North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Tangerine Darter

Scientific Name: Percina aurantiaca

Classification: Nongame Fish
Abundance: Common

Species profile (pdf)


The tangerine darter is a brilliantly colored stream fish that makes its home on rocky river bottoms.   It is our largest darter, reaching lengths of up to seven inches.

This colorful darter has 8-12 dark blotches along their sides above a row of small black dots.  Males have bright oranges sides and bellies while females display yellow and white.  The lower fins are dusky to black with some males showing iridescent blue. 

Endemic to the Tennessee River drainage in the Appalachian mountains.  In North Carolina, this species is found in most of the western mountain counties. 

Habitat Preferences
They prefer medium-sized streams with clear water.  Most live in deeper riffles and runs with rocky bottoms. 

Life History
Males mature in their first year, females in their second and both lives approximately four years.  Spawning in gravel riffles occurs in late spring/early summer and is triggered by water temperatures.  Females release between 120-1,100 eggs onto the gravel as the male fertilizes them and the eggs and young are left to fend for themselves.  Tangerine darters feed on insects plucked from vegetation or from beneath rocks.


Tangerine darters are collected, recorded and released during fish surveys across much of western North Carolina.  This species was also reintroduced to part of its native range during the Pigeon River Reintroduction Project, of which the NCWRC has been a partner to.

Pigeon River Revival (PDF)