Rosy Red Minnows 101: Size, Breeding, Lifespan, Care & More

You’ve probably gone to a pet store and looked right past Rosy Red Minnows. Natural, because these tiny fish are not exactly the belle of any tank. 

Try to go back and give these little guys a chance. Rosy Reds are active, low maintenance, and absolutely love company.

While they may not be the fanciest, they just might be the best companions to your other fish. 

The table below gives a quick overview of the Rosy Red Minnow profile:

Profile AttributeValue
Care DifficultyVery easy
Lifespan1-2 years, maximum 5 years
Color(s)Silver gray (Fathead minnow), orange, golden yellow, pink
TemperamentActive and Social
Maximum SizeAround 4 inches (10.1 cm) for males/average 3 inches (7.3 cm) 
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Tank SetupWell-decorated with caves
CompatibilityCommunity fish

Below is our Rosy Red Minnow care guide. Continue reading to find out more about its size, tank mates, appearance and more.

Overview of the Rosy Red Minnow

Rosy Red Minnows (Pimephales promelas) are in fact a specific strain of the freshwater Fathead Minnows. The Rosy Reds, or Rosies, are its ‘Golden’ variant, named due to its attractive cherry orange coloring. 

These minnows are shoaling fish common in North America, where they are often used as bait or feed for other captive animals. In fact, if you were to purchase Rosies, you would typically find them in filthy living conditions (poor Rosy Reds). 

Often underrated and overlooked, Rosy Red Minnows can also be a wonderful addition to your community tank. They love traveling in big excited groups and are peace-loving fishes. They’re energetic, curious, and won’t cause you any trouble at all with their care, which is a clear choice for the budding fishkeeper.


Upon first glance, the Rosy Red Minnow probably won’t catch your eye. They have around three known color variations: plain gray, pink, golden yellow, and bright orange. The silvery grays are usually classified as the regular strain of Fathead Minnows. In Fathead Minnows, you will see brown patches with a dark-colored streak along their bodies. This streak is mostly absent in Rosy Reds, and instead, their bodies appear in a single uniform color.

Rosy Red Minnows have a commonly flattened head and slightly protruding eyes from the sides of their heads. Their bodies are cigarette-shaped and slim with short and colorless fins. Rosies are also very tiny fish, which partly accounts for why they are very commonly used as bait. 

Unlike many other fish species, male Rosy Reds are the ones that grow larger than the females. When breeding, male Rosy Reds also acquire a significantly big bulge on their nape area. That, plus a good number of breeding tubercles or protrusions in its head, a signal that they’re about to get it on!


Unfortunately, these tiny feeder fish have equally tiny lifespans. They have a maximum life expectancy of 4 or 5 years, but the usual range is only 1-2 years. Sadly, few Rosies reach those years, mainly because they’re fed to other creatures well before they reach that age. In the case that they’re not, Rosy Reds usually spend the rest of their days in substandard pet store conditions. 

Tip: The longevity of the Rosy Red Minnows is also heavily influenced by whether or not they have started breeding. Rosies that have already bred are not likely to reach the maximum expected lifespan. So if you want your Minnows to last as long as possible, you could try to prevent them from spawning. 

Average Size

Rosy Red Minnows are generally deemed as small fish. Uniquely, male Rosy Reds grow much larger than the females, to sizes of up to 4 inches or 10 cm. Female Rosy Red Minnows are slightly smaller than the males, fluctuating within the average size range of 3 inches or around 7 cm. 

Rosy Red Minnow Care Advice

Getting curious? These often overlooked Minnows sure had a tough time. To change that, keep reading and know the best way to care for these lovely Rosy Reds!

Tank Setup

As we all know by now, Rosy Red Minnows are not typically considered ‘pet’ fishes. Instead, they are categorized as feeder fish. Feeder fish are those that are usually very common, small, and incredibly affordable. Feeder fish are, from the word itself, fed to other captive animals such as turtles and other large aquatic creatures. 

