The Best Minnows for Your Pond

Written by Sarah Psaradelis
Updated: May 27, 2024


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Minnows are one of the most popular fish to stock in a pond aside from Koi. These are small freshwater shoaling fish that can easily populate in a small pond. There are many reasons to choose minnows for your pond, as these fish are hardy and can adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions which make them able to thrive in a pond.

You might be wondering why you should consider adding minnows to your pond? Well, these small fish (most species growing a maximum of 2 inches in length) have a high tolerance to a variety of different water conditions and naturally live in lakes, rivers, and streams across the world.

These hardy and resilient fish come in a variety of different colors, types, and sizes which gives you plenty of options to choose from. Most aquarists believe that minnows can only thrive in an indoor aquarium, but you might be surprised to know that these fish can live in both an indoor and outdoor pond when provided with the proper water conditions.

There are over 50 different types of minnows, but not all are suited for the life in a pond. If you are interested in owning a group of minnows in your pond and need help finding which type is suitable for you and the type of pond you plan to place them in, then this article will help you!

1.  Best Overall: Fathead Minnow

The best overall Minnow for your pond would be the Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas) which is a temperate freshwater minnow that is native to the Nearctic. They are hardy minnows that have a dull olive-grey coloration with a dark stripe that extends from their sides with a light-colored belly. They might not be the most attractive minnow when it comes to their appearance, but this is usually the first minnow pond keepers will consider, especially if you are a beginner and still learning the basics of caring for minnows in a pond environment.

The Fathead Minnow thrives best when kept in a group of six or more because they are shoaling fish that enjoy the company of their own species. You can easily fit a group of these minnows in a small pond along with plenty of aquatic plants to provide them with shelter.

2.  Best for Coloration: Rainbow Shiner Minnow

The Rainbow Shiner (Notropis chrosmus) is a North American species of minnow that has a vibrant and attractive appearance. They are shoaling fish that are compatible with groups of other Rainbow Shiners in a group of 6 to 8, however, if your pond is large enough, you can expand the group. These minnows enjoy cooler water temperatures between 50 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. They typically inhabit fast-moving streams and can do well in a pond that has a strong water current from a filter or pump.

The Rainbow Shiner Minnows’ eye-catching color is what attracts many hobbyists to this fish, as they have a coloration of powder blue and stunning magenta pink that makes them stand out in a pond. The coloration is often described as metallic and seems to glow under sunlight or LED lights in an indoor pond which makes them a special attraction if you want a minnow in your pond that you can clearly see.

3.  Best for Beginners: White Cloud Mountain Minnows

Hardy, resilient, and adaptable, the White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes) is one of the easiest minnows to find and own in the aquarium pet trade industry. They are small fish that only reach a maximum size of 1.5 inches in length, and they are the best type of minnow to adapt to a pond environment.

These minnows are easily confused with Neon Tetras because of the similarity between the two fish’s coloration, but White Cloud Mountain Minnows have a streamlined and elongated body with golden scales and a silver belly, usually with a hint of red on their body or fins. Other variations of this minnow lack the golden scales and only have a silver body with red fins.

You will find that this minnow is fast and are a popular choice for beginners due to its hardy nature and adaptability to a wide range of water conditions and temperatures that can gradually fluctuate without diminishing this minnow’s ability to thrive in a pond.

4.  Best for Low Maintenance: Rosy Red Minnows

Rosy Red Minnows (Pimephales promelas) is an attractive freshwater fish that can be found in various regions from North America, Canada, and Mexico where they inhabit rivers. This minnow has a metallic orange color which looks striking in ponds. They enjoy being in groups of 6 or more so that they can feel secure. The Rosy Red Minnow is a fairly low-maintenance fish that can thrive in a variety of different water conditions and are the perfect choice for aquarists who want a colorful shoaling fish to add to their pond.

The Rosy Red Minnow has a status for being low maintenance and resilient, which makes it easier to keep these fish in large groups without going through too much trouble to provide these fish with specific conditions as they mature at six months old and do not breed until they are at least one to two years of age, which means you do not have to worry about dealing with excessive breeding during the first few years of owning this minnow.

5.  Best for Temperament: Vietnamese Cardinal Minnows

The Vietnamese Cardinal Minnow (Tanichthys Micagemmae) is a peaceful minnow that belongs to the Ben Hai river system in north-central Vietnam. They can tolerate slightly warmer conditions than other species of minnows, ranging from 64 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

They are relatively small and grow no larger than 1.2 inches in captivity. You will find that when the Vietnamese Cardinal Minnow is kept in groups of 6 or more, they prefer to stick together and rarely fight or chase each other around. They have slightly larger fins than other minnows and a more rounded body with a silver coloration and hints of red on their fins. Their dorsal stripe is thick and quite visible, with some varieties having yellowish hues.

Choosing The Best: What To Look For

When choosing the minnows for your pond, there are three important factors you need to consider, the fish’s water conditions and appearance, along with the stocking rate for the pond. Here is how to consider the best minnow for your pond by considering these simple factors:

Water Conditions

Minnows are not fussy about the water conditions they are kept in and are not as delicate as other species of freshwater fish, which is why they are a good option for ponds. You can keep minnows in small, shallow ponds with good filtration because they do not require a lot of water, generally no less than 10 gallons for a group of 6. They need a moderate temperature ranging from 50 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the type of minnow you choose, so a heater might be needed if the temperature drops too low.

The pond should have a good aeration system because minnows require oxygen, and the aeration should be increased when the temperature exceeds 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Minnows also require a lot of plants as coverage in their pond so that they can hide from predators and feel more secure in their environment.

Stocking Rate

Minnows should always be kept in groups of at least 6, but the number can be increased depending on the size of your pond. If you have a large pond (over 30 gallons), then you can keep quite a large group of minnows so that they can form a shoal which is necessary for the longevity and secureness of these fish. Keep in mind that the more minnows you keep in a pond, the more filtration and aeration these fish will need to stay healthy. Most aquarists opt to keep a large shoal of minnows because these fish stick together and are easier to see in large groups. Minnows are generally inexpensive, so it is cheap to acquire a group of these fish without spending too much.

Appearance and Size

There are several different species of minnow, and each has its own maximum size and appearance. If you want to be able to see your minnows more clearly and add a pop of color to your pond, then brightly colored minnows will be the better option for you. Minnows can vary in color depending on their species and gender, but the colorful species are often sought out for ponds because you can clearly see their colorful bodies moving through the water.  Some minnows also grow large, up to 2 inches, while other varieties stay as small as 1 inch in size. If you have a large pond, then larger minnows will be easier to see and manage.

The Different Types of Minnows: Pros and Cons Compared

When it comes to minnows, you have plenty of options to choose from in terms of size and appearance. All minnows eat relatively the same diet and survive in similar water environments. Still, there are a few differences between the species that can survive in a pond environment that we will discuss below.

  • Long-Finned Minnows: These minnows have larger fins and lack the streamlined body typically seen in other species of minnows. This can add more visual depth to the fish and make them easier to see in ponds.
  • Colorful Minnows: Generally, more expensive than dull-colored minnows, colorful minnows are easier to see in ponds and can add a striking touch of color to your pond.
  • Dull-Colored Minnows: These are the easiest minnows to find in stores and online, and they are usually hardy and grow larger than other varieties of minnows. They do lack color which can make them more difficult to locate in a pond.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each minnow!

Long-Finned Minnows

Better visual appearance in pondsSlower moving than streamlined minnows
Easier to see 

Colorful Minnows

Stands out in a pondMore expensive
More attractive than other varieties of minnows 

Dull-Colored Minnows

Cheapest optionDifficult to see in ponds.
Easily accessible 
About the Author

Sarah is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering aquatic pets, rodents, arachnids, and reptiles. Sarah has over 3 years of experience in writing and researching various animal topics. She is currently working towards furthering her studies in the animal field. A resident of South Africa, Sarah enjoys writing alongside her pets and almost always has her rats perched on her shoulders.

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