Common Name: Rosy Red Minnow/Fat Head Minnow
Scientific Name: Pimephales promelas
Also Known As: Rosy reds, rosies, tuffies, tuffy minnow, blackhead minnow, red top minnows, rosy red feeders, ruby red feeders, feeder minnows, bait minnows, etc.
Often Confused With: Blunt Nosed Minnow
Description: Rosy Red Minnows and Fat Head Minnows are recognized as the same species by most accounts; “Rosy Red” describes the pinkish color variant observed in captivity. Some Rosy Reds also have dark patches or stripes. Fat Head Minnows, also found in pet stores, are olive-grey with a dark bi-lateral stripe. There is also a pronounced dark spot on the tail, particularly in males. Males tend to be thicker built with a more rounded head, and may have banding of dark and pale makings.
Maximum Adult Size: 2-3in
Area of Origin: Widely distributed throughout the United States; a common introduced species globally.
Lifespan: 1-3 years
Suggested Care Level: Easy
Min/Max Tank Size: 10g minimum; this is a social species and must be kept in groups of at least three - one male to two females. There is no maximum; this fish is increasingly popular in ponds.
Temperature: 60-75 degrees F is ideal; Rosy Reds can survive in 33-100 degrees F
pH: This species prefers base water conditions; 7-8 is acceptable.
Hardness: Moderate hardness is ideal for this species.
Salinity: Do not exceed 1tbsp per 10g
Current: A stream species, rosy reds prefer high-current, high-aeration aquariums with open swimming space in addition to hiding spaces.
Diet: Like goldfish, this is an omnivorous species. You can feed small pre-soaked goldfish pellets or flakes as a dietary staple, supplemented with frozen insects and fresh, boiled, leafy-green vegetables.
Temperament: Community. Rosy Reds are suitable for keeping with other coldwater fish, though are readily consumed by larger species. Males may be protective over nest sites, so exercise caution with tank mate selection if you intend upon breeding.
Suggested tank mates: Rosy Reds are often kept in ponds with larger fish species, both as feeders and to increase pond diversity. In an aquarium environment, they may be compatible with species such as Hillstream Loaches, White Cloud Mountain Minnows, or in large tanks, Dojo Loaches. Most small, peaceable coldwater fish are acceptable tank mates for this species.
Rosy reds are sexually dimorphic. Males exhibit a small wen and prominent breeding tubercles at maturity. They have a thicker tail and larger, more rounded fins. Male Fathead minnows have a dark head and broad, wide-spaced vertical banding. Females are smaller, less thickly built, and have no vertical stripes or wen. Females also have a visible ovipositor at the vent.
Rosy Reds are a very easy species to breed in captivity. Females mature and roughly 6 months; males “bloom” later at closer to one year. Most do not breed, however, until 1-2 years of age. Eggs are produced every three weeks with proper conditioning, which should include a variety of live and frozen foods. Competition (multiple males) encourages breeding, but be sure to avoid crowding as males become territorial while nesting.
Rosy Reds are oviparous, with males staking out a nest site on a hard surface, such as a log, large flattened rock, or thick leaves. Males prefer a 5-8 inch radius for their nesting territory, so be careful not to overcrowd your tank with males to prevent aggression. Males protect the eggs from non-gravid females and any males after breeding, fanning the eggs and maintaining the nest. Multiple females may deposit her eggs in a single male’s nest for fertilization and rearing.
Eggs hatch after roughly 5 days, more quickly or slowly depending on the temperature (~ 75 degrees is ideal). They become free-swimming in 2-3 days, at which point they can be fed infusoria, baby brine shrimp, and other small organisms. If the parents are well fed and there are plenty of hides, the young should not be eaten, and over time will pick at the same foods as their elders.
Personal observations, Advice:
Rosy Reds are commonly sold as either feeder fish or bait fish. While this makes them cost-effective to purchase (often a dozen for just ten cents), they must be treated for parasites regardless of if they are showing symptoms. Many will also be in poor body condition, suffering from water quality issues, afflicted with bacterial infections, or poorly socialized. You must be cautious, too, to avoid accidentally purchasing common goldfish fry, which may be mixed in with rosy reds.
According to Robyn’s Rosy Red Page, Rosy Reds must be kept with others of their species, and both genders must be present. Lone Rosy Reds of either gender and groups of only males or females will exhibit stressed, neurotic behavior. They may even jump to their deaths trying to leap “upstream” (out of the tank!) searching for others of their kind.
I personally have never kept Rosy Reds, but there is a fantastic page on their husbandry called Robyn’s Rosy Red Page; it is one of the only sites on the web about keeping rosy reds as pet fish. There is also a wealth of scientific information on the species throughout the web if you search the scientific name.
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Rosy Red/Fat Head Minnow
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