What Happens If I Eat a Minnow?

Minnow is a common name used for small fish found most commonly in bays, lakes and rivers. This term is used for a number of small freshwater fish. Most of them belong to the Cyprinidae class. They are known in various places by different names.

Minnow fishes measure around 1 to 2 inches in length. Minnows are small fish that are generally calm and not very aggressive in nature. They are found all over the world. They have a silvery livery with or without some blackish shades. They are commonly used as bait for fishing purposes.

Can You Eat a Minnow?

You might be concerned about your well-being after swallowing a live minnow. Various thoughts might pop up in your mind. Can it injure my digestive tract? Can I get affected by any disease?

Although it cannot be said with 100% certainty that the fish will not cause internal bleeding by damaging your digestive tracts, the chances of it happening are fairly small. As the fish will be dying just after passing your throat, the chances are minimal that it will injure your digestive tract.

What Happens after I Eat a Minnow?

To say in one line, the fish will die. Let us discuss the whole process in brief, keeping in mind the working of the digestive system.

When food passes from your mouth to your stomach, it has to pass through a tube-like structure called the esophagus. In the esophagus, food gets squeezed. Thus, there is no doubt that the fish will die much before it reaches your stomach.

Your stomach is even more hostile to foreign particles than your esophagus. The optimum temperature at which stomach works is 37 degrees Celsius. At this temperature, a very less amount of oxygen can remain dissolved in water. As the source of oxygen for aquatic animals is mostly dissolved oxygen, the fish will start suffocating due to lack of oxygen once it reaches your stomach. The only thing of your body which can turn out to be protective for the fish will be the mucus secretion of the digestive tracts.

While food passes through the esophagus, no other enzyme except the salivary ones are mixed with the food. However, once it reaches your stomach, various strong enzymes start pouring over the food, resulting in it dissolving. Pepsin is a digestive enzyme responsible for the breakdown of complex proteins. This enzyme can turn out to be the most harmful enzyme for the fish. Pepsin will result in the dissolving of the proteinaceous structures of the fish, which includes its skin, flesh, gills, and much more.

In the stomach, hydrochloric acid is also secreted to maintain an acidic environment. The maintenance of an acidic environment is very essential for various enzymes, including pepsin to work and break down the food substance.

After the fleshy part of the fish has been dissolved by the pepsin enzyme, you might wonder what will happen to its bone structure? Well, you do not need to worry much about this fact. The bony structures of a fish are generally made up of two substances- calcium phosphate and collagen fibers. Calcium phosphate is responsible for giving strength to the fish, while collagen fibers give elasticity to it. Once it reaches your stomach, the calcium phosphate will be dissolved by the hydrochloric acid of your stomach, while the pepsin enzyme will dissolve the collagen fibers.

The whole process of chemical breakdown starts as soon as the fish reaches your stomach. It may take a few minutes for the completion of the above process.

Before the fish reaches your small intestine, it will be converted into a nutrient-rich liquid substance. (This process is common with whatever food substance you eat). The process of absorption starts in the small intestine. Since the fish is likely to contain very little roughage, it will get substantially absorbed by the small intestine. A very less amount of waste or unabsorbable matter may be left behind. The waste matter then passed on to the large intestine for the absorption of its water content.

Wait! That’s not all. Don’t think you are entirely safe after swallowing a live minnow. It may take revenge on you, even after its death. The fish might be a carrier of various pathogens in the form of bacteria, parasites, flukes, and so on. If these pathogens are destroyed by your body’s digestive and immune systems, you may consider yourself safe. However, it might not be the case always. These pathogens can harm you in many ways. It may cause various diseases and may even become fatal if those deadly pathogens reach your brain. There is where the importance of cooking food before eating lies. Given below is a summary of a few infections which can take place after swallowing a live minnow:

Anisakiasis – A type of parasitic infection that occurs due to the consumption of uncooked seafood. It is generally caused by nematodes in the intestinal tract.

Salmonellosis – It also occurs due to the consumption of improperly cooked food. It is an intestinal infection and is caused by the Salmonella group of bacteria. The body removes these bacteria through the stool. Thus, an infection can also occur if your food has been contaminated by flies, which might have had contact with the pathogens anyhow. This group of bacteria is also common in home aquariums, especially in the tropical region.

Giardia – It is also an intestinal disease caused by parasites in a number of animal species. The patients may have no or mild or severe symptoms. The symptoms include- stomach ache, diarrhea, nausea, stomach cramps, headache, and vomiting. This disease can also get transferred from one person to another or from an animal to a person or vice versa, just like Salmonellosis.


Thus, in no way, eating a raw minnow can be a good idea. In fact, why should you go for a raw minnow, when you have other delicious fish recipes to try!

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