main consideration is temperature requirements as many species ofdarters must have cold water to thrive. The Orangethroat darter, in myexperience, is the exception. I have collected them in waters as high as 81degrees F and have kept them in community tanks with great success.

There is a large genetic gradient range in the Orangethroat darter in itssize, color and tolerance to domestic life. So keep in mind your success willdepend to a large degree on the stock you begin with. Therefore collect froma site similar to the aquarium in water quality and tempature.

The book Fishes of Missouri pg. 320 by Pflieger describes theorange throat darter as follows. "A moderately stout darter (1.2 - 2.5inches) with 6-10 indistinct dark cross bars on the back. Sides oftenprominently streaked by dark horizontal bars......Its life colors are asfollows, back mottled yellowish-brown with in distinctive dark color crossbars. Sides lighter brown, often with narrow blue green vertical bars bestdeveloped towards the tail. Breeding males VERY brilliantly colored sideswith a series of blue green bars alternating with brick red bars. Gillmembranes bright orange (thus the name orange throat) with remainder of undersurface of head blue green. The fins are variously banded and spotted by bluegreen and red."

With that generic description I hope you can begin to imagine the beautythis little fish possesses. When you combine his looks with his lack ofshyness you can see why I place him first on my list of darters ! Often otherdarters cower and are hidden from the eye. The Orangethroat is out for all tosee , fighting for food and territory in a fascinating way. Why more thanonce I've seen a Orangethroat rise to the top and steal a morsel of food froma fish 5 times his size!

Now with the basic definitions out of the way I can share with you how Itreat my darters . When wild caught I immediately place them in a tank with afew feeder guppies by observation they quickly take eating frozen food of allvarieties . Mine seem to prefer blood worms but will take most anything evenflake food . Once I am confident they are eating properly and appear to bethriving. I place them in their permanent homes, one of my large communitytanks. Then comes the most fascinating part for me , the waiting to see whichdarters posses the right mix of temperament and color and tolerance todomestic life to make it to the brood stock category!

When I have identified likely candidates I pull them aside and "winterthem over" in an area that holds a temperature of 60 degrees or less over thewinter. In my case that is the laundry room of my walkout basement, forothers that might be your basement proper or your garage. Then begin toobserve because in no time ( 3-5 weeks) you are going to see boldly coloredmales establish territories and court females. I put 2 trios in a 20 gallontank with some steady current and keep my eyes open. Sooner or later the malewill coax a female into his cave (either rocks or small flower pots) and theywill spawn, laying several hundred eggs. These eggs will adhere to whateverthey hit. Here's the catch you must watch carefully your fish or they willeat their eggs ! As soon as I realize a spawn has occurred parents and eggsare separated.

In 7- 10 days you will notice the fry appearing. . They are a very durablefry and generally easy to take care of. They will grow fast if given properfood and care. Mine will often take live brine or infusoria early (6 x aday!) then frozen baby brine (3-4x a day) then finally blood worms (2x aday).

I hope this brief article has created a future interest in our Nativefishes. If it has, I welcome your questions or comments! I also recommen dthese resources:" Petersons Field Guide to North American Freshwater Fishes"by Larry Page,

Robert Rice
NFC President  www.nativefish.org
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