Minnow is the common nickname of small silvery fishes. It belongs to the several genera of the Cyprinidae family. In Ireland, these fishes are known as pinkeens. In North America, minnows have numerous species available, including the shiner, bluntnose, and fathead minnow. Most of them are abundant and are valuable as live bait. One of the best bait species is the bluntnose minnow.
A variety of minnow live in freshwater but some in brackish water habitats. These places range from swamps, sprints, to rivers, lakes, and wetlands. It is possible to find different minnow species in a single pond or swap. However, other minnows are found alone or associated with the same species. Based on research, most minnows survive in cold water. Some species like fallfish prefer lakes, rivers, and large streams, while species like pear dace usually live in small creeks.
Currently, there are about 50 genera and over 300 species of minnows in the United States. Most of these species are already depleted due to bait and sportfish introduction to their habitats. Aside from that, the loss of rivers due to power generation and portable water supplies replaced their homes with artificial lakes where minnows and other fishes could not survive.
Different Types of Minnows
Bigeye Chub (Notropis amblops)
Bigeye is a tiny and silvery fish with a dark lateral band, large eyes, and scales. In Michigan, aquaculturists found these species in small to medium-sized streams and creeks with sand substrates and fine gravel. Some of these species can also be seen in alternating pools and riffle habitat. Based on research, bigeye minnows continue to decrease due to pollutions and siltation in pond and stream habitats. These species feed on large mayflies, nymphs, and midge larvae.
Bigmouth Shiner (Notropis dorsalis)
The Bigmouth Shiner is one of the common minnows in Tennessee. Most of these species live in the Midwest region, but far enough from the east coast. This fish is only about three inches long. I have a grayish-yellow on its back with silver on the sides. Its belly has a dark stripe down to the medial side. Besides that, this tiny fish also has a subterminal mouth, where their upper jaw extends over their lower jaw.
Currently, this minnow type is endemic to North America. Most of them populate the Hudson Bay, Mississippi River, and Great Lakes. A few bigmouth shiners were also found in Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois, and Platte River system.
These tiny fishes love to eat spineless terrestrial and aquatic creatures that go down into their habitats. They also eat algae and plants in their streams.
Bridle Shiner (Notropis bifrenatus)
Bridle shiner is another member of the Cyprinidae family that is commonly found in eastern North America, east of Main, and south of South Carolina. This minnow type has a small and slender body with an average length of 50 millimeters. Their snouts are smaller than their eye diameter, and their bodies have large scales with straw-colored, silvery dorsal side. Aquaculturists said that bridle shiners live in quiet areas of lakes and streams. It usually associates with other habitats with abundant aquatic plants in the river bottom.
These species use small plants for protections, spawning, and feeding. Studies also show that some of them live in turbid water, but most prefer clear water. When it comes to their diet, bridle shiners mainly eat aquatic insect larvae like chironomids and zoo plants. Plants also make a small portion of their food.
Central Stoneroller (Campostoma anomalum)
Central stoneroller is another minnow type that can be found in North America. These small fishes have rounded snouts that overhang their crescent-shaped mouth and irregular dark patches o their scales and a hard ridge of cartilage on their lower lip. Breeding males have black bands on their dorsal fins and large orange fins. Their breeding tubercles also cover the sides and back of their bodies.
Most central stonerollers live in freshwater streams throughout the mid-western and eastern United States. Most of them populate the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, Atlantic Ocean, and Mississippi River. According to research, this minnow type lives and feeds on the bottom of seas and lakes, inhabiting either bottom of rivers and streams or midwaters.
Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio)
A common carp or European carp is considered vulnerable to extinction. It usually lives in freshwater, specifically in large rivers and lakes in Asia and Europe. Based on research, common carps are included in the world’s 100 worst invasive species due to their tendency to spread damage in the environment and human health.
