Aquarium & Tropical Fish Site

Pimephales promelas
Rosy Red Minnow, Fathead Minnow, Baitfish

 Age of Aquariums > Freshwater Fish > Rosy Red Minnow - Pimephales promelas

Photos & Comments

Pimephales_promelas_1.jpg (14kb)
Photo Credit: Joseph (Noname)

Name: Pimephales promelas
Size TankpHTemp
Origin: North America
8 cm 80 L 7.4 18C


Most people have seen these offered at the petstore one time or another. Usually under some weird name like tuffy, rosy, or just plain "who cares, they are feeders"!

According to most sites online, this fish arose from one of the so called "Pink minnow" mutations of the bait species Pimephales promelas (fathead). In fact, you will often see fatheads mixed in with the rosy reds. In some eastern states of the USA such as Virginia, you can find them living wild in ditches, ponds and streams. They also occur in some parts of the midwest. Because of use as bait, there are many introduced populations in places such as California. The similar bluntnose minnow (P. notatus) has a blunt nose, and a single horizontal stripe. Looks more attractive than P. promelas IMO. All this info aside, I will now tell about my own experience with this fish. I no longer own them as of now, but they impacted greatly on the start of my hobby.

When I was around 11, I had a dingy 40 liter tank with tons of mosquitofish, and a few rosy reds. Most of the minnows survived the conditions (lesson one, they are very hardy). In the old days, I would totally clean this tank by removing the fish and sticking them into little pint sized salsa containers. One of them (the one with more fish in it) received an airpump. Some of the rosies ended up floating from lack of oxygen (lesson 2, they require more oxygen than mosquitofish). I was able to revive them by removing them and setting them in a small container with an airpump and some cold water.

Zipping forward about a year, I bought some more minnows and added them to my new 170 liter bowfront tank. Later, they were joined by white clouds, crayfish and, a year later, paradise fish. The minnow population was about 12, because I had a habit of releasing and catching back fish from my backyard pond.

Soon I emptied most of the small ones into the pond and was left with 5. Of these 5, two were males and three females. Summer was nearing, and the tank temperature was rising. Also, the crayfish were removed. This left one piece of lava rock free for the dominant male to inspect. During this time, he had developed a clearish pad on his back and tubercles. The two males were distinguishable from the females by the size of their heads and the fact that their vents didn't protrude as much.

The dominant male took up residence under this rock. The rock was quite flat, but the way it was positioned left a little cave underneath (lesson number 3, they like low caves). The male stayed underneath, flashing out to drive off the other fish and snatch food. He preferred butting and pushing other fish away, rather than biting them. He also drove away the females. One of the females began trying to get under the rock with the male. One day, while I was watching, she succeeded. She squeezed under, side by side with the male. Rather than running away or being ejected as usual, she was accepted by the male. He began trying to push her up against the rock. After they went in a few circles, the male rubbing the female with his tubercles, he was finally successful. Both fish quivered and then separated. Attached to the lava rock were now lots of eggs in a clump. I was mad at myself for not capturing such an interesting event on camera, but I shouldn't have been. She came back many more times that day, and the following days too. When she finally was emptied, the male was guarding a large mass of stuck-on eggs at least 10 cm in diameter. If that wasn't impressive enough, the eggs were packed quite tightly together (many were touching), unlike cichlid eggs which are spread out. By this time, another female joined in, and then emptied.

The male was a good parent. He spent all the time caring for the eggs in his own special way. I never noticed him mouthing them, but he turned circles and rubbed them in a back and forth motion with the fatty pad on his back (perhaps secreting some kind of antifungal or antibacterial substance?). He removed any fungusing eggs he came across. He also protected the eggs from the lightning quick assaults of a pack of 5 zebra danios and a few overly curious paradise fish. During all the time I watched him, not a single egg was stolen. A couple times a zebra danio mangaged to get under the lava rock, but was driven away before it could pry off an egg.

