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What Do Minnows Eat?

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Minnows are fish that belong to the family Cyprinidae.  In Ireland, this fish species is known as pinkees.  There are a few different subspecies of minnow such as the cheat minnow, Cutlip minnow, desert minnow, suckermouth minnow, and a few others. 

This fish species is found living in fresh and saltwater.

This fish species is commonly used as bait fish since they don’t grow too large.  A typical adult minnow is 13cm long.  Their small size makes them ideal for bait to catch other larger fish species and many fishermen prefer this fish species as bait over other types of bait. These tiny fish are also kept as bait in aquariums.


What Do Minnows Eat?

Minnow fish are omnivores.  They can eat both animal and plant matter.  Their diet does vary depending on their location or habitat since certain foods might not be available in some regions.  Here is a quick look at some of the best food types this fish species love to eat.


Algae are a valuable food source for young minnows.  Young fish will also eat other foods but algae are a good substitute if animal matter foods are scarce.  Minnows will eat any type of algae they find.  Algae are a great food for small minnow fry since some pieces of algae can be microscopic and this food is always soft.


Dead plants

Small to adult minnows can and are happy to feed on dead plants.  They love to linger on the bottom of rivers or ponds to scout for dead and half-decayed plant matter.  Minnows will eat any dead plant matter they can find as long as the pieces are small enough for them to swallow.  They can also nibble at dead plants to break them into smaller pieces for swallowing.



Plankton is a very good food source for small to adult minnows.  These microscopic organisms are found floating in all fresh and seawater. 

Plankton includes a huge variety of microscopic species such as protozoans, small crustaceans, eggs, larvae, and many others.  



Minnows love to eat all sorts of insects they find inside or floating on top of the water.  They eat mosquitoes, flies, snails, and many other types of insects.  The insects they focus on are usually quite small since this fish species isn’t very large.


Smaller fish and crustaceans

Minnows will also catch and eat fish that are smaller than they are.  They will eat any fish species, including their own.  They mostly focus on fry, fish eggs, or larval fish that are still very small.  

They also love to eat small crustaceans.   Snails and small clams can easily be crushed against the hard plate on their throats. 

Brine shrimp is the main food source for many minnow species in saltwater regions.



Bloodworms and other types of worms are another good food source for this fish species.  Pet owners often buy freeze-dried bloodworms to offer their minnows.   The bloodworms are an easy and healthy treat for fish that are kept in aquariums but they do require a versatile diet to stay healthy.


Fish flakes

You can also feed your pet minnow fish flakes.  They can eat goldfish or tropical fish flakes.  Some minnows might need training to start eating fish flakes.  If your minnow is a new addition to your tank, start by feeding your fish a mixture of flakes and brine shrimp.  They will soon learn to eat fish flakes.  


Minnow Diet Variations

Minnow fish can adapt to their environment and they are omnivores.  This enables them to easily switch from one food source to another if food is scarce.  If their most common foods are scarce, they can resolve to eat other types of foods such as soft vegetables and other plant matter or small pieces of meat.


How to Care for your Minnows?

Minnows are relatively easy to feed.  You can simply add small pieces of food on top of the water.  

It is however important not to overfeed your fish since this is one of the most common causes of death with these fish species.  

When you are feeding your fish, add a little bit of water to the tank.  Monitor the tank after 5 minutes for leftover food. If there is food leftover after about 3 minutes, you can remove these foods and offer less the next time around.


How Much Do Minnows Eat?

Ideally, you should offer your fish a small amount of food twice per day.  You will notice that not all minnows in your tank will choose to surface to eat. Some minnows do prefer to eat every 2 – 3 days.  Feeding your fish twice daily will ensure that all your fish will get enough food.

If you do offer too little food, your minnows can become cannibalistic and will start to eat each other.  


What Do Baby Minnows Eat?

Baby minnows are called fry.   Fry usually focuses on small microscopic foods such as plankton but they also love to eat algae since this food is soft and consists of many microscopic pieces.


What Do Wild Minnows Eat?

In the wild, minnows mostly focus on eating insects and dead plants.  They are however quite adaptive and will eat all sorts of other foods when times are harsh.  Fish eggs, small fish, pieces of meat, and all sorts of plants might become a tasty meal to them.


Do Minnows Eat Bread Crumbs?

Minnows can eat bread crumbs and other wheat or corn products.  They do however also rely on lots of protein to survive.  It is best to offer these foods only as an occasional snack because they can start to eat each other if they require more protein.


How Do You Keep Minnows Alive At Home?

To keep your minnows alive, you should regularly clean their tank.  You should also offer them a diverse meal.  The best food to offer your minnows is a combination of bloodworms, fish flakes, and brine shrimp.  Combining these foods will ensure that your minnows get all the nutrition they need.


Do Minnows Eat Moss?

Minnows can eat all sorts of dead plant matter.  They mostly prefer algae over other plant foods.  You can however also offer your minnows moss on occasion.  Moss has fine leaves that they can easily nibble off.

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