Life Cycle of Minnows

Life Cycle of Minnows
••• Aquarium fish-Xiphophorus helleri image by SPLAV from

Minnows are fish from the family Cyprinidae. Cyprinidae is the largest family of freshwater fish, and the fish themselves are on the small side, rarely exceeding 14 inches. Species of minnows vary widely, the smaller of which have a life span of about three years, and the larger ones can reach six to seven years. Many minnows swim together in large schools, and others stay in small groups.

Types of Minnows

Minnow species include:

  • shiners
  • dace
  • chubs
  • fallfish
  • stonerollers
  • pikeminnows
  • goldfish
  • carp

River chub, creek chub and fallfish are among the larger minnows, and common shiners and dace stay under 6 inches. The endangered Colorado pikeminnow, an exception to common cyprinid size, can reach up to 6 feet.


Minnows adapt easily to a variety of habitats. Most minnows live in clear, freshwater streams, though they may also inhabit swamps, lakes, ponds, bogs and brackish water.


Few minnows, such as carp, are omniverous, and most are herbivorous or planktivorous. Herbivorous minnows are primary consumers that feed on algae and aquatic plants along the bottom. Planktivorous minnows are secondary consumers that eat zooplankton, insects, worms, small crustaceans and occasionally smaller minnows.

Mating and Reproduction

Some male minnows take on orange or red colors to attract females. Females lay adhesive eggs in algae, on aquatic plants, on pond bottoms, under rocks or in gravel nests. Eggs are prolific; a single carp might lay 2 million.

In some species, males dig nests with their snouts and fight each other in the process. Common shiners often use the nests of other species. Spawning takes place in spring to midsummer.

Role in Ecosystem

Minnows are an important source of food for larger fish. Humans don't often eat minnows because of their small size but use them as bait for fishing. Goldfish and carp are often kept as pets in aquariums or koi ponds. Bottom feeding minnows tend to root up aquatic plants and cause turbidity in the water.

Related Articles

Types of Aquatic Plants and Animals in the Mississippi...
What Fish Will Help Clean Up a Pond?
The Life Cycle of the Piranha
Difference Between a Garter & Garden Snake
How Do the Yellow Perch Fish Spawn?
What Do Minnows Eat?
List of Plants That Live in the Water
How Does a Catfish Reproduce?
Types of Snapping Turtles
Common Mississippi Spiders
The Average Length of Mahi Mahi
The Food Chain of Saltwater Fish
What Do Owls Eat?
Facts About Pacu Fish
How to Convert Inches to 16ths of an Inch
Life Cycle of the Hummingbird
What Do Mahi Mahi Fish Eat?
List of Fish That Are Bottom Feeders
Life Cycle of a Manatee