A slender darter that (like the slough darter) has the lateral line arched upward, separated by only 3 scale rows from the spinous dorsal fin. Gill covers not broadly connected by a membrane across throat. Unlike the slough darter, the breast, belly and nape (body surface in front of dorsal fin) fully scaled; sensory canal beneath eye incomplete and with 4 or 5 pores; snout bluntly rounded. Lateral line ending beneath spinous dorsal.
Back and upper sides brownish, with indistinct dark saddles on the back and indistinct dark blotches along the sides; lateral line stands out as a pale line; never with greenish lateral blotches as in the slough darter. Lower sides and belly are cream-colored with scattered brownish spots. Fins banded with brownish lines.
Breeding males lack bright colors, but they are darker than others and have tubercles along the rays of pelvic and anal fins.