Rosy Red Minnows Guide

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Whether you’re a veteran aquarist or a beginner, whose experience in buying fish is restricted to longingly perusing pet stores, you may be overwhelmed by the large variety of species at your fingertips.

With so many to choose from, there are those which tend to be overlooked. The most common species in this regard is the Rosy Red Minnow.

rosy red

Have you encountered a tank filled with small, reddish fish, mostly crowded in one tank? If you point out this tank at the shop, these fish will be sold to you as a feeder fish and nothing more.

However, these rosy red minnows can be a delightful addition to your tank as full-time inhabitants, rather than food to suit your other fish. In fact, they’re wonderful for both beginners and experienced aquarists, within nearly any community tank you have in mind.

What are these unique fish, what does their care involve, and what tank mates can you pair them with? We discuss all this and more in our guide below!

What is the Rosy Red Minnow?

First Look and Appearance

The rosy red minnow, in appearance, has patches of grey and brown coloring, as well as a pale stripe from its head to its tail.

However, that’s not the default coloration of its species, but rather a variant of a North American fish, the fathead minnow.

The fathead minnow has a naturally silver coloration; it develops dark stripes to signal its availability to mate.

The rosy red came from selective breeding of the fathead minnow, and their cherry coloration is what we now see in pet stores.

How Big Do Rosy Red Minnows Get?

With the right care and attention, rosy reds will live, on average, one to three years. However, it is possible for them to live longer under the right conditions.

The rosy red minnow can grow up to two to three inches as an adult.

Price and Personality 

Since rosy red minnows are usually sold as feeders to other fish, the conditions they are kept in aren’t always the best.

These conditions often lead to disease and sickness that spreads throughout the tank, which can also infect your tank if you’re not careful.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said about the durability of these fish. Pet stores tend to be heavy-handed with rosy red minnows because they can withstand many different tank conditions.

While they tend to be overlooked in favor of fancier, more expensive, tropical fish, the rosy red minnow is a perfect addition to tanks of both professional and newbie aquarists.

how big do rosy red minnows get
By Terrapin83 at en.wikipedia (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 licence)

In addition, rosy red minnows are also wonderful in community tanks. This variety of minnow is also sometimes used as dither fish for larger tropical fish, like koi and goldfish.

As a bonus, they are fairly inexpensive.

Rosy Red Minnow Care

For those who want to keep rosy reds as aquarium pets instead of feeders, you will first need to create the right aquarium set-up.

Since they are hardy fish, there will be ample chances to tweak the conditions before you get them properly settled.

Aquarium Requirements

Rosy red minnows can be kept in a wide range of environments, due to their incredible hardiness.

They can endure settings that would kill other fish species, which makes them a great addition to any tank and perfect for beginners.

The following are the ideal conditions in which you should keep your rosy reds.

Temperature and pH

The temperature of your tank should be kept at about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but rosy reds are perfectly happy in temperatures up to 90 degrees or at much lower than 70 degrees. After all, they’re known to swim right under frozen lakes.

For the more experienced aquarist, you will be able to keep this species happy in a tank without a heater.

Acidity should be kept at 7 to 8 pH.

Tank Size

Rosy red minnows tend to be small, but they grow surprisingly fast. They also breed quickly, which can be a problem for aquarists who keep them in a small pond or tank.

At a minimum, a small school of rosy reds should be kept in a ten-gallon tank. Ponds are also a great environment for rosy reds.

Water Preference

In the wild, rosy reds are used to fast-flowing streams and water with high oxygen content. Imitate this environment in your tank by installing powerheads that can move the water around.

Make sure that oxygen levels are kept high by monitoring oxygen in your tank. Also keep an eye out for any waste that can sap your tank of oxygen, such as food that has sunken to the bottom of your aquarium.

Here’s a video showing more information rosy red minnow care.

Tank Mates for Rosy Red Minnows

Rosy reds are a peaceful species. They get along well with other fish and rarely become aggressive. This makes them perfect additions to community tanks.

They can also be used as dither fish to ease other fish species out from hiding.

When adding your rosy reds to community tanks, there are two main concerns to keep in mind. The first is the tank size. Make sure there is enough space for your rosy reds to grow, as they will do so quickly.

If you plan on letting them breed in a home aquarium, be sure to allocate space and ample breeding spaces for the number of males in the tank.

Rosy reds will also occupy the middle and bottom regions of your tank, so be sure not to overstock your fish in that region.

Second, consider the size of the other species. While rosy reds can be kept with pretty much any other type of fish, larger species tend to eat rosy reds.

Good tankmates include white cloud minnows, hillstream loaches, and goldfish.

Rosy reds are a schooling fish, which means they should be kept with at least two other fish of their kind. A good group will consist of at least one male and two females.

