A moderately stout darter with about 12 indistinct dark crossbars on the back. An enlarged black scale is present above the base of the pectoral fin; the cheek beneath the eye has a dusky vertical bar; another bar extends forward from eye onto snout. Gill covers are broadly connected by a membrane across the throat. The belly is scaled, but the scales are often small and inconspicuous. Lateral line usually ends beneath the soft dorsal. Back is mottled olive-brown; crossbars (if present) are dark brown. Sides are light brown with scattered pale spots. Belly is white with scattered dusky specks. Dorsal, tail, and anal fins have faint brown bands.
Breeding males have scattered red spots on the body; spinous and soft dorsal fins are dusky with reddish spots at the base, followed by an orange-red stripe and a blue outer margin; tail fin is similar in color to the dorsal fins, with 2 orange-red spots at the base; anal fin is mostly red with a blue margin; pelvic fins are dusky blue.