Can You Keep Minnows in a Pond?

Minnows are a popular fish among many aquarists. They’re generally less expensive to buy in bulk and they make great companions for koi and other types of fish. But can you keep minnows in your outdoor pond? Do minnows thrive outside of an artificial environment?

Is it possible to keep minnows in a pond?

Yes, you can, most minnows are able to live in lakes and ponds.

Moreover, they diversify the ecosystem by providing food for larger fish. If your pond or lake is overcrowded with minnows they will end up overpopulating the water body sooner than anticipated.

Minnows require a special environment to thrive, but contrary to popular belief, they’re actually harder than most people think. Minnows are very adaptive fish with the ability to tolerate less than perfect conditions. But what we consider poor conditions can lead to stress and harmful infections.

Not all minnows are the same, and some breeds require special treatment. You should always research your breed prior to purchasing.

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What is needed to keep minnows in a pond?

If you insist on keeping minnows in an outdoor pond, here are a few requirements that need to be met:

Minnows need aerated water. They can survive in stagnant water for a short period of time, but it’s not ideal. Having the ability to move up and down in your pond is important to their survival.

Minnows require rocks and plants. It sounds obvious, but minnows like to hide. You should provide them with plenty of places to seek shelter.

Minnows require a cold environment. They can survive in warmer water, but it makes them sluggish and they’re more susceptible to diseases. Having proper pond aeration will help keep the temperature of your pond cool during the summer months, but it’s best if you start with cooler water in spring or fall.

Minnows require an abundant food source. Minnows are omnivores with a high metabolism, so they need to eat often. It’s important you have plenty of algae in your pond for them to feed on during the warmer months. Keep in mind that minnows also prey on smaller fish by eating their eggs and fry.

Minnows require protection. You should always have a secure cover on your pond to prevent predators from entering.

How do you care for minnows in an outdoor pond?

If you’re considering adding minnows to your outdoor pond, keep the following tips in mind:

There are fish diseases that affect minnows. Some diseases are specific to minnows, but others can be found in other fish. Always research your breed before purchasing.

Minnows require a higher oxygen level than most other types of fish. This is because they’re constantly moving and jumping, which depletes the dissolved oxygen available faster. You should always have an air pump or water bubbler to increase oxygen levels.

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Minnows eat a lot. They’re constantly hunting for food, but they’ll also graze on plants and other debris in your pond. If algae build-up, it’s important you remove it before it matures into string algae.

Minnows are unable to withstand changes in their environment. It’s important to keep a constant water temperature and make sure your pond is well protected from predators.

If you follow these tips, you should have success with minnows in an outdoor pond.

What are the best minnows to keep in a small pond?

There are over 100 varieties of minnows (freshwater fish in the Cyprinidae family) and some of them can live in a small pond. Most would consider goldfish or koi to be minnows but, because they grow large and require specialized care, I will not cover them here.

This section will focus on the best minnows to keep in a pond, so I have chosen ones that are generally small, easy to care for, and are often used as feeders. Most of them are common carp relatives so they fit this criterion.

I know you are probably asking “which one is the best?” The answer is that there is no “best” Each species has different care requirements. Some tolerate water conditions better than others.

All of them will eat pond plants and algae, and some will dig up your pond bottom in search of food, causing a mess that you may not want to deal with. I’ll cover several groups of minnows for you to consider.

Barbs

There are several varieties of barbs. They make great pond fish because they will eat mosquito larvae and small insects from the water surface as well as bottom debris, keeping your pond cleaner than it would be without them. Most also appreciate a good plant cover to provide shade. Some common barbs include black, gold, grass, and tiger barbs.

Tiger Barbs (Puntius semifasciolatus)

As the name implies, the stripes on this fish change with age. You can purchase them as one-inch or three-inch juveniles and watch them grow into a nice show specimen.

The males develop a pointed dorsal fin at maturity. They are considered semi-aggressive because they can be very aggressive with their own species but generally ignore the fins of other fish.

Black Barbs (Puntius filamentosus)

This is another variety with a difference in male/female looks. The female’s dorsal fin has three clear spines. The male has two black spines and streaking on their sides that make them look tattered or frayed at the edges, hence the name “filamentosus”.

They are sometimes called forktail or flag barb. Males can become quite large, reaching up to eight inches long, so allow for extra space if you purchase larger ones.

Black barbs are considered good community fish because they usually leave most other species alone. They prefer a low current and like hiding places. They do well with other bottom feeders such as rosy reds (see below) and can be kept in schools of at least six fish for best health.

Rosy Red Minnows (Pseudorasbora parva)

This hardy fish tolerates a wide range of water conditions and can even thrive in poor-quality ponds. Because they like vegetation and shade, your pond plants will benefit from their presence.

