Fish Facts
Common Name Rosy Red Minnow, Fathead Minnow
Scientific Name Pimephales promelas
Other Names rosies, tuffies
Size about 3 in (8 cm), can get to 4 in (10 cm)
Age usually 1 – 2 years, up to 4 years possible
Diet Omnivore
Habitat able to adapt to almost any condition, hence their nickname tuffies (from tough)



The rosy red minnow is basically a color variant of the fathead minnow, a freshwater fish that has its origin in North America. Rosy Reds have a pink, golden or a pale orange colored body. Other prominent physical features of the fish include a short, dorsally flattened head, a long and slender body, round lateral eyes, a terminal mouth, almost translucent fins, and a blunt snout. Another feature that separates them from the fathead minnows is the absence of the stripe on its side. Adult males of this strain are usually 2 to 4 inches long (5 – 10 cm) and weigh around 3 to 5 gm each. Females, on the other hand, are generally a bit smaller.


Their lifespan usually lasts for about two years. They may reach double that amount when they haven’t spawned.


The rosy red minnow have their origin in the United States and Canada. However, today, they are found in several other parts of the world. Experts say that this fish has been introduced to other regions primarily because it has gained immense popularity as bait.


Rosy red minnows prefer living in lakes, rivers, and small ponds. They are capable of surviving in environments which the majority of the other fish species find challenging. Examples include water with variable pH, high quantity of silt, and low oxygenation. They have been found to grow easily even in various water temperatures. This hardy minnow has been found to adapt in water with temperatures almost at freezing point and also above 100 °F (38 °C). However, it prefers the water temperature of its habitat to range between 50 and 70 °F (10 – 21 °C); if you want your minnows to breed continuously, you should keep them in these temperatures.

Rose red minnow is one of the most easy-to-keep fish species you will ever come across. You can hold it in densities in which tropical fish would die. It can even tolerate water with extremely low levels of oxygen.

An interesting detail about minnows is the fact that they have their own alarm system built-in. Once a given individual gets injured by a predator, its skin releases a certain chemical. This was discovered in 1936 by the Austrian ethologist Karl von Frisch. He named this substance “Schreckstoff”, which roughly translates as “scare substance”. Other minnows can sense this substance and flee. Karl von Frisch was able to show that they stay away from the place where they sensed this substance for several days.

How to feed Rosy Red Minnow

Studies conducted over the years have revealed that when surviving in the wild, the food habit of rosy red and fathead minnows makes them omnivores. They eat plant matter, algae, insect larvae, and small invertebrates. However, when kept in home aquariums and tanks, they appear to be fonder of plant-based food items. Here’s a tip for you; if you are finding it hard to feed your rosies, start feeding them high-quality pellet food or spirulina flake.

The fish also love to be treated with frozen foods occasionally. You can feed the fish frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms. Make sure these food items are offered sparingly; always plan their main meal around herbivore fish foods. You can also supplement the diet of the fish with blanched vegetables; some of their favorites include shelled peas, cucumber medallions, zucchini medallions, etc.

Breeding Rosy Red Minnows

This species matures by the time they complete six months of age. However, usually, they don’t reproduce before they become one year old.

fathead minnow male

Male Fathead Minnow

The fish has a fascinating breeding behavior. Most other strains of minnows are known for scattering their eggs and not showing any kind of parental care. The rosy red and fathead minnows are different; their breeding behavior has significant similarities with that of the cichlids. Breeding this fish is easier than most other fish we keep as pet.

Breeding is triggered in the fish by water temperature and sunlight. Once the sunshine duration reaches 12 to 14 hours a day and the temperature of the water maintains between 65 and 80 °F (18 – 26 °C) the minnows start their reproduction cycle. Their mating season usually lasts from Mid-May until early August, with its peak being in June to July. Once the male becomes ready for breeding, he will be developing breeding tubercles and fatty tissue over his head (that’s the reason why this fish is called fathead). When prepared for mating, he will be searching for an overhang or cave in the pond, occupy it and start cleaning the surface meticulously using his head. So if you want your minnows breeding, you’ll have to provide the necessary structures in your pond. A couple of clay plant pots or halted coconuts with a large hole as entrance should do the trick.

The male minnow might be challenged by other males prepared for breeding for the territory occupied by him. The fights between male rosy red minnows, however, are mostly brief and hardly ever cause injuries.

After winning the fight against his challengers, the male would try enticing the female into the overhang or cave. This would be followed by an exciting dance between the male and the female. If the male minnow succeeds in impressing the female, the female would follow him to his territory and lay eggs. Once the eggs are deposited, the male usually pushes out the female and starts guarding those eggs fiercely.

Interestingly, instead of searching for a new cave, the male minnow often goes for nests already guarded by another male. If they win the fight, they simply take over from the former male minnow and adopt their eggs.

As the male looks after the eggs, he rubs them occasionally with his snout and head spreading an antifungal solution produced naturally in his body. The eggs are guarded by the male till the time they hatch. During this phase, he needs to fight off fish of different size (some several times bigger than him) for protecting his brood.

Once the eggs start hatching, a series of fry will appear. Feed the little ones with baby brine shrimps or micro worms. Another unorthodox method of feeding the babies is offering them finely powdered spirulina. The males are usually not very caring towards the fry; they abandon them almost from the moment they are born.

You can keep the fry together with the adults as rosy red minnows are not known for eating their young.

So, where do you find rosy red or fathead minnows for sale?

The biggest challenge you will face when buying them is finding fish that are absolutely healthy. They are often sold as feeder fish for bigger predator fish, turtles, lizards and the like. They are crammed in the hundreds into tanks or barrels and are often plagued by bacterial or fungal diseases and infected with parasites. So, unless you bought them from a reliable retailer, you should never introduce them into a pond with other fish without quarantining them for a couple of weeks.

A part of them will die, others may show deformations caused by their diseases. But the ones that survive will be a great start for your own minnow family in your garden pond.


  1. Fathead and Rosy-Red Minnows

  2. Rosy Red Minnow Babies




Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife