[Photo: Texas State University at San Marcos]
Description: The Fountain Darter is the smallest of all darters, reaching only 35.5 mm in length. It is olive and white with dark spots scattered throughout its dorsal and ventral surfaces.
Life History: The Fountain Darter breeds in pairs year round, peaking in August and late winter. Fountain darters feed mostly during the day on immature insects (mayfly and "true" fly larvae) and small crustaceans including water fleas, copopods and amphipods.
Habitat: The Fountain Darter lives in the thermally stable (21-24 C) freshwater lakes, springs and rivers associated with the Comal and San Marcos rivers in the Edwards Aquifer. It prefers to live in murky, densely vegetated waters among several bottom-growth plant species.
Distribution: Etheostoma fonticola is found in Spring Lake, San Marcos Springs and the upper portion of the San Marcos River in Hays County, TX. It is also found in Landa Lake, Comal Springs and the entire length of the Comal River in Comal County, Texas.
Status: State and Federally Listed (1978) Endangered Species. There is a refugium for the Fountain Darter at The San Marcos National Fish Hatchery and Technology Center. Although this species is robust within its habitat, it is considered endangered due to the population's sensitivity to a single major event, such as drought. The spring flow defined as "take" for this species, as defined by USFWS, is 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) for Comal Springs and the associated Comal River ecosystem, and 100 cfs for San Marcos Springs and the San Marcos River ecosystem.
Edwards Aquifer Authority, Draft Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan
Fountain Darter Page
Schenck, John, R. and Whiteside, B.G. 1976. Distribution, Habitat Preference and Population Size Estimate of Etheostoma fonticola. Copeia. Vol, 1976, No. 4, pp 697-703.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Profile