Types of Minnows

The minnow family refers to the largest of all fish families. Minnows are generally very small, silvery fish. They can reach up to 14 inches in length. Mostly minnows occupy unpolluted streams in the North of America. There are some 48-50 species of minnows in New York alone. Some of the most popular fish among the minnows are the Goldfish, and carp. Some minnows tend to be carnivorous, but most are herbivorous and eat only plant material. Minnows are very important elements in the food chain because they are food to many of the bigger fish. Thus they provide the vital link between plant life and animal life, converting certain algae into proteins that can be used by the larger game fish.

Although minnows prefer clear streams, some of them survive even in brackish water habitats. Bogs, swamps, rivers, streams ponds and lakes are all homes to the minnow. Because of the huge variety of minnows, their habitats also vary. Some minnows are found in very large schools, while others are solitary or belong to very small groups. Some minnows prefer cooler temperatures while others exist in warm water environments.

The abundance of minnows is a direct result of their strong adaptive skills. Minnows can occupy a large variety of habitats. Since they are small, a large number of minnows can squeeze themselves into relatively smaller areas and still find food and live. They also require very short period of time to reach breeding age. Some of the bigger varieties of minnows include river chub, fallfish and creek chub. Of course, goldfish and carp are very large minnows. While the larger varieties live up to 6-7 years( some species even upwards to 50 years), the smaller varieties can survive only till 3 years or so.

The spawning season for most of the minnows fall between spring and midsummer. Individual species will spawn at various periods within this span of time. Minnow eggs are usually laid at the bottom of the pond, in aquatic plants or in algae. Rarely though, you will find the male minnow building a nest and protecting it too. Minnows generally make three different types of nests. Some males carry small stones by moth and pile them up to build a nest. These are the easiest nests to find, as they exist in shallow and undisturbed waters.

Pit-digging minnows make circular, cup-like nests. Most of the times, two or more minnow males work together at a single nest. The "pit-digging" is done by inserting the snouts into the bottom and then pushing off this matter by jerking the head. The males sometimes fight very viciously during this process, sometimes even blinding one another.

Some minnow males excavate a pit right below a stone, and store the eggs there. Some species like the common shiner may even lay their eggs in the nest of some other species.

Males of the minnows usually put on very interesting and bright colors when they are ready to mate. Red and orange colors attract the females very well. They develop tubercles at these times. The tubercles are mostly placed on the head of the male, and this helps to hold the female in place while mating takes place. Most minnows are not considered to be ideal game fish. Except for the carps, minnows are not eaten by humans. But, they make good prey for the larger game fish and for water birds too. Sometimes bigger minnows may compete with game fishes like the trout for space and food. They also eat the eggs of game fish.

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