What Do Minnows Eat? Can They Have Breadcrumbs?

Nov 8, 2021

what do minnows eat

Credits: Bernard Dupont (Creative Commons license)

Minnows are among the most underrated fish, in my opinion. We seldom think of them as anything other than food bait to serve our purposes. But what about their ideal diet? What do minnows eat?

From breadcrumbs to tadpoles, the diet choices we make for them are pretty ambiguous. In this blog, we will discuss what do minnows eat and a lot more in depth! 

Read on!

What Do Minnows Eat?

Generally, minnows refer to any species of small fish that come from the family Cyprinidae. Their diet ranges from critters and crawfish to brine shrimp, fish eggs, and plants in the wild. In a tank, they’ll snack on algae, zooplankton, and phytoplankton.

You can supplement their diet with commercial fish food like tropical fish food, catfish food, and minnow food, as well as brine shrimp and dried bloodworms. 

Minnows usually make their homes in clear, fresh streams but are ubiquitous in swamps, bogs, headwaters, and lakes as well. Some are even found in saltwater. Thus, their diet in the wild will vary slightly depending on their original location. In fact, minnows’ wide availability and adaptability are often credited to their willingness to eat all kinds of food. 

What Do Minnows Eat In The Wild?

A minnow’s diet in the wild varies depending on whether they’re freshwater or saltwater species. Freshwater minnows typically eat tiny insects like mosquitoes, flies, algae, and dead plant/animal matter. On the other hand, brine shrimps form the majority portion of a saltwater minnow’s diet. 

Also, common food that both freshwater and saltwater minnows consume are fish eggs, algae, insect larvae, critters, small fish, crawfish, zooplankton, and phytoplankton.

What Do Minnows Eat In Captivity?

In captivity, minnows’ diet varies based on where they live. If you have kept them in a pond, they will primarily feed on phytoplankton and algae growing there. You can condition the water with small amounts of high-phosphorus plant fertilizer (1-2 tablespoons per 100 gallons) to stimulate algae and phytoplankton bloom. 

In the tank, minnows usually feast on high-protein commercial food formulated specifically with minnows in mind. Food meant for goldfish and catfish make great substitutes, too. Make sure the food is fine enough for small minnows to comfortably eat. If it’s not, you can always pulverize it. 

It’s also best if you supplement their diet with brine shrimp and freeze-dried bloodworms, and tubifex. 

Some minnows are known to be picky eaters – especially deterring flake food. If that’s the case with your fish, you can give them 50% brine shrimp and 50% flake food until they develop a taste for the latter. 

Across fish forums, some owners mentioned that they regularly give their minnows breadcrumbs and oats. These foods pose no harm when given sparingly. However, it’s best to stick to the food mentioned above to ensure minnow’s good health and longevity.

As I have already established above, the minnow is the generic umbrella term used for various small fishes, especially those from Cyprinidae species. Thus, it’s quite essential to understand the feeding habits of minnows depending on their species. 

Let’s have a look! 

What Do Common Breams Eat?

Common bream minnows predominantly feed on animal plankton and plant matter. However, bigger fish from this species also feed on snails, benthic invertebrates, insect larvae, and crustaceans. 

Common bream minnows are considered to be the only species in the genus. These fish typically have a small head but can grow as long as 80 centimeters and weigh 9 kgs! 

What Do Big Eye Chubs Eat?

Big eye chubs mainly feed on a wide range of terrestrial insects, midge larvae, and microcrustaceans. 

Thanks to big, oval eyes and olive bodies, these fish can be easily distinguished from other minnows.

What Do Iberian Minnow Carps Eat?

Fish from Iberian minnow carps are usually found feasting on filamentous algae and small invertebrates. 

These fish grow only around 6 centimeters in length and are found in highly oxygenated waters of the Guadiana River. 

What Do Fathead Minnows Eat?

fathead minnows
Credits: Rankin1958 (Creative Commons license)

Fathead minnows are opportunistic omnivores who will regularly dine on small crustaceans and insect larvae. They are also known to readily consume protozoans, filamentous algae, and diatoms. 

These minnows are well-equipped to live in many different habitats – which significantly reduces their chances of falling prey. 

What Do Mud Minnows Eat?

mud minnows
Credits: Vad Viz ( Creative Commons license)

Natives of streams, lakes, and freshwater, mud minnows primarily dine on insects, snails, grass shrimp, chopped worms, guppies, bloodworms, and rosy red minnows. 

