Minnows and Carps (Cyprinidae)

Minnow and carp silhouette.

Minnows are an extremely diverse family with abundant representatives over most of the world. Many minnow species are similar in appearance and can thus be very difficult to identify. Minnows generally have no teeth or spines (carp and goldfishes have at least one stout spine at the front of the dorsal and anal fins). They have a single dorsal fin, typically with 8 rays (carp and goldfish more). The pelvic fins are abdominal and positioned beneath the dorsal fin. The tail is usually forked, sometimes concave. Scales are absent from the cheeks and opercles.

There are 16 minnow species in Connecticut, nine of which are native. Many minnow species develop nuptial turbercles (horny bumps) on their heads and become more brightly colored during spawning.

Click on the species' names below to learn more.

Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) - Introduced

Common carp.


Goldfish (Carassius auratus) - Introduced

Wild goldfish.


Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) - Introduced

Grass carp.


Tench (Tinca tinca) - Introduced



Fallfish (Semotilus corporalis) - Native

16 cm fallfish.


Creek Chub (Semotilus atromaculatus) - Native

13 cm creek chub.


Cutlip Minnow (Exoglossum maxillingua) - Native

Cutlips minnow.


Golden Shiner (Notemigonus crysoleucas) - Native

20 cm golden shiner.


Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) - Introduced/Close Neighbor

Male rudd.


Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus) - Native

12 cm common shiner.


Spottail Shiner (Notropis hudsonius) - Native

11 cm spottail shiner.


Bridle Shiner (Notropis bifrenatus) - Native

46 mm bridle shiner.


Mimic Shiner (Notropis volucellus) - Introduced

6 cm mimic shiner.


Bluntnose Minnow (Pimephales notatus) - Introduced

Bluntnose minnow.


Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas) - Introduced

7 cm fathead minnow.


Blacknose Dace (Rhinichthys atratulus) - Native

Swimming blacknose dace.


Longnose Dace (Rhinichthys cataractae) - Native

Longnose dace.

Most minnows are easily kept in home aquariums and will readily accept dried flakes and pellets. Minnows, with the exception of the carps and goldfish, tend to be smaller and more fragile than other fishes, so they don’t do as well in the presence of large, aggressive fish. Generally, the ones with larger and looser scales are more fragile than others. Minnows tend to be active and stay high in the water column. They are schooling fishes and are “happier” when kept with others of their kind.

Text and images adapted from Jacobs, R. P., O'Donnell, E. B., and Connecticut DEEP. (2009). A Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut. Hartford, CT. Available for purchase at the DEEP Store.