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They do well with most other minnows and are very easy to breed, so provide some flat rocks or slate pieces for them to deposit eggs on if you want more of these fish. You can purchase them as one-inch or three-inch juveniles and they will be fully grown in just a few months. They reach about two inches long and, like black barbs, they prefer low currents and cover to feel safe. Keep at least eight fish together for best health.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)

This fish has an interesting history. It comes from the well-forested mountain streams of China and reportedly will not survive under bright lights or in murky water.

They are sometimes called “ghost” or “white cloud” minnows, but I think they look more like soap bubbles with fins! These fragile-looking fish have a bright white body with iridescent blue highlights and bright red eyes.

They love water plants and can be kept in schools of four or more fish, so please consider their size when stocking your pond. These minnows get big, at least seven inches long, so allow for ample room when considering how many to add to your pond.

Rosy Reds (Hemigramus erythrozonus)

This is a very unique minnow with a “cork-screw” shaped body and an almost shimmering red color. When young, the male’s dorsal fin has a black stripe through the center of it, but this stripe disappears as he reaches maturity.

These minnows are very tolerant of variable water conditions, but they will not tolerate low oxygen levels. They do well in both still and moving water provided the current is not too strong (they need to be able to rest). They like shady habitats, so you can place your water plants close together for them.

How to breed minnows in a pond?

Aquatic pets are most probably one of the kinds of animals that are easy to breed, with little effort and time. There are some popular choices in aquatic animals breeding like goldfish, betta fish, guppies, and tetras. Minnows also fall into that category, but they may vary somewhat when it comes to care, pond size, and other issues.

Let’s learn how to breed minnows in a pond

When it comes to breeding minnows, people often think about small fish that can be kept in an aquarium or perhaps a large glass jar. However, the environment where we keep them might affect their health and lifespan.

Minnows are freshwater fish that do best in an environment with ample oxygen, shade, and cover. Furthermore, they are often kept in groups to reduce their stress level. So breeding minnows in a small aquarium is not advisable since this will feel more like a prison for them.

An alternative to this would be to raise the minnows in a pond.

There is a type of minnow called Fancy Goldfish, which has an egg-shaped body with long fins and tail. They are usually about 1 to 3 inches in length, so they do need some space to swim around. Let’s learn how to breed minnows in a pond.

Breeding minnows is relatively easy. All you need is an aquarium or a large pond, some floating plants, small rocks or sand for the bottom, and of course the minnows themselves.

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Once you have all these things ready, thaw the frozen feeder fish before releasing them into the water.

Now, depending on how many fish you have added to the pond, you may also need to add more feeder fish. The minnows will eventually eat them up.

Minnows are known to devour any insect in the water, so there is no need to buy an expensive breed of insects for them. Just release some insects into the water, and they will take care of the rest.

You can also feed your minnows with lettuce or special fish food pellets. But these are essentially only substitutes, so if possible allow the breed to eat insects for a more natural diet.

When it comes to breeding minnows, there is no set rule about how much water they can have. Unlike most other fish, minnows do not need a lot of water. Just provide them with enough so they can move around in it.

However, the water temperature does matter when breeding minnows. They are most active at temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (10 and 21 degrees Celsius). If you notice that your minnows are not breeding at the optimal temperature, then try to raise or lower it accordingly.

In addition, if possible, add a couple of stones to the pond for cover and shade. This again will help the minnows feel more secure and live longer.

These simple tips should give you a better idea about how to breed minnows in a pond. If you follow them, your fish should grow healthier and happier, while doing the environment a favor as well.

Why are the minnows dying in my pond?

I know that minnows are small and don’t live very long, but they’re the only thing in my pond and I expected to find a couple of them at least throughout the year.

This is most probably because other bigger fish outcompete them for food, shelter, and space on the bottom of your pond where they make their homes.

You can’t stop your other fish from bullying the minnows, but you can offer them alternatives so they don’t have to rely on staying with their school of minnows.

A structure of some kind on which they can establish their own territory is a great way to protect them, and create an ideal habitat for them to live.

Summary

Minnows can be kept in ponds, but it takes some work. You need a large pond with plenty of vegetation and other minnow food sources for them to live on. In addition, you should add water plants such as Elodea or Duckweed that have been scientifically proven to provide both covers from predators and also nesting sites for the fry when they are ready to spawn again.

Minnows require an adequate amount of oxygen, so the best way to maintain life in the water is by adding plants nearby.

These additional factors will help keep your minnows happy in their new home while providing an excellent habitat for all kinds of wildlife in your backyard.

For more information about how we can create beautiful backyard ponds without any hassle please contact us.

References:

Minnow Family http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/cek7/nyfish/Cyprinidae/cyprinidae.html