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Rosy Red Minnows

Discussion in 'Freshwater' started by lilim10, Aug 17, 2008.

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  1. lilim10

    lilim10 AC Members

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    Rosy Red Minnows
    Rosy Red Minnows (Pimephales promelas) are often sold as "feeder fish" and have little or no ranking among fish hobbyists. Little do people know that if cared for properly, these little fish can prosper, and provide you with clean, non-sickly live food for your carnivorous fish. They can also be quite a sight in large tanks, since they are schooling fish and enjoy staying in groups, even when there is no threat around.

    Common Name(s): Rosy Red Minnow, Rosey Reds, Rosy Reds, Rosies, feeder fish, minnows
    Scientific Name: Pimephales promelas
    Max Size: males, 2-3 inches; females, 1-2 inches
    Temperature: 55F-85F (very hardy, will survive in colder or warmer waters)
    Sexing: males are broader and larger with thicker fins, they will also develop a fatty tissue and breeding tubercles on the top of their heads during breeding (in fatheads males will have vertical stripes when mature), females will have a visible ovipositor (in fatheads they lack the vertical stripes)
    Ph: 6-8
    Disposition: peaceful, males may tussle a bit during breeding season without physical injury
    Feeding: omnivorous, will eat flakes, pellets, whatever you feed to your fish

    Rosy Reds are actually fathead minnows, but due to a genetic mutation they are a light "rosy" color. If you breed a gray fathead minnow with a rosy red, the babies will be mostly wild fathead color, indicating that the wild color is dominant over the rosy color. These fish are available in almost any fish or pet store, usually sold as "feeder fish". I personally think they are lacking the respect they deserve as fish. Rosy reds are as hardy as goldfish, but produce much less waste and can easily survive in warm or colder water. This makes them great for aquariums, both coldwater and tropical.

    Rosy reds are usually sold when 1/2-2 inches in pet stores, but can grow up to 3 inches in males. Since rosy reds are schooling fish, they should be kept in groups of 5 or more, with fish of both sexes. Their tank should be a minimum of 10 gallons; I would not recommend more than 5-6 individuals in a 10 gallon tank. Keep in mind that males can grow 2-3 inches and during breeding may tussle a bit with each other if there is not enough room in the tank to establish territories. They can be kept in larger aquariums as a schooling fish, and will breed in a community aquarium as well as in a special breeding tank. However, the young are usually eaten in a community aquarium, so if you are breeding for fry, use a breeding tank.

    These hardy little fish can survive just about any temperature, from just above freezing to very warm waters. They seem to do best at 58F-80F; this makes them great for both coldwater aquariums (goldfish) and tropical aquariums.


    Since rosy reds are usually sold as feeder fish, they are often very unhealthy and many of them die. You can find them at just about any pet store, crammed into a tiny tank with at least several hundred others. Treat them with medications and quarantine before adding to your tank(s). If cared for properly, rosy reds are very hardy and almost never get sick.


    Rosies are omnivorous, meaning they need both plant and animal matter in their diet. They will accept pretty much all food including: fish flakes, pellets, wafers, sticks, and granules. Frozen and live foods should be supplemented occasionally and used to condition them for breeding. Anything you feed your fish will work for rosies; they are not picky at all.


    Sexing can only be done in mature fish, young fish usually do not show any gender differences until they mature. Males usually mature at about 1.5 years to 2 years, and females mature at about a year. Females are shorter in body length, are plumper, and are less heavily built. Males are usually longer and have thicker fins. They also develop a fatty tissue and breeding tubercles on the top of their heads when conditioned to spawn. The gray fathead males will have dark, vertical bands on their body.


    Breeding rosy reds is extremely easy; all they require is good quality food containing lots of protein and a photoperiod of 14-16 hours of light a day. A breeding tank of 10 gallons should be setup if you are trying to breed them. The water temperature should be around 75F-80F. Any overhanging rock or decor can become a nesting site, clay pots placed on their side work great.

    Each male will stake out a territory and court female rosy reds. Male fatheads will turn dark in coloration with breeding and develop a fatty tissue and breeding tubercles (do not mistake for ich). A female may spawn up to 6-7 times before being completely emptied of her eggs. After spawning, the male will guard the eggs and chase away the female. The fatty tissue on the top of his head produces a fungus eliminator, which he will rub on his eggs. Parents generally do not eat their fry or eggs unless extremely hungry.

    Females will be ready to breed again in a couple weeks.

    If a male is not spawning, try adding another male to add competition and he may spawn.

    Egg and Fry Care

    Leaving the care of the fry to the male is perfectly acceptable. He will rub his fungus eliminating secretion on the eggs to prevent fungus and will care for the eggs until they hatch. After the eggs hatch and become free swimming, the male and fry pretty much ignore each other. Fry can eat finely ground flakes the moment they become free swimming, but microworms or BBS would be much better. The fry grow fast and will be ready to spawn in a year or two.

    You can also rear the eggs yourself. Remove the eggs by plucking them with tweezers or by taking out whatever they are attached on. Put the eggs in a 5 gallon tank with aeration and methylene blue or Maroxy to prevent fungus. If you see any eggs with fungus, remove them with tweezers. The eggs should hatch in 2-3 days. Feed the fry BBS, egg yolk, microworms, or vinegar eel. They will also accept finely ground flake food, but live foods are better for fry.

    Last Note

    Rosy reds are a very rewarding fish to keep. They will provide a lot of live food and are great additions to your tank. Instead of buying feeder fish with possible parasites, breed them yourself. This will make them safe for your fish without the worry of internal parasites. I also find that they are good aquarium fish; they school and their "rosy" color look great in a large tank IMO. A cheaper alternative to neon tetras!

    #1 lilim10, Aug 17, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 30, 2008
  2. msjinkzd

    msjinkzd AC Members

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    Rachel O'Leary
    Feb 11, 2007
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