One day, I noticed a golden sliver swimming in the tank, it disappeared as a danio dive bombed it. A few more were spotted swimming around the tank, but quickly fell prey to the other fish. Looking under the lava rock, I noticed lots of the eggs were eyed up. I decided to siphon them off the rock with a piece of airline tubing. I started the airline tubing, and then managed to get it under the rock. The eggs were stuck on quite firmly, and I ended up resorting to a scraping motion to get them off. The male made obvious attempts to drive the airline tubing away, pressing against it and swimming as hard as he could, then circling around to push from the other side. I managed to suck off all the eyed up eggs. The other end of the airline tube as directed into a glass jar. The eggs collected at the bottom. Looking at the fruits of my work, I wondered if they would survive all the trauma they had been through. Suddenly, some of the babies began wriggling in the eggs. Then, they broke free! Within 2 minutes, all the eyed up eggs had hatched. I transferred the little slivers to a 4 liter critter keeper, and fed them leftovers of my greenwater culture. They swam in groups in midwater.

Early one morning, I decided to add them to a separate 200 liter pond with nothing in it. I poured them back into the glass jar, and left them to float in the pond. Suddenly the jar tipped over, and emptied the babies into the freezing cold water! I went back inside, sure they had died of stress. However, I came back the afternoon and noticed the slivers swimming on the surface. They survived by feeding on all the microrganisms in the pond (no supplemental feeding). They grew rapidly, and eventually I ended up with fifty 3 cm long rosy reds. I added these to my big pond, and saved a few for feeders. What I think may have triggered them to breed:
- Not to many stressful tankmates
- Full sized fish(male was about 3")
- Rising of the temp by a few degrees with the seasons
- Suitable cave

Other notes:
- Caves should be spaced as far apart as possible. Preferably facing way from each other. If set to close together, the territories will overlap. I have never tried breeding 2 males at the same time, but by judging from the distance the male leaves the cave on his chases, I would suggest at least 20-25 cm. I think the minimum tank size for breeding would be 20 liters. 40 L would be much better though, and easier on the fish. I don't think the fish are too picky about the pond, the males set up residence under rock overhangs and went in and out of their holes in the bottoms of flowerpots! A flowerpot on its side would probably work. I think these fish prefer a low ceiling (hide from predators?), as there was a flowerpot in the tank, but the male seldom used it. Following this advice, a piece of slate could be used. Another possibility worth investigating would be PVC pipes.
- Water parameters are of no great importance. However, the pH should not stray to far from neutral. They were bred at a pH of about 7.5, temperature 23C (compared to 16C during winter) and rather hard water.
- They are quite peaceful when not breeding, and while breeding, are only an annoyance to the other fish. I have never kept them with a heater, but I suspect they prefer cooler temperatures due to where they came from.
- When the fish come into breeding condition, the males sport tubercles on their head. Tubercles look like little bumps. Not to be confused with Ich as they only occur on the face and sometimes the gill plates and fins of cyprinids. If you own a male fathead minnow, his head will become darker and he will get dusky black vertical bars on the side of his body. Rosy reds do not change color.
- As for the larvae, they are similar in size and feeding to zebra danio fry, only more robust, faster growing, and a lot easier IME. I personally feel it would be a waste of good food to use BBS. Even at small sizes, they will take flake food. Of course, something more nutritous is better, and raising in an established pond is best.

Overall, these fish are very interesting. The males show egg care like that of the cichlids. They are super hardy as you can see (only thing hardier that I've raised would be mosquitofish, which would probably survive in a puddle) and fun to keep. They eat anything you give them, and even breed without any special conditioning. A very nice fish for a beginner to try his hand at breeding. You only need 1 dollar to get a decent number for a breeding project. After all, they're cheap!

Contributed by Joseph (Noname)

 Pages:  1  | 2 

oF <=> oC in <=> cm G <=> L