Do Goldfish Eat Minnows? (And How To Protect Minnows)

Do Goldfish Eat Minnows? (And How To Protect Minnows)

Do Goldfish Eat Minnows

Goldfish do eat minnows, particularly if the goldfish are bigger in size. Goldfish will eat anything they can catch that is small enough for them to swallow. But that doesn’t mean goldfish and minnows can’t be kept together.

There are methods you can use in setting up your tank or pond to keep minnows with your goldfish without your goldfish eventually eating them all. Read on to find out the right and wrong ways you can keep these two species of coldwater fish together.

But first, let’s address the big elephant in the room…

Why Goldfish Eat Minnows?

Goldfish eat minnows because goldfish tend to grow to a large size in both the home aquarium and pond setups.

They tend to outgrow any other fish in a tank where they are typically kept.

So when they get hungry, and there is nothing else to eat, they tend to eat minnows.

Goldfish are also opportunistic feeders, which means they are just as likely to eat other fish in the tank as they are to eat minnows.

Even if goldfish are notorious for eating smaller schooling fish, there are ways to house the two types of fish together.

Many aquarists enjoy keeping goldfish and minnows together in pond setups because the smaller fish serve as an excellent visual backdrop to the large goldfish, which often serve as a focal point in an aquarium.


Can You Keep Minnows And Goldfish Together?

Minnows and goldfish can be kept together without the goldfish trying to eat the minnows, but certain conditions need to be met for them to be housed in the same tank or pond without issues:

  • The goldfish and minnows need to be in a large tank or pond, where minnows have space to flee the goldfish if they get interested in eating them. If they are kept together in a small tank, goldfish are more likely to eat minnows, who cannot escape them.
  • Slow-moving fancy goldfish with long flowing fins should not be kept with minnows. Since the fast-swimming minnows have a tendency to nip fins, many breeds of fancy goldfish (such as black moors and pearlscales) are too clumsy to evade them.
  • Though goldfish tend to eat live plants in their enclosures, plenty of live plants should be included if you are going to add minnows to break the line of sight and give the minnows a safe place to hide if the goldfish get hungry.
  • Goldfish need very large tanks to thrive, fifty-five gallons or more. This is why they are a popular pond fish, and minnows also benefit from large swimming areas. Minnows confined in small tanks will be stressed and more likely to fin-nip their neighbors.
  • Goldfish are social fish that do best with the company of other goldfish. So only keep minnows with goldfish if you also have the room to house more than one goldfish in the same enclosure.
  • Goldfish can grow very large (some to the size of large grapefruits or half the size of housecats) which makes them a poor choice for most sizes of indoor aquariums. So minnows and goldfish are better off housed together in a pond than an aquarium.

Ways To Keep Minnows With Goldfish

There are plenty of ways to accidentally end up with one fat goldfish and no minnows if you don’t have a good setup to keep minnows and goldfish safely together.

Tank Size

The first factor to take into consideration is tank or pond size. Goldfish need a ton of space.

So even if they can be kept in very large aquariums, they are more suitable for pond life.

In a small tank, both minnows and goldfish become stressed, and this leads to conflicts between them in the tank.

The goldfish are more likely to chase and try to eat the minnows just because they are in the way, and the minnows will, in turn, be more likely to fin-nip the goldfish, causing injury.

Live Plants

Another way to keep minnows without goldfish eating them is to add a bunch of live plants to act as hiding places for the minnows.

But there’s a catch!

Goldfish love eating live plants and digging them up.

This means that if you add plants in the tank with goldfish, they might get munched or destroyed.

So rather than investing in expensive decorative plants like water lilies, you would be better off getting common, easily propagated live plants that can take some grazing damage like duckweed, anacharis, and water lettuce.

Allow Predation

One method of keeping minnows with goldfish is to simply let the goldfish eat whatever minnows they can manage to catch.

This requires sitting back and letting nature take its course, and you might end up having to replenish your minnow stock.

However, many minnows will be too fast for the goldfish to catch and eat even if they wanted to, especially if the goldfish are larger.

Smaller goldfish will not be able to swallow the minnows, so they are not a threat.

If the goldfish do catch minnows, they tend to catch minnows that are slow or weak.

Also, some minnows, such as white cloud minnows, are very easy to breed in a tank or pond setting.

So if you have the right conditions, you can set up a simple breeding program in your tank or pond that allows the minnows to repopulate no matter how many are eaten by goldfish.

Fish You Can Safely Keep With Goldfish

There are plenty of aquarium and pond fish that can be kept comfortably with goldfish if you are afraid that goldfish might eat your minnows, or if you decide that minnows aren’t a good choice for your aquarium or that your breed of goldfish will not be compatible with them.

Some of these fish that can live with goldfish are:

  • Koi: Koi are a carp-like fish similar to goldfish that come in a wide variety of beautiful colors. When they are young, it is difficult to distinguish between goldfish and koi. Koi grow to massive sizes. So it is appropriate to keep them with goldfish only in a pond setting.
  • Dojo loaches: Dojo loaches are bottom-dwelling, eel-like fish that scavenge the substrate for food. Since they are non-aggressive and help to keep the tank or pond clean by eating leftover foot and plant debris, they are good to keep with goldfish.
  • Golden rudds: If you are keeping your goldfish in an outdoor pond, golden rudds (also known as rosette fish) can be kept as a good companion for them. Golden rudds are large-growing fish, and ideally, they should be kept in schools of 10-15 members, so they need a large pond.

Fish You Should Avoid Keeping With Goldfish

Goldfish was one of the first domesticated fish kept by humans and have been housed in specialized aquariums and pond setups for hundreds of years.

This domestication process has made them incompatible with many other species of fish that are commonly kept by aquarists.

While there are plenty of species of fish that can be kept with goldfish, including several species of minnows, there are also many fish that are not suitable to be kept with goldfish at all.

Some of these are:

  • Tropical fish: Tropical fish have very different water requirements than goldfish in the home aquarium. Any species of fish that require heated water or cannot handle ambient temperatures should not be kept in a pond setup.
  • Native pond fish: Native fish and goldfish do not make good roommates in the backyard pond. The wild-collected, native fish can pass on a variety of waterborne parasites and diseases to domestic goldfish.
  • Plecos: Plecos have been known to eat the slime coating off goldfish, which leaves them vulnerable to injury or disease. If a scavenger or bottom-feeding fish is wanted, dojo loaches are a better choice to be kept with goldfish instead of plecos.

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