SCIENTIFIC NAME: Etheostoma zonifer

CHARACTERISTICS: Like the slough darter, the backwater darter is noted for having a small mouth and head, and a lateral line that arches upward anteriorly. A broad frenum is present and the gill membranes are sightly to moderately connected. Etheostoma zonifer is typically yellow or olive with thin green reticulations and green saddles on the back. Males have a series of green bars along their sides; female coloration is limited to small green squares along the sides. The spiny dorsal fin has a blue margin and base with a red median band. A black spot is present at the base of the caudal fin. The backwater darter is similar to the slough darter. E. gracile, but can be distinguished by its interrupted infraorbital canal with six pores. Etheostoma gracile has an uninterrupted infraorbital, canal usually with eight pores.

ADULT SIZE: 1 to 1.8 in (25 to 45 mm)

DISTRIBUTION: The backwater darter is found below the Fall Line in both the Alabama and Tombigbeeriver drainages of the Mobile basin and also in the Cowikee Creek system of the Chattahoochee River drainage. Etheostoma zonifer is one of the few darter species in Alabama that prefers sluggish, marl-laden streams draining the Black Belt across the central part of the state. Backwater darters are usually rare to uncommon even preferred habitats.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Backwater darters inhabit small turbid streams and adjacent pools with sandy or muddy substrates and little or no flow. The species occasionally occurs in patches of vegetation and along stream margins. Peterson (1993) reports habitats characterized by high turbidity, slow currents, high conductivity, and little to no vegetation. Spawning occurs from late March through June, peaking in late May and early June. Single eggs are laid on small submerged twigs and roots. The diet consists of midge larvae, copepods, mayflies, cladocerans, and smaller aquatic organisms.

REAMARKS: The type locality of the backwater darter is Catoma Creek near Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama.

ORGINAL DESCRIPTION: Hubbs and Cannon described the backwater darter in 1935.

Etheostoma means strain mouth, possibly referring to the small mouth.

Zonifer means banded, in reference to the caudal peduncle bands.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.