Types of Minnows

The goldfish is a popular minnow.
The goldfish is a popular minnow. (Image: goldfish abstract image by Ken Marshall from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>)

The minnow family comprises the largest variety of fish in North America. Minnows have strong adaptive skills that allow them to thrive in different types of environmental conditions. Minnows usually swim in fresh water but some varieties live in swamps, ponds, rivers and lakes. Sometimes several different types of minnows can be found in the same area. Goldfish and carp are well-known minnows. Other varieties are the common shiner and fallfish.


Goldfish are minnows that thrive in fresh water and consume marine plants and meat. They are very common in the Northeast. Their coloring often has different shades of orange, yellow, red, black, white or brown. They were the first fish to be domesticated and kept in family aquariums. Goldfish that live in their native habitats can survive up to 40 years; however, those kept in household aquariums usually only live up to eight years.


The carp is the largest type of minnow and is abundant in the freshwater rivers and lakes of Asia and Europe. Carps were introduced in the United States in 1876 and have made their presence known throughout the country ever since. Many countries consider carp a significant source of food, but that is not the sentiment in the United states. According to Cornell.edu, "Fishermen often consider this fish a nuisance because it feeds along the bottom of freshwater lakes and causes the water to get muddy. Thus, their feeding areas are not fit for more popular game fish."

Common Shiner

The common shiner is a type of minnow that is 2 1/2 to 4 inches in length and is a silvery color with dusky markings on its back. This fish is very common and is often caught by fishermen. However, the common shiner is typically used as bait to catch larger fish. These fish are often found in streams and rivers that have both cold water and warm water sources. They feed mostly on bugs that stay near the surface of the water.


The fallfish is the largest minnow, reaching 16 inches or longer in length. They're commonly found in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, and stay in clean water that has rock beds and swift streams. These fish are considered game, but they're generally not consumed. They tend to be oily and are sometimes too slippery to grasp.

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