Rosy Red Minnows Care Guide: Tank, Diet, and Breeding (2024)

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Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 13, 2024
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Would you like to introduce a small, colorful fish that can brighten up your aquarium? Or, are you searching for a low-maintenance feeder fish? No matter your needs, the rosy red minnow is an outstanding option! These fish flourish in multiple aquarium environments, including paludariums, outdoor ponds, and more! Learn from our extensive research about how to care for this incredibly adaptable species.

Article Summary

  • Rosy Red minnows are capable of surviving in harsh conditions, making them a popular choice for beginners in fishkeeping.
  • While they are generally compatible with various companions, there is a need to consider their potential as prey for larger, carnivorous fish.
  • Rosy red minnows are suitable for planted tanks, as they are not known to nibble on plant leaves.

Species Overview

Common names:Rosy red minnows, Fathead minnows, red shiners
Scientific name:Pimephales promelas
Species:P. promelas
Size:.75-2.5 in
Lifespan:2 to 4 yrs
Distribution:North America
Color:Rosy red, golden, orange, pink
Minimum tank size:10 gallons
Place in the tank:Middle
Care level:Beginner

Rosy red minnows History and Background

Though they are fairly new to the aquarium world, this North American fish has made a big impact on the hobby due to its versatility and hardiness. Known for surviving harsh conditions, they’re a popular choice for many beginning fish keepers. Technically a color variant of the fathead minnow, they’re also often sold as a baitfish.

What are rosy red minnows?

Rosy red minnows are a freshwater fish that can be found in a wide variety of locations in North America. These hardy fish are known to be able to adjust to below freezing temperatures or climates that have raised above 100 degrees even though they are classified as temperate freshwater fish.

Where did the rosy red minnows come from?

In their natural habitat they have been found in temperate ponds, streams, and lakes in North America. Their native range stretches from Canada to Mexico and this wide range is partly why they’re known as such resilient fish.

Rosy red minnows Appearance

The eye-catching appearance of these fish make them a popular addition to tanks as an alternative to guppies or other minnows.

Rose Red Minnow on a Net(1)

What do rosy red minnows look like?

Like their name suggests, rosy red minnows are red to pale orange to pink and have a silvery or golden sheen. They have translucent fins though some color will extend a bit into their caudal or dorsal fin. Both the dorsal fins and anal fins are short and narrow when compared to their forked caudal fin. The caudal fin is roughly the same height as the thickest part of their body. They are often described as having a dark head because of the contrast with their pale coloring.

Due to their torpedo shape rosy red minnows are very fast and will spend their time darting around the tank.


Rosy red minnows are actually a colorful version of the original fathead minnow. Occasionally you’ll see a minnow with less vivid coloring, meaning that it is more closely related to the fathead minnow and doesn’t have as strong a color gene as others do.

How big do rosy red minnows get?

The maximum size of a rosy red minnow is 3 inches but rarely does it get more than 2.5 inches.

How fast do rosy red minnows grow?

The rosy red minnow will reach its mature size by the time it is six months old. However, they don’t reach sexual maturity until they are at least 1.

Rosy red minnows Temperament and Tankmates

It’s easy to get along with fish, you won’t have much trouble finding companions for them. The biggest issue to keep in mind will be your rosy red minnows’ potential to become prey for larger, carnivorous fish. Luckily, minnows are fast swimmers meaning you can pair them with certain slow-moving, semi-predatory fish. Keep reading below to learn more about what makes a good tank mate for this species!

What fish can live with rosy red minnows?

The main challenge when using other species as tank mates for your rosy red minnow is that many other fish see them as feeder fish. Because of this it is necessary for you to choose tank mates that are of similar size to your rosy reds as well as choosing other fish that can tolerate their low water temperature range.

suggested tank

Compatible tank mates

  1. Mystery Snail – peaceful fish such as rosy reds are compatible with mystery snails, making them an excellent choice for companionship without concerns about aggression. Note: if you’re keeping your fish in a pond DO NOT add snails, they will reproduce and take over.
  2. Fancy goldfish – while most of these fish – like Jikins and Ranchu goldfish – are larger than your rosy reds they are very slow swimmers. This makes them unable to catch your fast rosy red minnows even if these feeder fish look like a snack.
  3. Ghost Shrimp – if you’re looking for something to add to your tank cleanup crew this small invertebrates is an excellent choice.
  4. Dojo Loach – an excellent addition to a tank with cooler water temperatures.
  5. Bristlenose Pleco – another excellent fish to add to your tank cleanup crew that will help keep your water quality crystal clear.

