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Candy Darter

Fact File

Scientific Name: Etheostoma osburni

Classification: Fish, Order Perciformes, Family Percidae

Conservation Status:

  • Federally Endangered in the U.S.
  • State Endangered in Virginia
  • SGCN Tier Ib: The Virginia 2015 Wildlife Action Plan lists Candy Darter as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in Tier I, with a conservation opportunity ranking of "b"

Size: Up to 4 inches in length

Life Span: Up to 3 Years

Identifying Characteristics

  • 5 dark saddles along the dorsal (back)
    • 2 of the saddles are positioned between the second dorsal and tail (caudal peduncle)
  • Pectoral fins are dusky with red-orange spots
  • 9 to 11 greenish vertical bars along the side with red-orange interspace


Candy Darters feed on an array of benthic macroinvertebrates such as Caddisflies, Mayflies, and Stoneflies.


Within Virginia, the Candy Darter is only endemic to the New River basin in the southwest region of the state.

Species Distribution Map for Candy Darter


Like other members of the darter family, the Candy Darter is a benthic (bottom-dwelling) species of fish, and specializes in using the gaps between rocky stream substrates for protective cover and opportunistic feeding. Candy Darters require clean, fast moving water and are considered an indicator species of overall watershed health, as their required habitat is degraded by erosion and siltation.

A Candy Darter perched on cobble

A Candy Darter perched between stream cobble. ©Maddie Cogar DWR


Habitat degradation has contributed to an approximate 50% reduction in Candy Darter occupancy from the known historical distribution.

Currently, species introgression with the Variegate Darter is considered the primary threat to extinction.

The Department of Wildlife Resources advocates for the protection of all native Virginia fishes, and has implemented management objectives to better secure their future in the Commonwealth.

Special Considerations

It is illegal to target Candy Darter by angling. The Candy Darter is listed as an endangered species under federal and Virginia law. It is a violation of state and federal law to harass, harm, or take any Candy Darter.

For the definitions of take, harass, and harm, see 4 VAC 15-20-140.

Last updated: April 1, 2024

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources Species Profile Database serves as a repository of information for Virginia’s fish and wildlife species. The database is managed and curated by the Wildlife Information and Environmental Services (WIES) program. Species profile data, distribution information, and photography is generated by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, State and Federal agencies, Collection Permittees, and other trusted partners. This product is not suitable for legal, engineering, or surveying use. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources does not accept responsibility for any missing data, inaccuracies, or other errors which may exist. In accordance with the terms of service for this product, you agree to this disclaimer.