Even in the wild, Rosy Red Minnows inhabit all sorts of bodies of water. They are found in ponds, big and small lakes, rivers, wetlands, and even the most miserable and desperate surroundings. What most fish species can’t survive in, the Rosy Reds can. Due to this, people naturally place very little value in Rosy Reds. Their tenacious constitution is often taken for granted. More often than not, pet stores just stick shoals of Rosies all together in tanks with very poor living conditions. In this situation, it’s a good thing these Minnows are hardy like no other fish! 

The first step to ensuring your Rosy Red Minnows thrive under your care is by setting up the very best tank you can for them. These fish appreciate a well-decorated tank. Plants such as Java ferns and Amazon swords are good options. A substrate of gravel or soft sand will also work well, with some cave-like structures partially buried into it. They would especially need these caves when breeding season comes and they become all territorial. 

You could also place some rocks that will serve as hiding places and elevate the happiness of your Rosy Reds.

Tip: For cave structures, you could make do with some old and unpainted plant pots. Your male Rosies will still think it’s the real deal.

Tank Size

For the perfect tank, you need at the very least a 10 gallon tank. While some owners end up settling for a minimum of 5 gallons, your Rosy Red school would end up becoming cramped and uncomfortable later on. So do the right thing and let them have some breathing room. 

Water Parameters

With water conditions, you won’t have much difficulty. Rosy Red Minnows are some of the easiest fish to raise. Even the most clueless beginner can properly care for these Minnows. Rosy Reds are able to adapt to the toughest living conditions and water parameters. As a matter of fact, some people have taken to calling them ‘toughies’, because, well, they’re unbelievably tough. 

It’s very much well known that Rosies can live in water of very poor quality. In a tank with low oxygen levels where other tropical fish would already be dead, Rosy Reds are still surviving.

The same could be said for temperature and water hardness. They can survive in both soft or hard water, as well as a vast range of temperatures. These temperatures could be in the extremes such as below freezing or incredibly high at 100°F or 37°C. 

If they had a choice, however, Rosy Red Minnows would prefer a more comfortable temperature of around 70°F-80°F or 21-26°C. Couple that with a primarily neutral pH level of 6.0-8.0, and you’ve got yourself some very cozy Rosies. 

Before anything else, though, treat your water properly before placing your Rosy Reds in your tank and make sure to have a good filter in place. A sponge filter will do the job and provide these little guys with water that’s aerated. You might want to install a powerhead as well, just to give them that water movement they so love.

Tip: Rosy Reds are actually great alternatives to Goldfish if you want a fish with less maintenance in terms of clean ups!

Common Diseases

Naturally, since they are kept in dismal living conditions, the Rosy you purchase is likely sick or riddled with disease. In stores, thousands are often jammed in filthy tanks that you can hardly even tell if they are ill. There is a much larger probability that your Minnows are sick one way or another, than the probability that they are healthy. 

These Rosy Red Minnows absolutely deserve better, so here are some common illnesses to look out for:

  • Fungal infections
  • Bacterial infections 
  • Parasites

It is absolutely essential for you to treat your Rosy Reds’ diseases and parasites before introducing them to any aquarium. Rehabilitate them for a few weeks in a different tank as you treat their various ailments. Failing to do so will cause Minnow deaths or spread their disease to your other fish. 

For treatment, there are plenty of medications available in the market to help your sick Rosy Reds. These medications are usually enough to reverse the effects of any ailment they have.

Don’t be discouraged if some still die during this process. Once you’ve got the survivors living a much better life in your tank, they will breed and produce much healthier, beautiful baby Rosies. 

Food & Diet

In their native habitats, Rosy Red Minnows have grown used to substandard water conditions and harsh environments. Due to this, these fish have grown hardy and adaptable when it comes to food choices as well. 

To survive, Rosy Red Minnows have evolved to being the opposite of picky eaters, and will generally eat anything. They are omnivorous, love to eat, and will probably be grateful for anything you give them. We suggest you feed your little survivors regular meals 2 or 3 times a day.

