What Do Minnows Eat?

When using the term minnow, you are referring to an entire fish family known as Cyprinidae. Some of the fish in this family include goldfish, stone rollers, fatheads, shiners, carp, fallfish, and daces. 

If you are thinking of keeping minnows for any purpose, be it keeping them as pets, for commercial purposes, or keeping them for a while till your next fishing trip, knowing what to feed them is vital.

Minnows in the wild eat various things, including brine shrimp, insects, crawfish, fish eggs, and various plant materials. On the other hand, minnows kept in farms eat large algae, zooplankton, and phytoplankton found in various farms and ponds. If provided with, they may feed on commercial food as well. 

You need to understand what they eat and their feeding habits in different habitats. They quickly adapt and can survive in both wild and captive settings. This will aid you in knowing how much food they need, when, and what to feed them.

How Long Can Minnows Go Without Eating?

As a minnow owner, you constantly ask yourself if you feed the minnows at the right time or starve them for too long. If you are not feeding them frequently enough, you are putting them at risk of illness. Fortunately, minnows can go for a few days without food.

Taking care of your minnows is relatively easy when you are around, but what if you forget to feed them or have to go away and there is nobody to feed them? Moving around with the minnows is very difficult, even when they are in a portable fish tank.

In whatever environment you are keeping your minnows, they have sufficient body mass and fat reserves to keep them nourished for a few days. Minnows in the wild can go for extended periods without eating more than their caged counterparts. If you are keeping your minnows in an aquarium, you tend to overfeed them, and some can die as a result of overeating.

So how long can you keep your fish without food without starving them? If your minnows are still young, you need to feed them a couple of times a day. They are pretty active, and nourishment is also very vital to general body development and functions. If you don’t feed them enough, they may become sick, have deformities, or even die.

If you have been feeding the fish in your aquarium well and they are grown up and healthy, they can skip some meals. So if you are planning on going away for a while, they will be safe for about three to six days without food. There are claims that goldfish can go for about ten days without eating anything.

You could also reduce the minnows’ appetite by adjusting the conditions of the fish tank. You can set the light timer to reduce the hours of light to around seven instead of 12 hours. You can also set up your tank in a semi-dark room. You can also gradually lower the temperature inside the aquarium.

This will reduce fish activity and also reduce the amount of food the fish eat. Be careful not to over-limit the light exposure; the minnows need light. Also, lowering the temperature below 30C is very dangerous.

There are also automatic feeders in the market. They allow you to set the food schedule and control the serving amounts. With such a device, you don’t have to worry about feeding your minnow constantly.

If you need to be away for a while, make preparations—prepare the fish properly before you leave them without food. You can also use the automatic feeder in case of your absence.

Even though fish have high hunger tolerance levels, I would not advise you to leave them for very long periods without food. Underfeeding, overfeeding, or starving them exposes them to some diseases and, in severe cases, even death. I also recommend that you feed them once or twice a day.

What Does A Minnow Need To Survive?

What Does A Minnow Need To Survive

Like most living things, minnows require some things to help them survive


Minnows need oxygen for a lot of body functions. With their high activity levels, minnows need a lot of oxygen to help break down lactic acid. Minnows will consume a lot of oxygen over time.

If you keep your minnows in a pond or an open tank, constant water movement will help with aeration. To maintain safe oxygen levels in the aquarium, add hydrogen peroxide or use an aerator.

The aerator has a waterproof bucket clip, and weighted oxygen stone to help dissolve oxygen into the water. A pair of D-cell batteries are enough to pump it.


Obviously, as fish species, minnows need water to live. If you are keeping your minnows in a controlled environment, you need to replace the water constantly.

If you don’t change the water, it may not be very hospitable to the minnows because the dissolved oxygen levels will be deficient. Just like other living things, minnows excrete, and this may contaminate the water further.

I would advise you not to use tap water as it may contain chlorine. You may use water from natural sources or slightly refrigerated distilled water. By replacing the water, you will replenish the oxygen, regulate temperature, and provide a clean environment for the minnows.

Low Temperatures

Keeping your minnows in high-temperature places is a sure way to kill all of them. Overheating is among the leading cause of death in minnows. If you live in high-temperature areas or plan on going fishing during hot summer days, you can keep them in a bait fridge. There are also fish tanks with temperature regulators.

Beware not to lower the temperature too much. Temperatures below 40C are pretty dangerous to minnows. Also, reduce the temperatures gradually.

What Is The Best Way To Keep Minnows Alive?

what is the best way to keep minnows alive

Here are a few tips to ensure your minnows stay alive, whether in an aquarium or other container.

Distribute Your Minnows Evenly

Don’t overcrowd your minnows in the container; for instance, put about 40 minnows in an eight-quart container. If the minnows overcrowd, they may injure one another or deplete oxygen fast.

Set up your minnow tank in an area where you can regulate light.

Make the room dark for long periods to reduce fish activity. When the fish are more active, they use up a lot of oxygen, and in some cases, the oxygen supply may not be enough. Also, in bright areas, the water will warm up quickly and may overheat, thus killing some minnows.

Use Oxygen Enhancers

Add an aerator to your minnow container. An aerator helps maintain safe oxygen levels in the tank, and the minnows remain well-oxygenated without causing stress to the minnows. The aerators work through the agitation of water or compressed oxygen.

If you cannot access an aerator, you can use a small amount of hydrogen peroxide (an ounce of 3% hydrogen peroxide for every 3 gallons of water) to replenish oxygen levels in the tank. However, it would be best if you were cautious when using hydrogen peroxide as it may have some side effects on the minnows.

Keep The Minnow Tank Water Cool

Minnows are very delicate and do not thrive in very high or low-temperature areas. Although some minnows can survive in warm water, their mortality increases drastically above 150 C or below 40C.

You can cool the water by constantly changing it, adding ice, or using a tank with temperature regulation features. When using ice, place the ice in an enclosed container with high conductivity. If you add the ice directly, you risk adding some chemicals that may harm the minnows.

Constantly Check Your Tank For Dead Minnows

Just like all other things in nature, not all your minnows will survive. Constantly check for dead floating minnows and remove them as soon as they die. Decomposing dead minnows will contaminate the water, putting the other minnows at risk.

Perform Routine Checks On Your Minnow Tank.

Checking your minnow container a few times a week should be sufficient. This makes sure everything in the tank is in perfect condition. I would recommend doing the checks as often as you can; the more checks you do, the more minnows you can keep alive.

What Human Food Can Minnows Eat?

Minnows are versatile and adapt quite quickly to different environments. If you plan on domesticating wild minnows, you will likely want to feed them the same food they ate in the wild.

These may be other dead fish, blood worms, mosquitoes, flies, and algae. You could also feed them with regular fish feed that other captive fish species eat.

If you cannot access these, don’t fret. Minnows can feed on some human food and still thrive. You can feed your minnows a variety of human food.

You can feed them homemade fish feed made from fresh seafood, vegetable and fruit scraps (spinach, lettuce, broccoli, carrots), wheat, cornflour (oatmeal and crackers can also work), and raw eggs.

For minnows that are picky eaters, you can feed them on brine shrimp mixed with flake food. When dropping food into the aquarium, make sure the food is adequately soaked so that the fish can easily feed.

Minnows are very versatile fish. Taking good care of them ensures you have enough bait on your angling trip and have some pets. You can also commercialize your minnows and get good money.