Tank mates to avoid

Avoid any predator fish or tropical fish in your community tank. More aggressive fish such as betta will mistake the rosy red minnow coloring as a competitor and attack it. Tropical fish will not tolerate the cold water temperatures these fish are used to.

  1. Betta fish – as mentioned above, betta’s will likely think rosy red minnows are competitors or feeder fish that they can eat.
  2. Common Goldfish – unlike fancy goldfish, these are fast swimmers and will mistake your rosy red minnows for feeder fish.
  3. Oscars – another large fish that will likely mistake your rosy reds as feeder fish.
  4. Guppies – these fish are live-bearers and will likely not get along with sexually mature rosy reds.
  5. Axolotls – while rosy red minnows will make excellent feeder fish for your axolotl, they will make terrible companions.

Rosy red minnows Tank Requirements

Keeping rosy red minnows is fairly easy because of their simple water requirements and adaptability to variations.

Water Parameters

Tank Size:10 gallons
Water Type:Freshwater
Water Temperature:70-80
Water pH:7-8
Water Hardness:Mildly soft

These little fish are not high maintenance when it comes to water parameters and prefer neutral pH levels and mildly soft water.

Tank size

For Rosy Red Minnows the suggested tank size is 10 gallons. This is assuming that you have a school of 5 or 6 fish. As a shoaling fish they are happiest in groups and it is not suggested you keep them alone.

Tank setup:

Rose Red Minnows in a Tank(2)

What kind of substrate to use?

The best substrate for rosy reds is the classic gravel substrate. They are fairly small fish so be sure that the rock size is either larger than their mouth or small enough to pass through their bowels without puncturing their intestines.

Do I need a filter?

Yes, though these fish live in murky waters in their natural environment they need at least a basic hang on back filter. Be sure to choose an appropriately sized filter for the bioload in your tank. Your filtration system should be able to pump four times as much water in your tank within an hour. In other words a filter for a 10 gallon tank should be able to filter 40 gallons in one hour.

Should I get a pump?

While a pump isn’t necessary for your rosy red minnow it also won’t bother them. This means that whether your other fish prefers a pump or not your rosy red minnow won’t mind.

Do I need a water heater:

If your tank water temperature routinely falls below 70 degrees you should get a fish tank heater. However, many aquarium hobbyists have had success with keeping the rosy red minnow in outdoor ponds during the warmer months and moving them inside before the pond freezes.

What kind of lighting to use?

This minnow doesn’t require much lighting, and in the murky waters of their native environment they don’t get much. However, in your home aquarium you can accommodate the other tank mates needs in regards to lighting conditions, or choose lights that make your rosy red minnow coloring pop.

Do rosy red minnows like plants?

The rosy red minnow is an excellent choice to house in a planted tank as they are not known to nibble on the leaves. Consider using floating plants or large leaved plants to make areas of your tank a bit darker allowing them a wide range of areas to explore and play in. It is extra important to make sure your pH levels are stable when adding plants to the tank.


Other good decorations to add to your rosy red minnow tank include driftwood and caves.

Rosy red minnows Diet and Health

Minnow eating plant(3)

Part of proper rosy red minnow care is feeding them a healthy and balanced diet to ensure they are receiving all of the nutrition they need. There are lots of options for what you can feed this fish including small crustaceans, fish pellets, insects, etc. As omnivores, your rosy red minnows will require protein in their diet.

What do rosy red minnows eat?

In their natural environment, rosy reds are omnivores and eat a variety of protein (insect larvae, small crustaceans, fish fry) and plant matter. The diet that you choose to feed them should reflect their eating patterns in the wild.

What to feed rosy red minnows?

You should plan to feed your rosy red minnows a varied diet including brine shrimp, plant based foods, high quality pellet food, small crustaceans, and insects. When choosing a protein, know that live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods all have the same nutritional benefits for your fathead minnow.

How often to feed rosy red minnows?

You should feed your rosy red minnows once a day. 80% of the time you should feed them commercial flakes and pellets, and provide protein supplements the other 20%. This ensures that each rosy red minnow is receiving enough vitamins and minerals.


If you’re trying to increase your fathead minnow coloring look for commercial foods that have carotenoids in them.

How much to feed rosy red minnows?

Feed your rosy red minnows and other fish according to the three minute rule. This is where you drop a few morsels of food into the water and begin a timer. When all of the food has been consumed you can add more food until the time is up. Be sure to pay attention to all fish to ensure that everyone is getting a chance to eat.

Common diseases of rosy red minnows?

The rosy red minnow is a very hardy fish and has no known species specific diseases. However, when purchasing a rosy red minnow you should be sure to quarantine it for at least two weeks before adding it to your fish tank to make sure that there are no prior diseases.


