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What Do Minnows Eat? (They Are Pickier Than You Think! )

Many people raise minnows in captivity as “baits” while others raise them as pets. Either way, you will have to learn what do minnows eat to keep them healthy and thriving.

That is why we thought to discuss “What do minnows eat?” along with some helpful tips and tricks to keep your minnows healthy and thriving.

What Do Minnows Eat

What are minnows?

Minnows are any fish that belongs to the “Cyprinidae” family. While most of them are small silvery fish that grows up to a few inches long, some minnows can be as long as 10 feet. There are about 1500 extant minnow species distributed around the world.

In most countries, minnows are considered invasive species due to their ability to overwhelm water systems.

Minnows are known for their extremely high tolerance towards different types of waters. They are found in 80% of freshwaters and exist even in the harshest conditions, such as deserts, high-altitude lakes, and swamps.

Minnows are known for being preyed upon by larger fish and waterfowl, and this is why people prefer minnows to use them as baits.

Minnows are omnivore fish that eat both plant matter and meat matter. Therefore, it is not difficult to find something for them to eat at home.

Some well-known minnows are Bluntnose Minnows, Bigeye Chub, carps, fallfish, daces, big mouth shiner, fatheads, comely shiner, and stone rollers.

What do minnows eat in the wild?

Minnows are opportunistic feeders, and as such, they will eat just about anything small enough for them to swallow.

In the wild, minnows will consume a variety of aquatic insects, including larva and pupa, as well as zooplankton. They will also eat their dead siblings upon hatching for lack of better food.

Minnows will also eat small fish, fish eggs, frogs, lizards, crayfish, crabs, and small birds. They will also eat plants and plant matter such as algae and vegetation.

What do minnows eat in a pond?

Minnows are usually found in ponds due to their ability to live in different climatic conditions. As such, minnows will eat just about anything in the pond.

Minnows in a farm will usually eat anything put in with them, including maggots, blood worms, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, and commercial fish food.

Minnows in the wild ponds will consume a variety of aquatic insects, including larva and pupa, as well as zooplankton. They will also eat their dead siblings upon hatching for lack of better food.

What do minnows eat in the aquarium?

Minnows will eat just about anything in the aquarium, including fish pellets and flakes, live worms, insects such as maggots and mealworms, plant matter, frogs feet or whole, lizard tails, crustaceans like crab legs or crayfish, and vegetables like peas.

While most minnows are easy feeders, some minnows are picky eaters. Picky eaters will only eat live food like brine shrimp.

To acclimate these minnows into commercial foods, you will have to feed 50% brine shrimp and 50% flake food for a week before completely switching to tropical fish flakes.

How much?

The feeding rule for any aquarium fish is “feed as much as your fish can eat within 3 to 5 minutes”. The same rule applies to minnows.

For the first time, feed only a small amount of food. If your fish takes more than 5 minutes to eat them all, you should decrease the amount.

If your fish finish eating them all within 2 to 3 minutes, you should increase the amount.

How much to feed your fish depends on the size and appetite of your fish. Not all minnows eat the same amount.

For example, a fathead that weighs 80 grams will eat less than a bigeye shiner that weighs 1 gram. So, you will have to experiment a bit to find the right amount for your fish.

Generally, you should start with 1-2 pellets or flakes per fish and increase the amount if needed. You can also feed them live food, but only if you have enough.

How often?

In the wild, minnows hardly find food daily. So, they are naturally used to fasting for days. This means that you can feed your minnows once a day, and they will be healthy enough.

If you are using minnows for bait, you should feed them only before baiting them up. Some people feed their minnows once or twice a day, but you should avoid feeding your minnows more than twice a day.

Maintaining a healthy diet for your minnows is important to keep them healthy and happy.

By knowing what they eat in the wild, in a pond, and in an aquarium, you can easily provide them with the right food. Just make sure to feed them a variety of food items to keep them healthy and happy.

What Do Minnows Eat

What do baby minnows eat?

Baby minnows eat the same thing as adult minnows.

Since they cannot take in larger prey, they will consume smaller prey like larva and pupa as well as zooplankton. They will also eat their dead siblings upon hatching for lack of better food.

What kind of insects do minnows eat?

Generally, minnows are not picky eaters when it comes to meaty food. They will accept any meat-based food as long as the food fits their mouth.

