You’ve been thinking about your fish pond in your backyard, wondering how you might change it up a bit and have begun to think about adding minnows to your pond.
Minnows are an easy fish to keep in your pond because they require minimal maintenance and are mainly self-sufficient. However, because minnows repopulate so quickly, if the proper precautions are not taken, they can take over and overwhelm your pond.
It’s imperative that you know the best ways to take care of minnows before you introduce them into your pond.
Best Ponds for Minnows
Not every pond may be the right fit for minnows. Minnows repopulate very quickly, spawning 100 to 200 eggs and up to 200 to 400 eggs every 4 to 5 days. Because of this, you may find it necessary for your pond to have some form of population control.
If your pond is primarily for bass, catfish, or other predators of minnows, then you can keep minnows in your pond without having to worry about overpopulation.
If however, your pond is primarily a goldfish or koi pond, you may not want to add minnows to it because they will not be eaten by the koi or goldfish and will begin to overcrowd your pond.
Benefits of Keeping Minnows
Minnows can be a great benefit to your ponds. Not only can they be a food source for your bass and bluegill, which can help them grow much more quickly, but they will also eat the pond algae, keeping your pond cleaner.
They also eat mosquito larvae, as well as other insects, keeping the surface cleaner as well as reducing the number of mosquitos and bugs living around your pond. And honestly, who doesn’t want to have fewer mosquitos swarming around their pond and yard?
Many fish, including minnows, can be used in an aquaponics pond. Aquaponics is a system that allows you to grow vegetables and other plants submerged in water using the waste your fish produce.
While some minnows are known for eating other plants, if you have a system in place to keep your fish away from the produce you are growing, you can take advantage of the waste your fish produce and put them to work fertilizing your plants.
Drawbacks of Keeping Minnows
Minnows may seem like a good idea, but be sure to understand all that comes with them. Some minnows will eat the plants growing in your pond, eating at them until they either die or are eaten away completely.
Minnows will eat just about anything, including other fish eggs. Should you be wanting to grow baby fish in your pond, having minnows in your pond may make that impossible.
When your pond has too many minnows, it may become more difficult to keep your pond clean of the excess waste that having so many minnows will bring.
Taking Care of Your Minnows
Before you put minnows into your pond, recognize that if you already have a steady population of bass or other predatorial fish, your minnows won’t have time to begin repopulating before they are eaten and will therefore not be able to get any footing before being eliminated. If you only have koi or other fish that do not eat minnows, then this should not be a problem.
Depending on what type of minnows you get, you will want to make sure that your pond is within its temperature range. Fathead minnows, one of the most common species, prefers the temperature range of 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Minnows also need to have an oxygen source that keeps the water circulating like a pump or waterfall.
Because minnows prefer cooler water, make sure that the water is shaded, either by surrounding trees or by floating plants like water lilies and lily pads. You can also promote a cooler temperature by making the water depth deeper.
While minnows are self-sufficient and don’t need extra feeding, if you choose to feed them, you would only need to do it once a week because they have other sources of food in the algae and insects around them.
When feeding your minnows, you can feed them any commercial fish food like minnow food, catfish food, or tropical fish food. You can even throw in some dried bloodworms or brine shrimp. They will eat anything you feed your other pond fish, so it wouldn’t be necessary to buy a specific food just for them.
Just like with any of your other fish, you need to be aware of predators. If you are finding that your minnows are disappearing more quickly than they should be based on the number of predator fish you have, there may be something else hunting your fish.
Herons are a common predator to fish, so if you are finding your minnows – or any of your other fish – to be going missing, check to make sure that there are no herons taking advantage of your pond.
Also, be sure that you didn’t add your minnows to a pond that was already well established with the predator fish. If you put them into a pond with plenty of predator fish, they may not have had time to repopulate before they began to be eaten.
When putting your minnows into the water, just like any other fish, be sure the water is set at a temperature within their preferred range. If you don’t, this can cause your fish to die or be unable to reproduce, making it so they die off more quickly than they would otherwise.
If your minnows are dying off, double-check the pH levels. While each fish is a little different, for a fathead minnow, the pH levels need to stay around 7.0 -7.5. Going out of their preferred pH levels can make the water toxic for your fish to live in and therefore killing them off.
If the pH levels are too high, add 1/4 cup of vinegar to every 500 gallons of water in your pond. After waiting for 12 hours, retest the pH levels of your water and repeat as needed. Remove any algae that you can to help clean out the water and to prevent high levels of pH.
Types of Minnows
The fathead minnow is one of the most common minnows. They eat insects, crustaceans, and zooplankton though will eat almost anything and can live in areas that would be uninhabitable for other fish. These are one of the more slow-moving minnows, and therefore and good if you are planning on adding them to a pond to feed predator fish.
A color variant of the fathead minnow is the Rosy Red minnow. They are pink, gold, or pale orange in color. These minnows are vibrant in color and are able to survive during cold winter months. However, they prefer temperatures between 50 – 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want your minnows to continue to breed, you will want to keep the waters in this temperature range.
Mosquito minnows are average in length at about 4 inches long. Adult minnows can eat hundreds of mosquitos a day. They can also eat other insects and insect larvae, zooplankton, and dead organic material. They prefer temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
The common minnow is a small brown minnow with black spots or stripes. They travel in schools for protection from preditors. Because they do best in fast-moving water and cold water, the common minnow does not do well in small ponds.
The creek chub is one of the largest minnows, averaging from 5 – 7 inches long. They have a white stomach and a green and black body. The creek chub is known as a schooling fish and can swim incredibly fast. They can survive a large range in temperature from 35 degrees Fahrenheit to 89 degrees Fahrenheit.
White Cloud Mountain Minnow
These minnows do very well in ponds, especially ponds meant for frogs. They tend to feed on water plants and insect larvae and are one of the smallest minnows. Their ideal temperature range is 62 – 74 degrees Fahrenheit but can survive in temperatures as low as 41 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you are finding that you have too many minnows in your pond, the easiest method to reduce their population would be to add a predatory fish or two to help control the population. Examples of these are bass, catfish, or bluegill, but there are many other fish that enjoy eating minnows as well.
However, if you’re not wanting to add any more fish to your pond, you can also use a minnow trap to capture them. These can be found online or at various retail and sporting goods stores. You can easily bate these traps with bread crumbs, crackers, or pet food to attract the minnows inside the trap.
After a few hours, you can bring the trap back in and empty it. Minnows are good fishing bait, so you can use the ones you’ve just caught during your next fishing trip.
Wondering if you can keep trout in a garden pond? Then check out our article “Can You Keep Trout In A Garden Pond?” to find out.