Rosy Red Minnows’ preferred food include:

  • Algae
  • Various veggies and plants (green beans, zucchini and cucumber medallions)
  • Small invertebrates
  • Insect larvae
  • Flake food
  • Pellet food
  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
Tip: To prevent introducing filth and infection, clean the veggies and plants you intend to feed your Rosy Red Minnows. After that, collect leftover food from their tanks. This will not only keep their surroundings clean, but will also keep Rosies healthy and more radiant in the long run!

Breeding & Mating

Being very cheap, most people would rather buy Rosy Red Minnows from a pet store than breed them. There are drawbacks to this, however. Minnows bought from stores are usually in very bad conditions due to their dismal upbringing. 

If you want to unearth the beauty Rosies truly have in them, breeding them with love and care is the best way to do so. 

The great news is you can easily breed Rosies like rabbits and get beautifully healthy fry.

In the wild, Rosies start breeding when they are at least one year old and within the months of September to May. You can emulate these seasonal conditions fairly easily by manipulating the tank temperature to around 50 – 80° F. 

As mentioned earlier, changes happen to the male minnow when he is ready to mate. The excited guy will develop a bulge on his nape and tubercles on his head. He’ll then claim a cave and defend that against other males who want to challenge him. Love sure is tough.

For the successful males, luring a female Red Rosy to his territory comes next on the agenda. He’ll do a little dance and if she likes it, she’ll deposit her eggs in his cave (sweet success!). Next, this Baby Daddy will protect the eggs fiercely until they hatch into fry. You can soon start feeding these fry small Brine shrimp or microworms. 

What is truly inspiring about Rosy Red Minnows is that after the eggs turn into fry, neither the Mom nor Dad Rosy will try to eat their newborn. They mainly leave their young alone to start their happy tank lives.

Tip: Try to keep two female Rosy Reds for every one male. This will not only control your population but also avoid any squabbles!

Rosy Red Minnow Temperament & Behavior

Despite being often overlooked as aquarium pets, Rosy Red Minnows are full of personality. They’re active swimmers, inquisitive, peaceful, and very social-perfect for a community tank. They are shoaling fish, preferring to travel in schools, and they are very much concerned for the well-being of other Rosies.

One of the most interesting facets of a Rosy Red Minnow is that they have a sort of internal alarm system. Specifically, this ‘alarm’ system is called Schreckstoff. It is a chemical substance that Rosy Red Minnows release through their skin. This substance is released whenever a Minnow is injured or attacked by a predator, serving as a warning signal to other Rosies. Once the shoal detects this substance, the Rosies would immediately stay away from the perceived danger. Isn’t that nice? 

Rosy Red Minnow Tank Mates

Due to their peaceful and friendly nature, Rosy Red Minnows are perfect for any harmonious community aquarium. These fish are very rarely aggressive and, in fact, are the victims of more aggressive (or hungry) fish. They have a sweet disposition and primarily swim around the middle and bottom layers of a tank. 

Tank Mates compatible with Rosy Red Minnows are:

  • Hillstream loaches
  • Dojo loaches
  • Zebra Danios
  • Types of shrimp (Ghost, Amano)
  • Other Minnows (White cloud Minnows)
  • Some Plecos

Key things to remember are to keep equally peaceful cool water fish with Rosy Reds. Consequently, you should also avoid fish that could eat your pretty minnows. Keeping them with any larger fish, for example, especially those that are aggressive is a bad idea. Goldfish are also not recommended to be a minnow’s tank mate, as they have a tendency to eat poor minnows.

To Conclude

Underrated and often mistreated, Rosy Red Minnows are not the type to catch your eye at the get-go. They’re small and seemingly plain. However, like any creature, once you invest time and love into them, you just might be surprised. It takes a special kind of fishkeeper, after all, to truly bring out the beauty of the Rosy Red Minnow. 

Note: Please consider the environment before printing this Rosy Red Minnows care sheet.

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