So, you can feed them any insect you find if they are small enough for your fish to consume.

In the wild, minnows will prey upon insects that can be easily found around their habitats, such as fly larva, midge larva, water mites, crustaceans like mosquito larvae, and other aquatic insects. 

In the aquarium, minnows will consume a variety of live and frozen insects such as bloodworms, tubifex worms, brine shrimp, white worms, blackworms, and blood worms.

You can also feed them with mosquitoes, flies, small beetles, and other insects you can find around your home.

What kind of fish food do minnows eat?

Minnows will readily accept any fish food you offer but prefer more protein-based food over plant-based food. They will have a more protein-based diet in the wild, so they prefer the same in the aquarium.

You can feed them with betta fish food, goldfish food, catfish food, and many other commercial fish foods.

However, if the fish food you provide has fewer protein amounts, you should supplement their diet with live food such as brine shrimp, tubifex worms, white worms, or blackworms. Better fish food choices for minnows are carnivore fish food.

Can I give my pet minnows human food?

If you are keeping them only for bait, why not? But if you are keeping minnows as pets, then no. Many human foods are not suitable for your fish. Some human food will kill your fish, while some will just make them sick.

The best human food to give your pet minnows is just some leftovers. Sometimes we want to give our fish more variety, and one of the easiest ways is to provide them with leftover human food.

Just make sure that the food you give them is not too greasy, has no bones, and is small enough for your fish to consume.

Some of the best human food to give your pet minnows are:

  • Bread
  • Cheese
  • Chips
  • Cooked rice
  • Cooked pasta
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Yogurt

Do minnows eat bread?

Yes, minnows will consume Bread. They may find some bread dropped by people or animals in the wild.

In the aquarium, you can give them small pieces of bread as a food item. Just make sure that the bread is not moldy and crushed in tiny pieces so they do not choke on the bread.

However, keep in mind that bread is not healthy for fish as it may cause bloating. Use bread only if you keep them as “bait.”

Do minnows eat worms?

Yes, minnows will eat worms. In the wild, they will prey upon earthworms, leeches, and other types of worms.

You can give them different types of live and frozen worms in the aquarium. Just make sure that the worms are small enough for your fish to consume, or they may choke on the worms.

Do minnows eat algae?

Minnows will consume some algae, but it is not their preferred food. In the wild, they will consume algae as a secondary food source.

You can supplement their diet with some algae wafers in the aquarium, but it is not necessary.

Do minnows eat baby snails?

Yes, minnows will consume baby snails for an additional food source.

They may find some baby snails in their habitats and prey upon them in the wild. However, you will have to feed them externally as aquariums usually do not contain baby snails.

Do minnows eat plants?

Minnows will not eat plants unless they are starving or there is nothing else to eat.

They may consume some green algae in the wild, but it is not their preferred food source. However, you can give them some plant wafers just in case they are starving.

Do minnows eat dog food?

Although minnows usually eat dog food, they should not eat dog food.

Dog food is not nutritionally balanced for fish and can make them sick. Further, you do not need to feed them dog food as fish food is much cheaper.

If you use dog food as a temporary solution, feed them only a tiny amount.

Do minnows eat tadpoles?

Yes. Minnows devour tadpoles than other types of food.

According to a study done by two ecologists of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, minnows consumed more treefrog tadpoles than other types of prey even though they were plentiful.

Do minnows eat ants?

Although minnows do not readily have access to ants in the wild, they will eat ants if they are given. They will readily prey upon ants as food items in the aquarium.


Minnows are a type of fish that can be found in many different bodies of water. They are small fish and typically feed on organisms such as brine shrimp, fly larvae, or other small invertebrates.

Since they are opportunistic omnivore feeders, they will readily eat anything they can find that is edible.

So, as you see, it is not difficult to feed them because you can feed them a wide variety of human food items, including bread crumbs. All you need to do is feed them in moderation and not too much.

But, if you raise minnows as pets, you want them to live longer. Therefore, you should be careful about the kind of food you give them.

You can safely feed minnows fish pellets, flakes, and fresh and freeze-dried food and vegetables. These types of food are nutritionally balanced to keep your minnows healthy.

Credit to : Matthew Maz Fishing
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.