When most people think of minnows, they see them as bait used as feed for other fish. But what do minnows eat? The answer is that they eat a wide variety of food sources found in most bodies of water around the US. Because they can consume different types of common food sources, plus the fact that they are small and plentiful has made them a popular meal for the many types of carnivorous fish that also live in the same bodies of water.
Understanding the diet of minnows starts with a basic description of the species itself. This helps to explain why minnows choose their particular diet.
What are Minnows?
Minnows are part of the Cyprinidae family which is found in North America. Most minnows live to be three to four years old. They can reach up to four inches in length, and there are a wide variety of different types;
- Creek chub and fall fish
- Golden and common shiner
- Goldfish and carp fish
That’s right, the goldfish is part of the same family as minnows. However, the minnows that most people see are usually raised as baitfish, which includes the fathead and Bluntnose varieties.
What Do Minnows Eat
The Diet of Minnows
Minnows are generally carnivorous in nature, adapting to their surroundings in terms of finding a food source. Minnows that are not raised on bait farms will consume from one of the many following food sources that may be in the body of water where they reside.
- Decaying animals and plants
- Small crustaceans
Saltwater minnows will also feed on saltwater shrimp along with brine shrimp. Immature minnows will mostly feed on algae and the larvae of small insects. Many minnows will also eat the eggs of other fish if they get the chance. For the most part, minnows feed on the bottom rather than items that float on top of the water.
Inbreeding tanks, minnows are generally given a wide variety of food sources that range from frozen shrimp to vegetables, plants, breadcrumbs, and the like. Because of their voracious appetite, they are able to grow and thrive on relatively cheap food sources when bred inside fish farms.
Importance of the Diet
It’s pretty clear that the diet of minnows is based primarily on their small size. If they were larger, they would consume larger fish, but at an average of four inches, they carnivorous nature is limited to even smaller prey.
Because of their nature, minnows are often used in laboratories to test out the effect of different pesticides and chemicals introduced into the water. If it affects the minnows adversely, it can be assumed it will affect other fish and wildlife as well.
As baitfish and the main food source for so many different species of larger fish, minnows serve an important part of the food chain in both freshwater and saltwater locations. Add to that their high birthrate and voracious appetite, minnows are quite hardy and able to survive in a wide variety of temperature conditions across North America.