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Fathead minnow illustration

Fathead Minnow

Minnow Family: This family comprises the largest number of fish in North Dakota, with about 30 species of minnows found statewide. These minnows all have a single dorsal fin. They can be an important source of food for other fish as well as birds and mammals, and in many streams they are a good indicator of water quality and ecosystem health.

Fathead Minnow Identification

  • Small, compacted scales near their head, which become progressively larger toward the tail of the fish
  • Soft dorsal fin, with a half-spine at the front
  • Males have black heads and hornlike projections across the snout during spawning


Widespread and prolific, this abundant minnow is very important as a baitfish.

Fatheads grow to a length of 1.5 to 3.5 inches.

They are opportunistic feeders, eating algae, plant fragments, plankton or insects.