A moderately stout darter with about 12 indistinct dark crossbars on the back (crossbars often not evident). An enlarged black scale is present above the base of the pectoral fin; the cheek beneath the eye with a prominent dusky vertical bar; another bar extends forward from eye onto snout. Gill covers are broadly connected by a membrane across the throat. Belly scaled, but scales often small and inconspicuous. Lateral line usually ends beneath the soft dorsal.
Back mottled olive-brown, the crossbars (if present) dark brown. Sides light brown with scattered pale spots. Belly white with scattered dusky specks. Dorsal, tail and anal fins with faint brown bands.
Breeding males have scattered red spots on body; spinous and soft dorsal dusky with reddish spots at the base, followed by an orange-red stripe and a blue outer margin; tail fin similar in color to dorsal fins and with 2 orange-red spots at the base; anal fin mostly red with a blue margin; pelvic fins dusky blue.