Gilt Darter
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • 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.
  • Close-up underside: The scales along the midline of the belly between the vent and the pelvic fins are enlarged and toothed.
  • Notice that there are 24-29 scales around the caudal peduncle.
  • The sides show 5-8 squarish vertical bars/blotches, 61-71 lateral line scales, and a solid pigment on the 1st dorsal lobe.
  • The mouth is small and subterminal without obvious teeth, the snout is rounded.
  • The dorsal fin shows a darkly pigmented 1st dorsal lobe with a light edge and 11-12 spines.
  • The flank shows 5-8 squarish vertical bars/blotches extending on to the back; there are 61-71 lateral line scales.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males develop bright gold or reddish-orange colors.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males develop bright gold or reddish-orange colors.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Males develop bright gold or reddish-orange colors.
  • Alternative side view.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Perches (Percidae)
Mouth and snout: Mouth slightly subterminal, horizontal, minute teeth on jaws. No barbels. Body patterning, color, and scales: Back dark olive, sides (in life) gold, yellow, orange with 5-8 greenish black squarish vertical bars or blotches extending onto back; belly cream or yellow/orange. See Similar Species for first dorsal fin pigmentation; other fins lightly pigmented. 61-71 ctenoid lateral scales. Body shape and size: Body fusiform to cylindrical and elongated; round to oval in cross section. Typically 50-63 mm (2-2.5 in) TL; maximum about 86 mm (3.5 in).
Tail, dorsal and other fins: SQUARE to slightly forked tail. Dorsal fin with 2 lobes, distinctly separate, the first with 11-12 (usually 12) spines and the second with 12-13 (usually 13) rays. Pelvic fins thoracic. Adipose fin absent. Anal fin with 2 spines and 10-11 rays.
Distinguishing Characteristics
The gilt darter can be distinguished by its small-to-moderate (not extending beyond the anterior of eye) terminal or subterminal mouth without obvious canine teeth, by the presence of one or more enlarged and heavily toothed scales between the pelvic fins, plus usually a row of enlarged toothed scales along the midline in males and a partially naked belly in females. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Males with minute tubercles on fins and scales (no photos), bright orange/gold color on sides and first dorsal.
Similar to adults.
Gilt darter X blackside darter known from Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
Darter, BlacksideRounded, not elongated
Darter, GiltRounded, not elongated
Darter, RiverRounded, not elongated
Darter, SlenderheadPointed, elongated
LogperchConical protuberance, somewhat elongated
Body Pattern
Darter, Blackside6-11 oval blotches along lateral line, stripe-like, blotches or saddles on back
Darter, Gilt5-8 thick squarish vertical bars or blotches extending on to back
Darter, River8-11 blotches, thick and irregular in back, grading to thin vertical ars in front
Darter, Slenderhead10-16 blotches or irregular vertical bars on sides, back
Logperch15-25 narrow vertical bars
1st Dorsal Fin Pigmentation
Darter, BlacksideSolid pigment on lower half, grading to dusky on outer third, thin light edge
Darter, GiltSolid pigment, orangish in life, except for thin clear/white edge
Darter, RiverDusky, with small dark blotch in front, larger dark blotch on posterior membranes
Darter, SlenderheadDark pigment on lower 1/2, then orange (in life), then dark band, then light edge
LogperchDusky lateral bands on light background
Lateral Line Scales
Darter, Blackside56-68
Darter, Gilt61-71
Darter, River48-60
Darter, Slenderhead65-71
Other Characteristics
Darter, Blackside~10 long gill rakers, 20-23 CP scales, 12-15 D1 spines
Darter, Gilt~11 long gill rakers, 24-29 CP scales, 11-12 D1 spines
Darter, River~9 short gill rakers, 19-24 CP scales, 10-12 D1 spines
Darter, Slenderhead~10 short gill rakers, 23-25 CP scales, 12-13 D1 spines
Logperch~12 short gill rakers, 24-37 CP scales, 13-15 D1 spines
Similarity Index
Darter, BlacksideVery similar
Darter, GiltN/A
Darter, RiverVery similar
Darter, SlenderheadVery similar
LogperchVery similar
Darter, BlacksideCP=caudal peduncle, D1=1st dorsal fin
Darter, GiltCP=caudal peduncle, D1=1st dorsal fin
Darter, RiverCP=caudal peduncle, D1=1st dorsal fin
Darter, SlenderheadCP=caudal peduncle, D1=1st dorsal fin
LogperchCP=caudal peduncle, D1=1st dorsal fin