The spotted darter has a disjunct distribution across the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia (Mayasich et al. 2004). The spotted darter is the namesake for a species group, Etheostoma maculatum, within the Nothonotus subgenus. The spotted darter species group is associated with creating nests in wedges made from rocks in riffle areas and male parental guarding of these nests. This species group contains a total of six species of darters, three of which CFI has worked with or are currently propagating; the bloodfin darter (Etheostoma sanguifluum), the boulder darter (Etheostoma wapiti), and the wounded darter (Etheostoma vulneratum). In West Virginia, the spotted darter is restricted to the Elk River and is associated with large rocks in glides adjacent to and upstream of riffles, and to a lesser extent, in the head of riffles (Osier 2007). There are many impacts that threaten the spotted darter in its small range in the Elk River, WV. A population of the spotted darter upstream of Sutton Dam on the Elk River is thought to be extirpated, but the population in the middle section of the Elk River below Sutton Dam is currently considered as stable.
In 2008, CFI bred these darters for West Virginia University as a part of a life history study of the species. Spawning time and life history was extremely similar to that of its close relative the boulder darter. Spawning began at the end of April and continued for six weeks. Propagation was very successful and over 500 individuals were produced. This was a very good indicator that captive propagation can help this species in the future.