Johnny Darter
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top views of a pregnant female (top) and a breeding male (bottom).
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin of a post-spawn male.
  • Close-up head: The mouth is terminal to slightly subterminal; there is no frenum.
  • Notice the "X", "Y", and "W" shaped blotches on the side; there are 37-50 lateral line scales.
  • Close-up dorsal fin: The 1st dorsal fin has 7-9 spines, the 2nd dorsal fin has 11-14 rays, with little or no gap between lobes.
  • Close-up flank: The sides are light colored with "X", "Y", and "W" shaped blotches.
  • Close-up anal fin: The anal fin has 1 spine and 7-9 rays.
  • Head-on view: Notice the stripe around the snout with a gap at the tip; there is no frenum.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males are much darker.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males are much darker with faint black vertical bars.
  • Side view of a breeding male (top), and a breeding female (bottom): Notice that the males are much darker.
  • Side view of a breeding female (top), and a breeding male (bottom): Notice that males are much darker.
  • Alternative view of the caudal region.
  • Comparison of Johnny darter (top), and least darter (bottom): Notice that both have a strong similarity in appearance.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Perches (Percidae)
Mouth and snout: Mouth terminal to slightly subterminal, horizontal, minute teeth on jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Back and upper sides tan or olive with dark blotches and speckling; sides tan to straw with several “W”, “Y” and “X” shaped blotches along lateral line and often fine spots present on upper sides (but see Breeding Adult); belly white. Dorsal and caudal fin spotted, other fins lightly pigmented or clear. 37-50 ctenoid lateral scales. Body shape and size: Body fusiform to cylindrical and elongated; round to oval in cross section. Typically 35-65 mm (1.5-2.5 in) TL; maximum about 75 mm (3 in).
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Rounded or square tail. Dorsal fin with 2 lobes, slightly attached to slightly separate, the first with 7-9 (usually 8) spines and the second with 11-14 (usually 13) rays. Pelvic fins thoracic. Adipose fin absent. Anal fin with 1 spine and 7-9 rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
The johnny darter can be distinguished by its lack of a frenum (i.e., no connection between upper lip and snout; gap between them continuous), its single anal spine, its light body with dark “X”, “W”, and “Y” markings (except in breeding males), by its lack of a modified scale between the pelvic fins, and its single anal spine. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Males get very dark with black vertical bars on sides.
Similar to adults.
Compare Similar Species
Body Depth/SL
Darter, Bluntnose14-18%
Darter, Crystal11-13%
Darter, Iowa14-18%
Darter, Johnny14-18%
Darter, Least16-20%
Darter, Western Sand11-13%
Darter, BluntnoseAbsent
Darter, CrystalPresent
Darter, IowaPresent
Darter, JohnnyAbsent
Darter, LeastPresent
Darter, Western SandAbsent
Snout Stripe
Darter, BluntnoseContinuous over snout
Darter, CrystalContinuous over snout
Darter, IowaGap at tip of snout
Darter, JohnnyGap at tip of snout
Darter, LeastContinuous or gap at tip
Darter, Western SandAbsent or gap at tip
Anal Spines/Rays
Darter, Bluntnose1/7-9
Darter, Crystal1/15-16
Darter, Iowa2/7-9
Darter, Johnny1/7-9
Darter, Least1-2/5-6
Darter, Western Sand1/9-12
Dorsal Spines/Rays
Darter, Bluntnose8-9/9-11, lobes separate
Darter, Crystal14/14-16, lobes close
Darter, Iowa8-12/10-12, lobes separate
Darter, Johnny7-9/11-14, lobes close
Darter, Least5-7/9-10, lobes close
Darter, Western Sand10-12/9-12, lobes far apart
Lateral Scales
Darter, Bluntnose52-58, <25 pored
Darter, Crystal9-95, all pored
Darter, Iowa55-65, <35 pored
Darter, Johnny37-50, all pored
Darter, Least32-38, 0-7 pored
Darter, Western Sand69-81, all pored
Similarity Index
Darter, BluntnoseVery similar
Darter, CrystalVery similar
Darter, IowaVery similar
Darter, JohnnyN/A
Darter, LeastVery similar
Darter, Western SandVery similar