The Frog Blog – Fish Fridays!

Happy Friday everyone! Today we will be looking into another fish that many of you have likely seen in ponds across the United States and your local bait shop: the fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas).

The fathead minnow is a fish that is very common in the waters of the United States. It belongs to minnow family (Cyprinidae) along with an array of other fish including shiners, dace and, surprisingly, carp. Many of you are probably familiar with them as fishing bait purchased at various bait retailers however, it is also a native fish that constitutes an important prey source for various predatory fishes (like bass). Many smaller minnows can be challenging to identify due to their size and a high number of similar looking species. However, the fathead minnow does have some distinguishable traits that can help. Look for

Fathead minnow (Pimephales promelas). Notice the shortened first dorsal ray and dark band (Photo: North American Native Fishes).

a shortened first dorsal ray on the dorsal (top) fin and the single black stripe that extends across the body but typically stops at the head. They are also the only minnow in the Pimephales genus of fishes in Ohio with an incomplete lateral line (a sensory organ that fish have along their body that almost looks like “dots” if you look at the fish just right).


Fathead minnows can survive in a wide range of environmental conditions making them a bit hardier then some other species of minnow. This also makes them a good contender for stocking in various waterbodies. If you want to stock them in your pond, be sure to consult an expert first as predator/prey balance is important to consider when managing a fishery. Additionally, it would be a good idea to have structure in your pond like old Christmas trees, piping pieces, or even commercially available fish habitat structures for the fish to hide and spawn in. They eat variety of organic particles as well as small aquatic crustaceans that are naturally found in waterbodies.

By: Ed Kwietniewski

Aquatic Biologist

AQUA DOC Lake and Pond Management

Edward Kwietniewski graduated from The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) with a Bachelor’s degree in Aquatics and Fisheries Science. He also has a Master’s degree in Lake Management from the State University of New York College at Oneonta (SUNY Oneonta). He has a love for all things aquatic and is an avid fisherman. Content goes here

Resources and External Links:

Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. 2012. “Fathead minnow – Pimephales promelas” Accessed 18 January, 2018.