There are 11 species of darters found in the riffles (shallow fast moving areas) of small streams in Maryland. They are less than 6” long and you will find them on the stream bed rather than up in the water. They move rapidly (darting) over the gravely bottoms and eat mostly aquatic insects and other small benthic (bottom-dwelling) animals.
While some fantails are brightly colored, fantails are a dull yellowish brown with stripes. What makes them unique is their unusual breeding strategy. A male clear just enough silt out to fit his body under a smooth flat rock. He then attracts a female by pressing his dorsal fin against the nest roof. Each tip of the dorsal fin looks like a fantail egg making females think (falsely) that this is a successful nest.
You can visit the Maryland stream health map to find what darters live in streams near you. You can click on any dot or triangle for information but the dots give you much more data.
Goal: Since it’s a little cold to play in streams this morning, visit some links below to make you own stream survey items.
- Aquatic Habitat or Investigation Item: Any of the tools from the resources below
- Aquatic Identification Item: cards, poster, display or other item for identification of darters
- Aquatic Education Item: poster, tri-fold, coloring or educational booklet, journal, model, magnets, games, diagrams, website post, computer games, etc about darters.
- Aquatic Discovery backpack: Put together a few items to help you explore a stream
- Aquatic Photo Series: Take pictures of your new tools and the fish or macroinvertebrate that you catch with them
- Maryland Darter – poster with Maryland and several other darters
- Critters Collectors – Plans and instructions for making kick nets and pop bottle bug traps. Also includes information on how to use these tools.
- Homemade Stream Tools – directions to create several stream sampling tools including secchi disk, d-net and more.
- Homemade macroinvertebrate equipment – direction to create kick net, sieve spoon and more
- Maryland Fish Facts – scroll down for links to individual fish
- Freshwater Fish of Maryland – poster
- Nontidal Fish of Maryland – poster
- Key to Freshwater Fish of Maryland – dichotomous key
- Gallery of Pennsylvania Fish – Most of whom are also Maryland Fish. Click on dark rectangle to get to images.