Pond Minnows

Smallest of the pond fish family. These pond minnows are colorful and very entertaining as they dart around in search for food and retreating from predators. Pond minnows are helpful for the pond, and not just live bait. There are quite a few species of pond minnows. To name a few; Fat head, Shiner, Gold shiner, and Stickleback. When reproducing some species have sticky eggs that may place on pond plants or in other fish nest. While others build their own nest. As for monitoring the nest, once again it is different with the species. Some stay to guard the nest while other lay the eggs and leave.shiner1

In appearance, the pond minnows looks like an ordinary fish, just much smaller. Some colors may be silvery gray with green on the back, a number of dark vertical bars across the sides. In spring and early summer, the breast of the male becomes reddish and there are patches of emerald green on the sides, truly a beautiful little fish. No matter what the species they all have their own unique colors and shapes, even solid colors that can be used in aquariums.

Pond minnows seem to be extraordinarily intelligent, for fish. They seem to know when an intruder “means well” and, when the intruder does not mean well. Some species have an alert system, that if an intruder should capture and break the skin, emits a smell to alarm the others in the school of the danger. As an example when feeding Koi the Pond minnows are in the area but not afraid of the larger Koi. When they see the Koi they just move out of the way, but don’t dart off as if to save their life.

Put a net in after them and they will disappear, they can travel fast when they need to get out of harms way. Pond minnows are useful in a pond, other than their entertaining qualities. They have a hunger for the larvae of mosquitoes along with other unwanted bug larvae, that always make an appearance in an outdoor pond. The pond minnows benefit from this live food and you benefit by the absence of it, otherwise a swarm of mature insects would be flying around.

gold-shinerPond minnows are a natural prey of many fresh water fish, but with their keen sense and speed most survive. Remember that all pond fish are more or less meat eaters, preying on small fry and eggs of all kinds , even their own.

These little guys have three roles in the pond. One is a source of food for the larger pond fish and the second to help eliminate the bugs before they hatch. Third is for our own entertainment.Larger ponds that attack water fowl may get pond minnows from the feet of these birds. It is always a good feeling to walk around and see the life even the pond minnows.

About the author: Darrell Rhoades is the founder of Whatpond.com. A one man business, works full time in tool & die. It all started when he built his own pond for the family. Ran into pond issues and started the research with pond suppliers and conferences for pond management. He writes about pond building and pond management and sells pond management supplies, aeration & fountains and Practical hands on experiences at Whatpond.com. . No physical store, but has items in stock.

11 comments… add one
  • JOHN May 27, 2010 @ 12:07

    I have been trying to buy some minnows but am unable to get any yet.

    I have a fresh water pond of about 190 gallons and lots of tadpoles at this time and want to put a group of about 20 – 30 minnows in the pond.

    Can you help.

    Many thanks

  • Anonymous May 21, 2011 @ 7:09

    We’ve got a farm pond about 3/4 acre – we stocked it as directed starting with the minnows. We could always see minnows by the 100’s – but this year I can’t see a single minnow. The pond is about 4 years old. We had a very dry season last year and the pond probably lost 20% of it’s water, we also put an all natural ensymne (spelling?) to clean scum last year. We got it at a pond store and did lots of research to be sure we would not harm the fish. So any ideas?

  • Darrell Rhoades May 22, 2011 @ 4:38

    What are the other fish species you stocked? These fish may have eaten all the minnows. One of the reasons for losing the minnows is habitat, meaning a place to hide from the predators. Artificial and natural habitat is two ways to create habitat. Doing this allows a place for the smaller fish to hide and survive much longer. But also the predators will lurk around the habitat area waiting for the brave little one venturing out too far. Losing 20% of the pond brings all the fish closer together.

    Using a natural enzyme should not hurt the fish. The question is about the pond scum, what did it look like? Example would be looking like paint that was spilt in the water, or possibly very tiny plants that cover the surface of the water. Does the pond scum show appear certain time of the day then seem to go away? These are a form of algae or weeds which may need to be treated with an algaecide or herbicide.

    Being four years old and if you don’t have proper sized aeration the fish waste, plants, leaves, runoff from lawns and other sources of debris in the water has built up at the bottom of the pond creating nutrients for algae and weeds, all this debris is generally called muck. This can be remedied with aeration and natural bacteria’s, when combined these tool will break down the muck thus removing nutrients so weeds and algae can’t use them. The other big benefit of aeration is supplying the pond with dissolved oxygen from top to bottom giving the fish more room to freely roam about, break the thermal layer in the pond and release the toxic gasses from the mucky bottom.

    More info can be found at the Problem Pond page, Bottom Aeration and to browse through the different size aeration systems and natural pond water treatments click on the Pond Supplies button on the top of the site.
    Hope this helps?

  • RJ Edwards Mar 3, 2012 @ 8:44

    When can fish be put in a newly built pond It’s been built about 2 and a half months.

