Pimephales promelas, Fathead minnow : aquarium, bait

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Pimephales promelas Rafinesque, 1820

Fathead minnow
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Image of Pimephales promelas (Fathead minnow)
Pimephales promelas
Male picture by Divino, J.N.

Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes(genus, species) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Teleostei (teleosts) > Cypriniformes (Carps) > Leuciscidae (Minnows) > Pogonichthyinae
Etymology: Pimephales: Greek, pimeles, -es = fat + Greek, phales = whale; if the root is Greek, phales, -etos = penis (Ref. 45335);  promelas: From the words pro, meaning forward; and melas, black (referring to the black head of nuptial males) (Ref. 10294).
More on author: Rafinesque.

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Freshwater; demersal. Subtropical; 0°C - 33°C (Ref. 35682); 61°N - 29°N

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

North and Central America: Over much of North America from Quebec to Northwest Territories and British Columbia in Canada and south to Alabama, Texas in USA, and Mexico. Widely introduced, including in Colorado River drainage in Arizona and New Mexico, USA. Not present on Atlantic and Gulf slopes between Potomac River in Virginia and Trinity River in Texas. Several countries report adverse ecological impact after introduction.

Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 10.1 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 10294); common length : 7.3 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 12193); max. reported age: 5 years (Ref. 58435)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 0; Dorsal soft rays (total): 8; Anal spines: 0; Anal soft rays: 7. The only species of genus introduced to Europe which differs from other cyprinid species in Europe by the following characters: prominent pad of spongy tissue on nape in males; dorsal fin origin about above pelvic fin origin; anal fin with 7½ branched rays; second simple dorsal ray spinous, about 50% length of the third one; lateral line incomplete, usually not reaching dorsal origin; weak midlateral stripe; 41-54 + 2 scales in midlateral row; and mouth terminal (Ref. 59043).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Inhabits muddy pools of headwaters, creeks, small rivers, and ponds (Ref. 5723, 86798). Also found in lakes (Ref. 10294). Can tolerate conditions (e.g., turbid, hot, poorly oxygenated, intermittent streams) unsuitable for most fishes (Ref. 5723, 86798). Feeds on detritus and algae (Ref. 10294). Spawns in still-water habitats along shores (Ref. 59043). Introductions consequently caused the spread of the enteric red-mouth disease throughout northern Europe which infected wild and cultured trouts and eels (Ref. 1739). Maintained a relatively high metabolic rate and level of activity under hypoxic conditions (Ref. 77050). Individuals that survived the hypoxic conditions during winter had rapid growth rates after ice-off (Ref. 77048).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

"Males defend territories and eggs, and clean plants, stone or other materials by rubbing them with the spongy nape pad and dorsal fin, which contain mucus-secreting cells and taste buds. The mucus may have fungicidal properties" (Ref. 59043).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr, 2011. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 663p. (Ref. 86798)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 130435)

  Least Concern (LC) ; Date assessed: 02 July 2018


Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Potential pest

Human uses

Aquarium: commercial; bait: usually
FAO - Publication: search | FishSource |

More information

Larval dynamics
Aquaculture profile
Mass conversion
Stamps, Coins Misc.
Swim. type
Gill area


Special reports

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Internet sources

AFORO (otoliths) | Alien/Invasive Species database | Aquatic Commons | BHL | Cloffa | BOLDSystems | Websites from users | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | Catalog of Fishes: genus, species | DiscoverLife | ECOTOX | FAO - Publication: search | Faunafri | Fishipedia | Fishtrace | GenBank: genome, nucleotide | GloBI | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | IGFA World Record | MitoFish | National databases | Otolith Atlas of Taiwan Fishes | PubMed | Reef Life Survey | Socotra Atlas | Tree of Life | Wikipedia: Go, Search | World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoobank | Zoological Record

Estimates based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82804):  PD50 = 0.5625   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00851 (0.00616 - 0.01175), b=3.07 (2.98 - 3.16), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245).
Trophic level (Ref. 69278):  2.4   ±0.1 se; based on diet studies.
Resilience (Ref. 120179):  High, minimum population doubling time less than 15 months (tmax=2).
Fishing Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Low vulnerability (17 of 100).