Minnows: What They Eat and More – Fishin Money – Fishing Tips – Trout,Striped Bass,Crappie and More

Minnows: What They Eat and More

Most anglers who use live bait to fish, use minnows. It is one of the most popular live baits. Minnows are a small breed of fish that adapt well to their surroundings. They live in open water and some people have them at home in a fish tank. 

If the minnows are in the wild they eat insects, brine shrimp, fish eggs, plant material, and crawfish. If you want to keep minnows as a “pet” they will need zooplankton, phytoplankton, and algae from their tanks or the pond

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We will go over in a little more detail what minnows eat. We are also going to cover a few of the different types of minnows and their habitat. There is an enormous variety of minnows out there. They look similar and they all come from the Cyprinidae family. 

The diet for a freshwater minnow is mostly small bugs. Mosquitoes, flies, animal matter, and pieces of dead plants. In Saltwater, minnows eat brine shrimp. 

Minnows in Captivity

If you want to keep fish in an aquarium, one of the best things to feed them is freeze dried blood worms. Another option for pet minnows is goldfish food or other tropical fish flakes. Be aware though, minnows can be picky and some may refuse to eat the fish flakes. 

Be careful not to overfeed your minnows. Make sure the food is in fairly small pieces. Put a small amount in the tank. After 5 minutes, all of the food should be gone. If there is foot still floating or food on the bottom of your tank, then you need to give them less at the next feeding. Feeding pet minnows will be a trial and error for the first few feedings. 

Misconceptions about Minnows

The minnow family has over 3,000 species. THey are the most misunderstood because they are such a large species. According to a scientist, who has based his career mainly on minnow research, there are many misconceptions about the minnow. 

  1. The first misconception is that all small fish are minnows. There are some small fish in freshwater that are the non-minnow species, but that have ‘minnow’ in their name. 
  1. Another strong misconception, and you will initially be confused; carps are suckers. The truth is, carps are actually minnows. Suckers belong to an entirely different family. The big headed carp is one of a few hats that are classified in the minnow family. 

Interesting Facts {and other knowledge} about Minnows

In Ireland, minnows are known as pinkeens.

Did you know that some minnows can grow to be 3 meters long and up to 100 pounds? The grass carp and other species are between 20 and 100 pounds.

The most common way to cook minnows is to deep fry them, especially the smaller ones, and eat them whole. 

There are over 50 different types of minnows and not all of the names contain the word ‘minnow’.  Actually there are over 3,000 types of minnows throughout the nation. 

The carp and the goldfish are 2 of the most popular/best known species of minnow, but not everyone knew that they were part of the minnow family until now. 

The common carp lives for 20 years, weighs 4.4 to 31 pounds, and is 16 to 31 inches long. 

Definitions and Types of Minnows

Minnows are a part of a huge family of fish known as the Cyprindae family. This family has over 2,000 species world-wide. From the carp to the zebrafish to the goldfish, this family represents 8% of all the fish in the world! 

We are going to take a look at a few of the most common species of minnows. Some of these you may recognize but may not have known that they were part of the 3,000 species, minnow family. 

  • Carp: native to Asia and also Europe but has been introduced all over the world. The carp will eat anything and everything. They tear up the vegetation and cause murky/muddy waters, which in turn is troublesome for the other species in the area.
  • Golden Shiner: these fish love water that boasts a large quantity of weeds, leaves, and other vegetation. This particular species of minnow is greenish-silver and the males turn yellow during breeding season. They live in schools and are quite social. Because of their color and size, they are one of the more popular baitfish.
  • Bream: this species of minnow also travels in schools and is native to Europe. As They travel in fairly large schools, they eat everything in their path, leaving not one nibble behind. Bream can grow to be quite big. In fact, the largest so far is around 20 pounds.
  • Dace: Now in Ireland, these minnows are native to Asia and mainland Europe. The Dace are able to grow to be 2 pounds and just over a foot long. This particular species of minnows can live to be 16 years old!
  • Zebrafish: native to South Asia, this species of minnows is a very popular aquarium fish. The one special characteristic of the zebrafish is the fact that it’s body is transparent. They have a life span of approximately 3 ½ years. 
  • Bluntnose minnow: this species is primarily a baitfish in North America. They have spectacular tolerance for different water qualities. This makes it easy to distribute them in different regions. An adult bluntnose is approximately 2 inches long.
  • White Cloud Mountain: a very hardy species often kept in aquaria. Native to China they are a member of the carp family. Because of pollution and tourism they are more or less extinct in their native habitat. They are approximately 1.5 inches long and silver-green in color.

Now that we have explored just a very small handful of the many species in the minnow family, we are going to briefly mention a couple of ways in which you can catch the minnow before your fishing trip. 

You can use a mesh net to catch your minnows. Your best bet is to use the mesh net on the shore, near a bank or shallow area of a lake or pond. With one motion, scoop through the school of minnows and bring the net out of the water! Voila! You have minnows to use for bait. 

The second way to catch minnows, also uses a net, though a much much bigger one. This one is called a Seine. It is 39 feet long with small weights attached to the bottom of it. This method will take 2 people to drag the net through the water where they believe there are minnow (or other baitfish). The weights help to keep the net vertical while it is being dragged. 


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We have covered many useful topics about the minnow today. What they eat, misconceptions, interesting facts, how to catch them, and a very small handful of some of the species in the minnow family. Minnows are considered to be the most popular and effective live bait to use when fishing for most any larger species of fish.

If you are an angler that prefers or swears by artificial lures, there is a large variety available that mimic a minnow and can be just as effective at attracting the fish. So, take your pick; real or artificial and Happy Fishing!

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Darren Enns

For me, fishing is an enjoyable release from the pressures of life. It gets me out into nature and I love it!

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