What Do Minnows Eat?

What Do Minnows Eat?
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Minnow is a name used to describe a small freshwater species. The members of this species are classified under some genera of the family Cyprinidae.

Minnows feed on a vast majority of things. Their diet includes bugs, fish eggs, insects, brine shrimp, plant matter, and crawfish.

What Do Minnows Eat?

Type of Minnow Binomial Name Diet
Common Bream Abramis brama Animal plankton and plant materials, crustacean, insect larvae, snails, and a wide array of benthic invertebrates.
Iberian Minnowcarp Anaecypris hispanica A variety of small invertebrates and filamentous algae.
Fathead Minnow Pimephales promelas Protozoans, algae, insect larvae, small crustaceans, filamentous algae, and diatoms.
Bigeye Chub Hybopsis amblops Midge larvae, a vast range of terrestrial insects, and microcrustaceans.

Types of Minnows and their Habitats

Different species of minnows exist. Some minnows, especially those classified in the subfamily Leuciscinae, are described as “true minnows“. The types of minnows discussed in this section will be strictly drawn from this subfamily.

What Do Common Breams Eat?

This type of minnow has a comparatively small head and can grow to about 80cm in length and about 9kg in weight.

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Cypriniformes Cyprinidae Abramis Abramis brama
  • The young of common breams feed on animal plankton and plant material.
  • The older species feed on crustacean, insect larvae, snails, and a wide array of benthic invertebrates.
  • This species is endemic in Ireland and has been present in this region for centuries. The common bream mostly inhabits freshwater regions.
  • This species can also be found in brackish water or in areas where freshwater mixes with saltwater.

What Do Iberian Minnowcarps Eat?

The Iberian minnowcarp has a lifespan of about 3 years, and it grows to a length of less than 6cm.

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Cypriniformes Cyprinidae Anaecypris Anaecypris hispanica
  • The members of this species feed on a variety of small invertebrates and filamentous algae.
  • This species mostly inhabits streams, especially those of the basin of the Guadiana River.
  • These waters are rich in oxygen concentration.

What Do Fathead Minnows Eat?

This type of minnow commonly inhabits temperate freshwater bodies such as rivers, streams, and ponds.

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Cypriniformes Cyprinidae Pimephales Pimephales promelas
  • The Fathead minnow is best described as an opportunistic omnivore. Its main diet entails protozoans and algae.
  • The fathead minnow also dines on insect larvae, small crustaceans, filamentous algae, and diatoms.
  • This species can also be found in muddy pools.
  • The fathead minnow can also thrive in other habitats such as waters with high turbidity, salinity, high temperature, varying pH, and low oxygen concentrations.
  • The ability to thrive in multiple habitats significantly reduces their risk of predation.

What Do Bigeye Chubs Eat?

The bigeye chub is easily identifiable because of its compressed body, large oval-shaped eyes, and olive-colored body with silvery sides.

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Cypriniformes Cyprinidae Hybopsis Hybopsis amblops
  • The Bigeye minnow is likely to be found dining on midge larvae, a vast range of terrestrial insects, and microcrustaceans.
  • The adults of the big eye chub can grow to about 4.5-6.5 cm.
  • The bigeye chub inhabits larger streams, especially those containing clean gravel.
  • These fishes prefer waters that have little or about moderate currents, especially in small to medium sized-rivers.

How Do Minnows Hunt?

Minnows find their food through a process referred to as filter-feeding. These small fishes have been observed sifting through silt and mud at the bottom of their water habitats to find their food.

When Do Minnows Eat?

Minnows are mostly diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.

  • Some studies, however, indicate that some minnows display nocturnal activity, especially when the water temperature in their habitat drops.
  • It is also believed that the transition to nocturnal tendencies could be a strategy to avoid diurnal predators.

How Often Do Minnows Eat?

The frequency of feeding in minnows depends on how hungry they are.

  • Their food is often readily available, and so they can eat as long as they are hungry.
  • In instances of food scarcity, minnows tend to feed on their eggs and hatchlings.

What Eats Minnows?

What Eats Minnows? Turtles

Minnows are eaten by piscivorous fishes with the example of the largemouth bass, walleye, brown trout, and yellow perch.

  • Other organisms that feed on minnows include raccoons, some birds, and turtles.
  • Minnows can also display cannibalistic behavior, especially in the event of food scarcity.
  • During scarcity, minnows’ eggs and hatchlings can be consumed by other minnows.

Where Do Minnows Fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Minnows play an instrumental role in the animal food chain.

  • These fishes feed on ostracods, aquatic insects, and zooplankton, thus influencing their population.
  • In performing the above role, minnows help maintain a balance in the population of the organisms they consume.
  • Minnows are a great source of nutrition to piscivorous fishes such as the yellow perch, and the walleye, and other organisms such as turtles and raccoons.
  • The absence of minnows in the ecosystem would create an imbalance in the populations of different organisms.

Cite this article as: "What Do Minnows Eat?," in Bio Explorer, April 17, 2021, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-minnows-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “What Do Minnows Eat? | Sciencing”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “Abramis brama (Linnaeus, 1758) – Common bream :: Invasive Alien Species in Northern Ireland :: Habitas :: National Museums Northern Ireland”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “Anaecypris hispanica”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “ADW: Pimephales promelas: INFORMATION”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “Bigeye Chub” – Species Status Assessment – Department of Environmental Conservation. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “The Virtual Aquarium of Virginia Tech–Minnows”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “Bigeye Chub – NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.
  • “Minnows become nocturnal at low temperatures – Greenwood – 1998 – Journal of Fish Biology – Wiley Online Library”. Accessed September 07, 2020. Link.


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