Species At Risk

Eastern Sand Darter

(Ammocrypta pellucida)


Eastern Sand Darter
Eastern Sand Darter occurrences map


The Eastern Sand Darter is a small member of the perch family that grows just four to seven centimetres long. It is a slender fish with a translucent body that is faintly white, yellow, or silvery and is marked with dark spots along each side. Its colouring makes it perfectly camouflaged to blend in with the sandy river bottoms where it lives. This darter has relatively large eyes and a small mouth.

Action we are taking:


In Ontario, the Eastern Sand Darter is still found in Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, Big Creek and in the Grand, Sydenham and Thames rivers. The species may have disappeared from several other rivers in southwestern Ontario. In 2008, it was rediscovered in Big Creek after an absence of more than 50 years.


The Eastern Sand Darter prefers shallow habitats in lakes, streams, and rivers with clean, sandy bottoms. It often buries itself completely in the sand. It feeds on aquatic insects, but due to its small mouth is limited in the size of prey it can eat.


The main threat to the Eastern Sand Darter is the siltation of its preferred sand habitats. Siltation occurs when too much soil washes into a river, lake or stream from nearby urban and agricultural areas. This can make the water muddy and cover sand bars with fine sediment, which can kill fish eggs. Dams can also be a problem by interrupting natural stream flows and preventing upstream and downstream movement of this species. Another threat to the darter is the invasive fish species Round Goby that is colonizing rivers in southern Ontario.


The Eastern Sand Darter is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Eastern Sand Darter

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Eastern Sand Darter. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Invasive species seriously threaten many of Ontario’s species at risk. To learn what you can do to help reduce the threat of invasive species, visit:ontario.ca/invasivespecies; www.invadingspecies.com; www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca; and, www.invasivespecies.gc.ca.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery.If you find Eastern Sand Darter in a watercourse on or adjacent to your property, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Farmers and land owners can help improve fish habitat and keep Ontario’s water safe and clean by maintaining natural vegetation next to creeks and rivers, and keeping pollution and soil from washing into Ontario’s streams and rivers. For more information about programs and funding assistance for eligible land owners visit the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association website at www.ontariosoilcrop.org/en/programs/species_at_risk.htm

Did you know?

During the breeding season, the normally drab-looking, male Eastern Sand Darters become flushed with yellowish colouration and can develop metallic blue and green colours on their cheeks.

Did you know?

Rivers and streams that are muddy looking often have too much silt in the water. When silt settles on sand bars, there is less oxygen available for Eastern Sand Darter when they bury themselves in the sandy bottoms, as well as for their eggs. The burrowing behaviour of this species is unusual for a Canadian freshwater fish.

Did you know?

The Eastern Sand Darter was once much more common and widespread throughout its North American range. Populations have been dwindling since the start of the 20th century and it has vanished entirely from some areas.

Did you know?

Eastern Sand Darter usually matures at one year and lives for four years.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.