Though fathead minnows aren’t prone to disease and are hardy, they are sometimes kept in feeder fish tanks where the conditions are very poor and the system is over capacity leading to more diseases.

While rosy red minnows aren’t susceptible to diseases they are able to catch the same freshwater fish diseases as other fish if there are poor water parameters or you don’t keep your tank clean.

Some common freshwater diseases include

  1. Constipation – occurs when not enough fiber in the diet is evident from stringy feces, bloatedness, and lethargy. Treatment options include epsom salt baths and feeding shelled peas for three days before feeding a protein heavy meal.
  2. Fin rot – a common occurrence when environmental conditions are poor this injury turned bacterial infection can be fatal. Signs include tattered or torn fins, and evidence of fungus (white fuzzy spots) along the edges. Treatment includes quarantining, water changes, aquarium salts and a broad spectrum antibiotic. If the infection has become severe enough to lead to a secondary fungal infection an anti-fungal treatment medicine may be needed as well.
  3. Ich – another bacterial infection, symptoms of ich include white spots, lethargy, and loss of appetite as well as the fish attempting to “itch” itself on items in the tank. Treatment includes immediate quarantine, aquarium salt baths and a broad spectrum antibiotic.

How long do rosy red minnows live?

Many aquarists consider the rosy red minnow as having the golden lifespan because they generally only live 2 to 4 years.

Rosy red minnows Breeding

One of the reasons for this fish’s popularity as a feeder fish is due to the fact that breeding is easy and they will do it on their own.

Rose Red Minnow Eggs(4)

Can you breed a rosy red minnows?

Yes, though there are a few requirements when it comes to letting rosy red minnows breed. The main one being that these fish don’t reach sexual maturity until at least 1 year old and it is pointless to try to breed them before that.

You’ll be able to identify when the male is ready to breed because he will develop fatty tissue or tubercles on top of his head. Hence the name fathead minnow.

How to breed a rosy red minnows?

First, you must identify the gender, male red minnows are generally larger than females and when sexually mature will form breeding tubercles on their head.

As your rosy red minnows are schooling fish and are already in groups of 5 or 6 they will likely pair off and breed as soon as they reach sexual maturity. The female red minnow will lay her eggs on a flat surface in whatever territory the male has claimed as his own and the male will guard the eggs until they hatch.

Once the eggs hatch, place the adult rosy red minnows in a separate tank. Free swimming fry should be fed a diet of infusoria and baby brine shrimp.

Rosy red minnows FAQS

Read below for our most commonly asked questions on rosy reds.

How big do rosy red minnows get?

These fish grow to a maximum size of 3 inches, but more often stay between 2 and 2.5 inches making them an excellent fish for smaller tanks.

What do rosy red minnows eat?

The rosy red minnow is an omnivore and will eat a varied diet including protein rich morsels (brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms), and vegetable matter.

Do rosy red minnows need a heater?

A water heater isn’t necessary unless the temperature of their habitat is routinely falling below their ideal temperature range (70-80). However, this fish has been known to be able to survive in under freezing temperatures. Though we don’t suggest subjecting your fish to those conditions, it is comforting to know that they are not fragile.

Are rosy red minnows aggressive?

No, when kept with fish that are similar temperament and size as them they have a very peaceful temperament. When introducing new members to schools you might notice some slight aggression between fish as this is how they sort out the hierarchical order. This is completely normal and should settle in a few days, but if it persists you should remove the instigator to prevent stress and harm to your other fish.

How many rosy red minnows per gallon

It is suggested to keep a tank size of 10 gallons per school of 5 or 6, or roughly 2 gallons for each fish. As you get more fish and a larger school it’s a good idea to get a larger tank so that the rosy red minnows can separate into different groups within the same tank.

Are rosy red minnows hardy?

Yes, these fish are well known for being very hardy which lends to their popularity in the aquarium hobby. They are excellent fish for beginners or for those who want to add a low maintenance member to one of their freshwater tanks.

Is the rosy red minnows for you?

The fathead minnow is an excellent fish for any aquarist that’s beginning their aquarium hobby journey, or for those looking for an easy to care for addition to their tank. These fish have a great personality, are very active, and add lots of color to your aquarium.


In conclusion, rosy reds can compliment almost any environment from indoor to outdoor habitats. Their hardy nature makes them well-suited to beginners, and their eye-catching colors are sure to delight you and your friends. As long as you keep 5-6 of them at a time, feed them an omnivorous diet, and avoid pairing them with predatory fish, your minnows should thrive.


1. Rose Red Minnow on a Net by Alberta CA

2. Rose Red Minnows in a Tank by fishpondinfo

3. Minnow eating plant by fishpondinfo

4. Rose Red Minnow Eggs by fishpondinfo