Common carps prefer to live in large bodies of water with small plants. Most of them are food in groups of five and beyond. Research shows that this minnow type prefers temperate climates in slightly brackish or freshwater with a 6.5-9.0 pH level. Common carps can survive winter as long as there is still water below the frozen pond or river. Aside from that, they can also tolerate low oxygen levels by gulping air at the surface.
When it comes to diet, common carps mostly eat plants, but they also scavenge at the bottom for crawfishes, zooplankton, insects, and benthic worms. Regarding their reproduction, an adult female can lay an average of 300,000 eggs within a single spawn. Although they typically spawn during the spring, some can also release eggs multiple times in other seasons.
Cutlip Minnow (Exoglossum maxillingua)
Cutlip minnow is a small olive-green minnow that measures around six inches. This little fish has larger fleshy lobes than other species. Its three-lobed lower jaw sticks out like a tongue. Studies have shown that it became a threat to a Canadian province called Ontario. This minnow type prefers to live in bright, stony pools and feed on minuscule shellfishes, insects, and diatoms.
Cutlip minnows can also be found in quiet water, specifically near the boulders. Male cutlips construct large rectangular or circular nests to pile pebble through their mouths.
Eastern Blacknose Dace (Rhinichthys atratulus)
An eastern blacknose dace is a ray-finned small fish commonly found in the southeast of Canada and the United States’ east coast. It has a brownish olive on its dorsal area and silvery-white below. These two shades are separated by a dark pigmentation and orange lateral line. According to research, these minnows live in rocky rivers and stream where they eat small invertebrates and serve as forage for larger fishes.
An eastern blacknose dace is usually five millimeters long, but some reach slightly over 100 millimeters. This minnow fish’s average lifespan is around two to three years, and they continuously grow during this period. This fish has a fusiform body, and its mouth is in a subterminal position. Its lateral line has 56 to 70 scales from its posterior to anterior. Above its lateral line, the shades vary between olive green to dark brown.
Emerald Shiner (Notropis atherinoides)
Emerald shiner is a silvery and slender fish that can grow up to four inches in length. It usually lives in North America, Gulf of Mexico, and Canada, specifically in large rivers and deep lakes, though sometimes in small water bodies, such as ponds. Studies show that emerald shiners eat tiny organisms, such as insects and zooplankton.
Live emerald shiners have a bright, silvery-green lateral band. Its upper and back sides have an emerald greenish tons, and its front is slaty white. Their dorsal scale has bright centers and pigmented margins. The space between their eyes and nostrils lack pigment.
Emerald shiners are living and feeding at the river bottom. They live in massive lakes, reservoirs, and open rivers. In medium-sized habitats, shiner can survive 25 °C (77 °F) with low oxygen levels. Some of them can also tolerate turbidity in streams.
Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis)
Fallfish is the largest minnow of the Cyprinidae family in North America. Its average size is about five inches (13 centimeters) in length, but some individuals can grow up to fifteen inches (38 centimeters). Younger fallfishes have dark stripes around their bodies. They also have a silvery shade on the sides and top. Mating males can develop a rose-colored tone on their faces. Upon spawning, males build a “redd,” a nest made from stones.
Both young and juvenile fallfishes eat chironomids and zooplanktons. Once they reached a certain age, they start eating small fishes, including their babies and terrestrial insects. Research shows that most fallfishes reside in clear lakes, streams, and ponds.
Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas)
Fathead minnow belongs to the Pimephales genus of the cyprinid family. Most of these species live in North America and Canada. Regarding its appearance, this fish is a golden and rosy-red minnow. Generally, it has a dusky stripe extending along its sides and back. Breeding males have immense gray fleshy growth. The average length of a fathead minnow is around seven to ten centimeters.
According to research, fathead minnows are distributed across North America to Atlantic and Pacific coastal drainage. Their widespread distribution is due to their tolerance for multiple environmental conditions, characteristics, and popularity as baits. Besides that, fathead minnows can also tolerate turbid and low-oxygen water areas, specifically in ponds and small lakes. Nonetheless, some of them live in more massive streams, lakes, and other habitats.
Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas)
The golden shiner is a cyprinid fish originated from eastern North America. Most people use it as bait since it is a pond-cultured species in the United States. The average size of a golden shiner is between 7.5 to 12.5 centimeters (three to five inches) long. Its body has a dark or olive green while its belly is silvery white. The sides are golden for older individuals while silver in the younger ones. There can also be a faint dusky strip, and its anal fin has eight to 20 rays.
A golden shiner’s scales are relatively more extensive than others and quickly lost when they are handled. Over the years, this minnow type has been found throughout the St. Lawrence River, Lake Winnipeg, Great Lakes, and west of Dakota and Texas. Because of its excellent bait characteristics, people have distributed it in other areas outside its natural habitats.
According to research, most golden shiners live in quiet waters such as sloughs, ditches, lakes, and ponds. They are also usually found in the most tranquil and weedy areas of rivers. These minnows can tolerate turbidity, pollution, and low oxygen levels. Aside from that, some of them can survive high temperatures up to 40 °C (104 °F), which is strange enough for a North American minnow.
Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
Goldfish is another freshwater species included in the family of Cyprinidae. It is one of the famous aquarium pets due to its gorgeous appearance. However, goldfishes vary in body shape, size, fin configuration, and coloration. Some individuals have a combination of white, yellow, orange, red, and brown colors. According to research, this species started in ancient China and has been bred as food fish for hundreds of years.
In April 2008, BBC recorded the most significant giant goldfish in the world that measured 19 inches or 48 centimeters long. It lived in the Netherlands, and its name is Goldie. In July 2010, a 16-inch goldfish that weighed five pounds was found in Poole, England, and believed to have been abandoned due to its large size.
In the wild, goldfishes eat insects, plants, and crustaceans. However, some individuals also eat their own accord. Based on research, overfeeding a goldfish is dangerous because too much food can block their intestines.
Some of the most famous goldfish breeds are the black telescope, bubble eye, celestial eye, comet, fantail, lion head, oranda, pear scale, ryukin, and telescope.
Hornyhead Chub (Nocomis biguttatus)
Hornyhead is a small species of minnow that mainly lives in small streams and rivers of the northern USA and Canada. Adult individuals prefer rocky and faster pools of rivers. Most hornyhead fishes spread throughout Wyoming, North Dakota, and east of Hudson River drainage.
Regarding its physical characteristics, hornyhead fishes are medium-sized and have an unnoticeable barbell in its mouth. This fish has no teeth and has a dark lateral strop and a small spot on its tale. Its body pattern has an olive-brown color while its sides have silvery color, and its belly is white.
The hornyhead minnows usually live in rocky pools and creaks of small and medium rivers. It can also populate dark-water and clear-water streams. According to research, hornyhead fishes spawn between May and June. They start maturing after two to three years. When it comes to their diet, these species usually eat during daylight. They typically feed a variety of plant and animal food.
Lake Chub (Couesius plumbeus)
Lake Chub is a tiny freshwater cyprinid fish that populates the United States and Canada. Currently, it is the only species that remains as monotypic. Regarding its physical appearance, Lake Chub’s body is somewhat fusiform and elongate. It usually grows from 100 to 175 millimeters (four to seven inches) long. Its back has an olive or dark brown, while its sides are leaden silver. Its snout is slightly blunt and projects beyond the upper lip. The scales around its body are small but noticeable enough, and some form dark spots and darker shades. Its pelvic, dorsal, and anal fins have eight rays.
Regarding its habitat, lake chubs are commonly found in cold-water areas such as lakes, rivers, and streams. They usually prefer shallow areas, especially during the summer. However, they may move to deeper parts to avoid high temperatures of the lakeshore. When it comes to diet, these minnow fishes eat insects, algae, larvae, and zooplankton. Adults can also eat small fishes.
During spawning, male individuals pursue females. They will become in-charge while it will cause females to swim away. Males will swim next to them until they reach a rock where the females release their eggs. Spawning usually occurs during summer.