Moving Your Rosy Reds

Before moving your rosy reds to their new tank, it’s always a good idea to put them in quarantine. This is especially true if you’re adding your fish in a community tank with tank mates that aren’t as hardy.

This is also necessary when you’ve purchased your rosy reds from a store that sells them as feeder fish. Because they are considered as such, they aren’t kept in the best conditions, which makes them prone to illnesses.

Chances are, if you bought your rosy reds from a pet store, they harbor a disease or two that will need to be dealt with.

Before adding them to your main aquarium, create a smaller tank for your fish to reside in. Watch them for at least four days to be sure they don’t exhibit signs of disease.

Diseases should be treated as soon as you notice them; make sure that they are fully healed before moving them to the main tank.

For more information about quarantining fish, here is a good guide on the subject.


In the wild, rosy reds are omnivores, eating both plant matter and algae, as well as small invertebrates and larvae.

When keeping rosy reds in a tank, plant-based foods are a good choice. Flakes and pellets are great non-live food for rosy reds.

breeding rosy reds

It’s always a good idea to change up their food every once in a while, so as to provide a balanced diet. Veggie greens, such as zucchini and cucumber medallions, are a great supplement to flakes and pellets.

As a treat, you can also provide live feed. Frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp are a great choice. Just remember to remove any uneaten food to keep the tank clean and healthy.

How to Breed Rosy Red Minnows

The interesting breeding habits of the rosy red minnow are a bonus, since, unlike most fish, this kind is similar to cichlids.

For the aquarium owner, this means there is less work to be done, since there are fewer factors to worry about.

Because of their reproductive behaviors, the rosy red is considered to be one of the easiest fish species to breed, making them perfect for those who want to increase their aquarium size naturally or to produce their own feeder fish.

By breeding your own fish, you can ensure that the fish you keep are homed in healthy conditions. You can also breed out deformities that your original rosy reds may have had due to disease.

Breeding your own rosy reds can not only save you money, but it can also save you the hassle of dealing with illness. These are all perks you can’t guarantee when buying from a store.

Breeding Tank Conditions

To trigger mating, the following tank conditions must be met:

For temperature, you will need to keep the breeding tank at about 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, expose your tank to light for about twelve to fourteen hours a day.

Tank acidity should be kept at a range of 6 to 8 pH.

Breeding Habits

With the right tank conditions, adult rosy reds will be prepared to breed. While they mature at six months, they do not breed until about one to two years of age.

You will know that males are ready by the presence of fatty tissue at the top of their head. Then the process with go as follows:

  1. Males Will Find an Enclosure.

With the presence of this fatty tissue, the male will then clean a small enclosure in the tank, thereby claiming the space as his breeding ground.

Male rosy reds often get territorial during this stage, fending off any other males that come near. For the aquarium owner, this means that you should provide ample space for them.

With enough spaces to go around (such as under large leaves or rocks), your rosy reds will be able to find an enclosure all on their own. However, a bare tank will present issues.

To provide a quality area for breeding, you can purchase a pot and bury it partially in the substrate. Rock formations are also a good place for rosy reds to breed.

rosy red minnow care

  1. Males Will Attract Females.

The male will then proceed to call to a female and lead her into the breeding ground, using a dance. If the mating dance works, the female will lay her eggs in the enclosure.

The female rosy red will then immediately leave the cave or hiding place. This may happen more than once with other female rosy reds until the cave is filled.

  1. Eggs Are Fertilized.

The male rosy red will then fertilize the eggs. After this, the male guards these fertilized eggs from any outsiders, becoming aggressive towards any other fish that comes near.

Males will also continue to protect newly hatched eggs.

Fry Feed

Once the eggs hatch, the fry will stay at the bottom of the tank for one to two days. The male rosy red will still keep a close eye until the fry swim to the surface.

Rosy red fish fry should be fed live organisms; good choices include newborn brine shrimp and infusoria.

You can feed these new minnows fish flakes and pellets after a few weeks, as they will need to grow large enough to fit them in their mouth. In the meantime, these fry can exist on a diet of exclusively live feed.

Rosy red fry will be orange as soon as they are born. They will be a bit transparent, with a faint hint of color.

When they reach about a quarter inch in size, they will begin to have the reddish coloration known in adults.

This video shows an example of nursing rosy reds back to health.

Underrated but Rewarding

Rosy reds are an underrated fish, subjected to poor care in pet stores. While they may be hardy fish, this subpar care will be the biggest problem you will encounter when keeping your own rosy reds.

Those raised in store tanks tend to live shorter lives and may be stuck with deformations due to parasites.

However, with the right care and attention, they are interesting and rewarding fish to take care of.

Do you have any tips for taking care of Rosy Red Minnows?

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