  • Darrell Rhoades Mar 4, 2012 @ 7:17

    Typically we should wait a year (four seasons), this allows time for the micro organisms to start the eco system.
    If we want to jump the gun and get fish early we could add bacteria’s to help get things started such as Pond Clear and Eco Boostand feed the fish the first year.
    The best time to add fish would be spring, this gives the fish time to get used to their new home and grow larger so they have the body weight to handle the winter months.

  • Brian Jan 24, 2016 @ 9:29

    We have two acre pond with crappie in it and want to raise minnows instead of buying all the time. the pond has small outlet like a thumb on your hand. If i close that off with a minnow seine and put pallets for them to spawn to, will this be efficient. the outlet is roughly 30 feet across and 50 long by 4 feet deep. Will we need to feed the minnows or will they be o.k.

  • Darrell Rhoades Jan 26, 2016 @ 4:19

    HI Brian, Closing off the outlet would be a bad idea unless you have another way for excess water to leave the pond. Such as an overflow pipe or an emergency spillway. Yes some fish and minnows could get washed out or swim out but holding back the water could cause more problems.
    Habitat for the minnows would be the better approach, like what you are thinking about with the pallets. Stack up 5 or six high and wrap them with the plastic snow fencing to limit the size of predator fish that could swim between the openings.
    We’ve also been able to retain the minnow population our ponds with added plants. Mostly around the edges and shallows so that we can keep an eye on the plants and keep them under control so they don’t spread out too far. Along with fall cut back or removing some of the plants by the roots. The plants give the smaller fry and minnows a better place to seek shelter between the stems and dense plant growth. A couple plants I like to use i the Pickerel and Bulrush and cattails do great too but really need to keep an eye on them.

    As for feeding the minnows you shouldn’t have to, if the bigger fish are sustained and the pond is over a year old the pond should be able to supply the small invertebrates and microscopic organisms the minnows would need. Lastly the fat head minnows seem to be the hardiest and can live most anywhere. Stay away from shiners as the would need cool water all season long.

    Hope this helps.

  • Jason Sep 23, 2016 @ 20:32

    We just finished a 5 acre pond and there is currently 8′ of water in the deepest part. The water is very muddy as expected. I am wanting to get minnows started but wonder are we too close to winter and will the silt in the water allow the fish to survive?
    The location is Southern Indiana. Thanks!

  • Darrell Rhoades Sep 25, 2016 @ 7:04

    HI Jason, Sounds like the pond still needs to finish filling up? If so I wouldn’t put in fat head minnows yet due to the muddy water, they are tough but no need to experiment. If you do go ahead just put a small quantity in so you are not losing out too much. The muddy water should clear up over winter.
    Another reason to let the pond fill before adding fish is to be sure it holds water. I don’t mean to sound negative but just staying on the safe side.


  • Jason Sep 27, 2016 @ 20:07

    Thanks for your response! You are correct it has a long way to go unless we get some big rains which I do not want right now as the dam needs grass to get growing!
    It will be 19′ deep once it is full. I guess there is no need to rush putting fish in. I just want to grow trophy bass and want my food population to get started early.
    We’ll get through this winter and the spring rains and then start putting fat heads and bluegill in.
    Here is my plan and tell me if you would change anything.
    I’m planning on for the 5 acres:
    60,000 fatheads, 5,000 2″-3″ bluegill,
    and 75 8″-10″ bass.
    I have created the ideal habitat for growing big fish. Trees, stumps, rock piles, shallows with sand installed, and multiple plastic trees made from culvert pipe with small 1″ flex pipes drilled into the sides.
    22 tons of lime has been spread across the pond some in the water and the rest on what will be water.
    I have not started fertilizing as I think more water is needed but this is one area I’m not too familiar with.
    We are installing a windmill for aeration and will have 2 diffuser stones.
    Any suggestions to improve or correct my plan will be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Darrell Rhoades Sep 28, 2016 @ 4:12

    What I have in my book is a little different than what you have for adding fish, same idea just different on the counts and wait 9 month after adding the feeder fish.
    Not too sure you want to fertilizer the pond, I too don’t know much about it and haven’t heard of too many folks fertilizing their ponds. Don’t worry, the rain, snow, and runoff will have plenty of fertilizer in them and the algae will come naturally. The lime if good if you need to increase the waters PH. I used crushed lime stone in the area where the most water enters the pond.

    Windmill is great if you want to keep a hole open in the ice during winter or create some water movement when it is windy. The problem is the wind doesn’t blow when the pond needs oxygen the most, early morning hours the pond is at it’s lowest oxygen. Winter the hope is to keep a hole open in the ice to allow any toxic gasses that usually build up under the ice to escape. General rule of thumb would be one diffuser per acre since you are over 12′ deep, we have systems from a couple manufactures to achieve the needs of the pond for the oxygen demand. I do have a small book “Aeration 101” and a few emails in a auto responder you can get here,https://www.whatpond.com/proper-sized-pond-aeration/

    Good deal on the fish habitat. I know the waiting on the water to fill the pond is nerve raking but it will get there over time.

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