Longnose Dace (Rhinichthys cataractae)
Longnose is another tiny minnow fish that originated in North America. It is a small species that typically measures around 100 millimeters. Based on research, it became known due to its fleshy snout that sticks out past its mouth. Longnose daces are usually found on the bottom of fast-flowing lakes and streams, specifically in rocky areas. This minnow type can be mistaken for Catostomidae due to its sucker-like mouth. However, a longnose dace lacks papillae on its mouth.
Upon growing up, these species develop a black lateral line that extends from its eyes to its tail. Adult longnose dace has dark green o black dorsal side, and the lateral one is silver or darker.
Studies have shown that longnose dace is the most distributed cyprinid in North America. It is available in the New Mexico’s Rocky Mountains up to the Arctic Circle’s Mackenzie River.
Mimic Shiner (Notropis volucellus)
Mimic shiner is a North American freshwater fish that commonly populates Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and the Gulf of Mexico. This minnow type became known due to its complete lateral line, dorsal fin rays, and premaxillae proctile. Regarding its diet, a mimic shiner eats small crustaceans, midge pupae, terrestrial insects, and larvae. Studies have shown that this species can live up to three years and can reach the maximum sexual maturity after one year.
Historically, mimic shiners lived in the southern Hudson Bay, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River. Some of them also spread throughout the Atlantic Coast drainage in North Carolina, Connecticut, Virginia, and Housatonic rivers. Aquaculturists said that few mimic shiners could even survive in the Susquehanna River in New York.
Northern Pearl Dace (Margariscus nachtriebi)
The northern pearl dace is usually distributed in North America, specifically in Great Lakes, Atlantic, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River. This minnow fish can grow up to 16 centimeters long. It has eight dorsal and anal soft rays, and its body has dark olive-gray shade. Many small brown and black specks spread on its silversides.
The northern pear dace commonly live in clear headwater streams, bog drainages, ponds, and lakes in North America. The spawning occurs in clear water with gravel and sand in weak to moderate current.
Pugnose Shiner (Notropis anogenus)
The pugnose shiner is a ray-finned fish that can live up to three years and grow up to 20 to 60 millimeters long. Based on research, its distribution has been decreasing due to the removal of its habitats to create beaches and boating areas in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
The pugnose shiner is a non-abundant minnow type that originated in North America, eastern Ontario, New York, Dakota, Illinois, and Indiana. Regarding its physical appearance, this fish has a lateral dark stripe on its sides that runs from its caudal fin to the nose tip. Pugnose shiner’s terminal mouth is small that angled upwards that looks like a pug’s nose.
Regarding its habitat, pugnose shiners prefer weedy, clear, and slow-moving lakes and streams. When the temperature becomes warmer, they usually stay in the shallow areas, but when it cools down, they move to deeper waters. This species is an excellent indicator of ecosystems since it is sensitive to its environment and cannot tolerate turbidity.
Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus)
A redside dace is another ray-finned fish in the Cyprinidae family. This species is one of the unique minnows that leaps from the water to eat flying insects. In this case, it acts as a channel for nutrient transfers between aquatic and terrestrial environments. Redside daces are excellent ecosystem health indicators due to their sensitivity to environmental disturbances.
Based on research, the redside dace family is most abundant in Pennsylvania. Aquaculturists said that it spreads along Great Lakes, Ohio River, and Mississippi River, as well. In Canada, the distribution of this species is limited to Southern Ontario, specifically in Pringle Creek and Spencer Creek near Hamilton.
Tonguetied Minnow (Exoglossum laurae)
Exoglossum laurae lives throughout Ontario and North America. In Ohio, this minnow populates Little Miami and Great Miami rivers. Regarding its physical appearance, its color ranges from brown-black to dark gray with purple specks around its body. This species can grow up to three to five inches long. This minnow type has seven anal fin rays, eight dorsal fin rays, and eight pelvic fin rays based on aquaculturists.
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To more about Minnows, visit Cornell’s website.