Minnow, a name applied to about 300 species of freshwater fish of North and Central America. In common usage, the term refers to any small, silvery fish, but properly it is limited to such fish as the carp, chub, dace, and shiner. Minnows are usually 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) long and rarely exceed 18 inches (46 cm). Minnows have soft, barb-less fins; circular scales; and throat teeth rather than jaw teeth.

MinnowsMinnows are raised for bait or as food for hatchery game fish.

Minnows are often raised commercially for bait or as food for hatchery game fish. Common North American minnows include the bluntnose, common shiner, creek chub, fathead, and golden shiner. Other small fish commonly called minnows are the mudminnows, popular for bait in the Midwest; and the topminnows, surface-feeding fish that are particularly useful because they eat large numbers of mosquito larvae.

What Is a Shiner?

There are many different species of minnows known as shiners. They are called shiners because of their shiny, silvery sides.

Some shiners are brightly colored. Both male and female red shiners are actually silvery-blue, but many male red shiners have red fins and gill openings, especially in the spring. The red shiner is a popular aquarium fish. The golden shiner is the most common baitfish sold in the United States.

At least one type of shiner has an interesting behavior. The male satinfin shiner defends his territory by making knocking sounds when other males get too close. When a male satinfin courts a female, he circles her and makes purring sounds.

The bluntnose is Pimephales notatus; common shiner, Notropis cornutus; creek chub, Semotilus atromaculatus; fathead, P. promelas; golden shiner, Notemigonus crysoleucas. All are of the minnow and carp family, Cyprinidae. Mudminnows belong to the mudminnow family, Umbridae; topminnows to the killifish family, Cyprinodontidae.