The perfect pond fish

Minnows in a cave

Fathead minnows gather around structure
Fathead minnows gather around structure

Fathead Minnows

The perfect fish for your garden pond may be closer than you think. Just head on down to the local bait store and order up a dozen minnows. The smaller the better. Down here in Georgia when you get small minnows, crappie minnows, you get grey fathead minnows. These minnows will adapt quite well in your garden pond. They can also withstand temperatures below freezing!! Often they can be seen swimming below the thin sheet of ice that sometimes forms on my pond's surface only on the coldest of winter days. These hardy little fish also breed very well in captivity. So don't be surprised if you have batches of baby minnows popping up next spring.

It is advised that any size pond should have one area where the water is at least eighteen inches deep. This will help fish to escape extreme temperature swings due to weather. If your pond does not have an area this deep, it may still support fish with the addition of a pond heater.

The addition of fish to any pond can be very beneficial. While adding movement and color, they also eat mosquito larvae. The reduction of flying pests should be reason enough to add fish to any pond. Considering the low cost of these fish, they are a fine investment.

These minnows love hiding under rocks, so make sure your pond has plenty of rock caves. I also like to keep a few in the aquarium. They live in harmony with my fancy guppies, adding some action to the tank. They love to dart around in small schools chasing the food flakes. These minnows only grow to about 3 inches, so they are great for small ponds. The easy breeding aspect also adds interest and fun. If you end up with a pond full of minnows, you can always take them fishing!

Rosy Red Fathead

Fathead Minnow
Fathead Minnow

Splash of Color

Maybe a little more color is what your pond needs. It only takes a little searching to locate some red minnows. These are actually "Rosy Reds", a strain of fathead minnow. They have all the same quality characteristics that make the grey fathead so perfect, only in a reddish-orange glow. When you find a good source for these, you often get a mixture of colors. It is not uncommon to have a fathead that is almost bright red or maybe a light orange with a patch of grey. The rosy reds will breed with grey minnows when kept together, so who knows what you might see in your pond next season!

Minnow Care

The basics to minnow care are simple:

1. Clean water with no heater required in most climates. If your pond tends to freeze solid during the winter, you will need a heater. A small pond heater is fairly inexpensive if you shop around a bit. There are too many filtering methods to cover here, but I just use a simple pump to run the water through a hidden filter box I made.

2. Basic flake fish food. Any basic flake food seems to work pretty well. If you don't see the minnows eating there is no need to worry, sometimes it takes them a while to get used to the food. Also, they will find food in an outdoor pond such as mosquito larva.

3. Structure in the pond to create hiding places. The larger breeding minnows like to pick out hiding places and dart around from place to place. I assume they are having some romantic rendezvous while hiding as well. Be sure not to move pond structure around during warm months as you may disrupt eggs waiting to hatch.




Where can I buy fathead minnows?

Sources to buy fatheads
Bait store that sells live minnows
Some pet stores sell fatheads as feeders
Order online from suppliers
Capture from small streams with minnow trap
With a little searching, it is not hard to find a good supplier of fathead minnows.

Garden Ponds

How big is your pond?

  • Small, under 200 gallons
  • Medium, between 200-500 gallons
  • Large, between 500-1000 gallons
  • Extra Large, over 1000 gallons
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Comments 6 comments

Emily Gooden - Pond Pumps 6 years ago

I'm planning to put Koi fish on my pond I'm so excited.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Sure looks like fun. Too many cats in my neighborhood; I would be the hangout place for cool cats or else I would try this.


tsmog profile image

tsmog 2 years ago from Escondido, CA

Great article. I am now pondering (no pun intended :) about these. I found this to be very helpful and informative. I have half wine barrel (30 gal) I have thought of a planter or for fish. Now I have an idea. Thank you!


Phyllis Doyle profile image

Phyllis Doyle 2 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

I do not have a pond but found this article to be really interesting. If I had my own yard and a pond, I would certainly get some minnow. Very good hub.


mgeorge1050 profile image

mgeorge1050 2 years ago from West Georgia Author

Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I have kept Fathead minnows for years now, and I still enjoy watching them swim around.


Mike 10 months ago

Does anyone know about winter feeding of Rosey Red Minnows? My pond water is now 43 f and I just discovered I should stofeeding my goldfish when water temp is under 50 f . Isthis rue for the Rosey Reds also ?? I am in Northern CA.

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    Small Pond

    Very small pond in the front yard.  About 120 gallons.
    Very small pond in the front yard. About 120 gallons.

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