Rosy Red Minnow 101: Care, Breeding, Diet, Size & More

Rosy Red Minnows are a cute and colorful freshwater fish that we’re a huge fan of. They’re quite easy to take care of which makes them a great species for beginners!

But for such a hardy and low-maintenance fish, there’s actually a lot of confusion about keeping them in a home tank.

This stems from the fact that some aquarists use them as pets, while others use them as feeder fish. We believe this has led to differing care approaches being blended together online.

So we’re going to set the record straight. This guide will teach you everything about Rosy Red Minnow care if you’re keeping them as a normal pet, and what changes if you’re using them as bait instead.

Species Summary

Rosy Red Minnows (Pimephales promelas) are a freshwater species that can be found across various regions in North America from Canada all the way down to Mexico. The reason they’re able to thrive in a wide range of locations is due to their extreme hardiness.

It’s been observed that these fish (also called the fathead minnow) can do just fine in areas where the temperature is below freezing. At the same time, they’re also able to thrive in climates up to 100°F as well! This versatility when it comes to survival is what makes them such a prominent species.

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They can typically be found in streams, ponds, and lakes that are extremely murky or full of mud. In some of the more gunky spots that are very low in oxygen, Rosy Red Minnows might be the only fish you find! 

Obviously, this ability to thrive where other fish can’t is quite useful for avoiding predators. It also makes them a very adaptable pet that’s low-maintenance in terms of care requirements.


The average lifespan of Rosy Red Minnows is 2 to 4 years. There are a number of factors that impact their life expectancy.

For starters. if these fish haven’t reproduced then their lifespan will usually be on the higher side of this range. That process can really take a toll on the fish.

The general level of care they receive obviously matters a great deal as well. Even though these are very hardy fish, they’ll obviously live longer in optimal conditions.


The appearance of this species is what draws in a lot of aquarists in the first place. These cute little critters are very colorful fish that come in one dominant color (most of the time).

Even though they have “red” in their name, they’re really more of an orange that will vary when it comes to the shading. This can look a bit more like pink on certain varieties. This color is solid all over their body, with it getting slightly lighter on their upper half.

Two Rosy Red Minnows looking for food on the substrate

Their fins are translucent and streamlines. The dorsal fins are short and trim as well as their anal fins. They have a forked caudal fin that’s roughly the same height as the thickest part of their body from top to bottom. The caudal peduncle is colored and extends into the fin ever so slightly.

The rest of their bodies are thin and shaped like torpedoes. This build makes Rosy Red Minnows quite speedy!


The typical Rosy Red Minnow size is between 2 and 3 inches in length once they’re fully-grown. Because of their name, a lot of aquarists expect them to be smaller!

Author Note: There have been reported cases where groups of these fish have exceeded this size in captivity. In all of these situations, they were given great care and plenty of room to swim (and were kept in a large school).

Rosy Red Minnow Care

Rosy Red Minnow care is pretty darn easy. These fish are capable of thriving a wide range of water conditions and are quite peaceful. This makes setting up and maintaining their aquarium something that anyone can do.

But don’t fall for the classic “hardy fish” trick.

A lot of times aquarists will see how durable a fish is and give them average care because they think they can handle it. Even though this might work for a while, eventually it will catch up with them.

Here’s what we recommend instead:

Treat your fish the same no matter how hardy they are. Pay close attention to their needs and strive to maintain the best habitat possible. It will make you a better aquarist and give your fish a better life.

Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for Rosy Red Minnows is 10 gallons. This is assuming you’re keeping them in a school of at least 5 or 6 fish (which you should).

We personally recommend a slightly larger tank if you can accommodate it. Every extra space will make a big difference and allow you to keep a larger school or more tank mates if you’re interested in a community tank.

Water Parameters

The water parameters you need to maintain for Rosy Red Minnows are very generous. This makes them a great freshwater fish for a beginner since there’s a lot of room for error.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to their water parameters is consistency. Even though these are very hardy fish, they can be sensitive to sudden changes just like any other freshwater species.

Even though they’re still a bit more durable in this regard, you should use this as practice. Challenge yourself to see how consistent you can keep the water parameters and how easily you can make an adjustment if needed. These skills will come in handy with other species you keep in the future!

  • Water temperature: 50°F to 78°F (they’re great cold water fish)
  • pH levels: 7 to 8
  • Water hardness: Mildly soft to very hard

Author Note: Take some time once or twice a week to test these parameters with a solid testing kit. This is a good habit to get into no matter what species you own and will teach you a lot about maintaining the water in a tank.

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up the inside of an aquarium for Rosy Red Minnows you can be as creative as you want. There aren’t any specific things that this species NEEDS to have, which gives you plenty of options.

We recommend some of the standard decorations that you find in a lot of freshwater tanks. There are a ton of great plants you can include (like hornwort or water wisteria). You can even throw in some floating aquarium plants too!

Rocks, driftwood, and caves are all suitable as well. It’s important to avoid going overboard with this since these fish like some room to swim.

Also, if you’re keeping your Rosy Red Minnows in a smaller tank then it’s going to be difficult to include a lot of this stuff anyway.

A classic gravel substrate is always a good choice, but you can do with something soft and sandy if needed too (use other species you keep as a guide with this).

Keeping Them In Ponds

An interesting fact about this species is their ability to be kept in ponds as well as aquariums. While most people are interested in learning about Rosy Red Minnow care as it pertains to a tank, we understand that some of you might be interested in the pond option instead.

The neat thing about keeping them in a pond is that you can be very hands-off. You can keep them with other common pond fish like koi, adding a small splash of color to the environment.

Simply drop in some flake or pellet foods that you would normally feed koi or goldfish and they’ll be all set! Your Rosy Red Minnows will likely find some other larvae and insects to nibble on as well.

Because of their hardy nature, they’ll do fine in the winter too. Even if the water is frozen you’ll be able to see them cruising around underneath the surface!

Disease Potential

While these fish are hardy and naturally resistant to illnesses in a well-maintained habitat, their use as feeder fish can cause trouble.

Depending on where you buy this species from, they could be already sick due to poor care (sellers are notorious for treating feeder fish worth than others). This means you could very well be introducing disease and illnesses to your tank if you’re not careful.

That makes vetting your seller an important part of Rosy Red Minnow care. While you obviously don’t want to buy sick fish in the first place, you should be extra careful if you plan on introducing them to a community tank (or pond).

Aside from that, there’s a reasonably low chance of disease if you take good care of them. Great water conditions, a solid diet, and low stress lead to healthy fish!

Food & Diet

These fish are omnivores and not very picky about what they eat. They primarily eat a mix of insects, algae, and plant matter in their natural habitat, so you’ll be trying to replicate this in captivity.

Some good goldfish pellets or flakes usually do the trick for the base of their diet, but there’s more you can add as well.

We like dropping in some frozen foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp for variety and extra enrichment. Some veggies can be included in their diet as well. They seem to like zucchini and cucumbers the most!

You can use this diet when keeping them in an aquarium as well as a pond. Try to make sure you’re not overfeeding this species by only giving them as much as they can eat in a few minutes (for each feeding).

Behavior & Temperament

Rosy Red Minnows are schooling fish that should be kept in groups of at least 5 or 6. They will rarely do anything away from the group no matter what’s going on in the tank.

Together, they’re rather active and spend a good amount of time in all areas of the tank. You’ll see them swim down to check something out near the substrate, or up if they see something they want to eat!

They’re quite peaceful as well which makes caring for them quite easy. You never have to worry about these fish starting trouble with another species. They just want to swim around together and snack!

Tank Mates

Finding tank mates for Rosy Red Minnows first revolves around identifying species that don’t see them as food. This is the downside of these fish being so effective as feeders.

Any large or aggressive species is out of the question, and even similarly-sized ones might try their luck at some point.

It’s also important to pair them with tank mates that can handle cooler water. The ideal temperature range for Rosy Red Minnows is a bit on the cooler side.

Here are some species that tend to work:

Rosy Red Minnow Breeding

The nice thing about the Rosy Red Minnow breeding process is that it’s fairly hands-off and easy to initiate. This species will take care of everything as long as you provide them with the right habitat and water conditions.

Identifying males and females can seem a bit tricky at first since they all have similar colors. The difference to look for is the size (males are larger by around an inch).

This species needs to be at least a year old before you can consider breeding them. Once they’ve reached that age they’ll get right to it!

You don’t need to make any changes to the water temperature (although some breeders prefer to aim for the higher end of their normal range). In fact, there isn’t much for you to do until the fry have hatched!

Females will lay their eggs in an area of the tank that the male has claimed. Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized, the males will guard them and clean the area.

After the eggs have hatched it’s recommended to remove the adults and begin feeding the fry baby brine shrimp.


As you can tell, the Rosy Red Minnow is one of the easiest freshwater species to care for. When you think about how hardy they are and their peaceful temperament, there’s not much you need to worry about.

They’re also a very interesting fish as well. Their versatility allows you to do things as an aquarist that may not have considered yet (like keeping fish in a pond). The sky is the limit!

If you’re a fan of these low-maintenance critters or have tips from your experience as an owner or breeder we’d like to chat with you. We’re always on the lookout for new info to add to our care guides.

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