Minnows are any small fish that belong to the family Cyprinidae. In the wild, these fish eat a variety of things, including insects, crawfish, brine shrimp, and plant material and fish eggs. Minnows kept in captivity eat algae, phytoplankton and zooplankton from their tanks or ponds. They also eat commercial fish food, including minnow food, catfish food and tropical fish food. It is a good idea to supplement commercial food with dried bloodworms or brine shrimp. A great food choice for minnows in an aquarium is freeze dried blood worms. Another option is to simply feed your minnows, tropical fish flakes or even goldfish flake food. Some minnows are pickier than others, choosing not to eat the flake food.

Feeding minnows in captivity is quite different. Some minnow breeders and people who keep minnows in ponds allow their fish to feast on the algae and phytoplankton that grow in the tanks or ponds. Adding a small amount of high-phosphorous plant fertilizer (1 to 2 tablespoons per 100 gallons of water) stimulates algal growth and phytoplankton blooms.

Captive minnows also eat commercial food, preferably high-protein (36 per cent or more) minnow food or catfish food. It is important to select food that comes in grains or flakes small enough for the minnows to eat. In a pinch, you can crush pellets so minnows can consume them more easily. The most readily available fish food is tropical fish food or goldfish food from the pet store, which is a good substitute when supplemented with freeze-dried bloodworms or crushed brine shrimp.

Do Not Overfeed Minnows

The most important consideration when it comes to feeding minnows is quantity because overfeeding is one of the most common causes of death in captive minnows. Minnows should receive the amount of food they can consume in 10 minutes each day, but it is better to break this into twice daily feedings. If you feed minnows twice a day, the food should disappear five minutes after feeding however, if the minnows consume all the food within only two or three minutes, offer more food.

How Long Can Minnows Go Without Food?

Most healthy aquarium fish can go three days to a week without eating. However, it usually isn’t recommended to go more a day or two without feeding unless completely necessary.

Minnows eat a variety of small items such as algae, decaying plant materials, bugs, plankton, fish flakes, and smaller fish. Let’s take a closer look at how the minnow consumes these foods:


Young minnows rely on algae for a sizable portion of their nutrition. This food source is never in short supply, and they will eat any type of algae that they can find if it is soft and small enough to eat.

Dead Plant Materials

Minnows like munching on decaying plants in their natural habitat. They graze on decomposing organic material at the bottoms of rivers, lakes, and ponds, breaking it down into tiny pieces before eating it.


Minnows consume insects as a sizable portion of their meals. Insects may be found practically anyplace there is water, therefore there is always a plentiful supply of them. Mosquitoes, snails, flies, and other flying insects are the primary prey of these little creatures.


Minnows can eat plankton since it is a safe food source. Floating plankton are microscopic organisms that can be found in both freshwater and saltwater. They may also consume other microspecies, such as eggs, larvae, protozoans, and crustaceans.

Fish Flakes

Whether you are keeping minnows as pets or need to keep them alive for baiting, minnows like eating fish flakes from the pet store. The best fish flakes are the varieties intended for goldfish and tropical fish. To ensure your minnows consume them, mix them with brine shrimp flakes.

Small Fish and Crustaceans

Minnows, like other fish, can catch and eat smaller creatures. They devour any fish, including other minnows. They go for tiny fish eggs or larvae. They eat clams and snails, among other crustaceans. Because they have a hard plate in their necks, they can easily crush them.

Wild Minnows

Wild minnows eat mosquitoes, dead and rotting organisms, algae, diatoms, and small crustaceans. It is common for them to eat fish eggs or smaller fish. Saltwater minnows also enjoy shrimp and brine shrimp. As minnows grow, they will eat algae and the larvae of tiny insects.

If you want to mimic what your minnows eat in their natural habitat, you can give them insects such as mosquitoes and flies, as well as algae and bits of dead plant and animal matter. However, most people who keep minnows do so as bait and are uninterested in feeding them anything like this. There are undoubtedly other foods they will gladly devour in captivity.

Keeping Minnows Healthy

Minnows, whether wild or kept as pets, must be fed the right diet to survive. If keeping them long-term, Food options for minnows are readily available at local pet stores and specialty merchants. Minnows are a popular addition to many aquariums. Discovering the diets of these little fish is fascinating, whether it’s a passion or just a curiosity!

How Often Should You Feed Minnow?

The most common cause of minnow death is overeating, which you should know if you intend to keep your minnows for an extended period. In a clean and well-oxygenated aquarium, wild-caught minnows can survive for weeks without feeding. However, this is not recommended. If possible, feed your minnows twice daily, although some may only desire feedings every 2 to 3 days.

Where to Find Food for Minnows 

As we’ve previously mentioned, minnows are not particularly picky about their food. These omnivores require a balanced diet consisting of plant and animal matter, but their dietary needs end there. You can keep your minnows relatively healthy as long as you provide them with a balanced diet.

This means that you can find food for minnows from a variety of sources! Most aquarium specialty shops should provide you with plenty of options. If you’re raising a large number of fish, consider purchasing food from a feed mill. From fish flakes to natural protein sources such as brine shrimp, minnows will eat almost anything.

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