What Do Shiner Minnows Eat?

shiner minnows
Credits: Noel Burkhead (Creative Commons license)

Shiner minnows mainly feed on plankton and small crustaceans in the wild. They eat by sucking in the crustacean or plankton one at a time. If available, they’re also known to eat dragonfly nymphs. 

What Do Rosy Red Minnows Eat?

Rosy red minnows are omnivores. They will usually feed on small invertebrates, insect larvae, algae, and plant matter in the wild. In the tank, you can give them spirulina-based fish food. 

You can also give occasional treats like daphnia, frozen bloodworms, blanched zucchini medallions, and shelled peas. 

What Do Pond Minnows Eat?

If you are raising minnows in a pond, chances are that there’s already a good amount of food inside it for them. Ponds usually also house insects, larvae, detritus, algae, and phytoplankton – all of which are food for your minnows. 

However, don’t forget to fortify their diet with occasional brine shrimp and frozen bloodworms. 

The thing is, we often rid ponds of the very substances minnows like to feed on as dirt and gunk! So if that’s the case with you, don’t forget to supplement their diets with other food options mentioned above. 

What Do Baby Minnows Eat?

The fry, or baby minnows, will feed on critters, insect larvae, detritus, diatoms, and tiny crustaceans in the wild. In captivity, you can give them any kind of pulverized fish food. They also prefer brine shrimp. 

 In fact, the diet for minnows remains essentially the same for the entirety of their lifespan. 

Now that you have found the answer to what do minnows eat, you might be interested to know what eats minnows. Head over here to find out!

Frequently Asked Questions

Credits: Joel Deluxe (Creative Commons license)

Can Minnows Eat Breadcrumbs? 

Yes, minnows can eat breadcrumbs, but they should not. These are two entirely different things. Occasional and sparse consumption of breadcrumbs is harmless, but anything more than that will cause their intestines to swell and cut their lives short. 

The same rule applies to any other food containing yeast, cornmeal, or grains. 

These foods have little nutritional value for minnows. Instead, they’ll just clog filters, pollute the water and create a suitable environment for pathogens to grow. 

How Often To Feed Minnows?

You can feed minnows two small meals each day. Although they can go without food for a couple of days, there’s no point in starving them. You never know when famished minnows start dropping like flies – so why take a chance, right?

If there’s ever a food scarcity, minnows won’t think twice before consuming their own eggs and young ones. 

How Long Can Minnow Go Without Food?

Wild-caught specimens of minnow can go weeks without food as long as they’re kept in a clean and well-oxygenated tank. However, those born and bred in captivity can only last 3-4 days when starved. 

If you ever accidentally run out of food for your minnows, you can rely on the following options that are most probably already available at your home:

  • Algae 
  • Insects and small critters 
  • Other cyprinids 

How Much To Feed Minnows?

Give your minnows an amount they can finish within a window of 4-5 minutes. However, note that this is a general answer and may not apply to all. In addition, the answer may differ from species to species. 

If your minnows gobble up all the food immediately after you pour them, you’re likely feeding less than what they need. On the other hand, if there are leftovers every time after you feed, make sure to decrease the amount the next time. 

What Eats Minnows?

Minnows are preyed upon by piscivorous fish like yellow perch, brown trout, largemouth bass, and walleye. Likewise, other predators include big birds, turtles, and even raccoons. 

Our Picks Of Commercial Food For Minnows 

Hikari Tropical Sinking Wafers 

  • Formulated with a high concentration of vegetable matters
  • Rich in protein, which is imperative for minnows 
  • Fortified with spirulina, krill, and silkworm

Tetramin Tropical Flakes 

  • Made with natural shrimp to boost appetite 
  • Color-enhancing formula 
  • Does not cloud and foul the water 

Conclusion: What Do Minnows Eat?

Minnows seldom get the recognition they deserve. From being our bait for bigger fish to guinea pigs for scientific experiments, their significance is quite deep in our ecosystem. 

Clear streams and creeks or stagnant brackish water – these unassuming fish can find food and reproduce practically everywhere. So, naturally, their diet is quite varied. 

They snack on insects, brine shrimp, crawfish, larvae, fish eggs, algae, and detritus in nature. In your pond or tank, you can give them commercial fish food that’s rich in protein, blanched veggies, and occasional treats like frozen bloodworms! 

Relevant Readings!

Fish Laying On Bottom Of Tank? 13 Reasons Why

Why Is My Fish Swimming Up And Down? Stressbuster Or Playtime?

Is My Snail Dead or Hibernating or Sleeping? This is how you know.

rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.