The minnow family contains many good aquarium fishes. The southern redbelly dace, speckled chub, redfin shiner, ironcolor shiner, bigmouth shiner, red shiner, and bluntnose minnow are some native minnows that work well in aquaria. Some of these have beautiful breeding colors. Nongame fishes may be collected for aquarium purposes by the holder of a fishing permit, using techniques and in numbers specified in the Wildlife Code of Missouri. Make sure you identify the fishes correctly, since nearly 20 species are listed as species of conservation concern, which may limit or prohibit their possession (consult the current Wildlife Code of Missouri).
Few Missouri minnows are large enough to provide much in the way of food or fishing opportunities for people. The large, nonnative carp are obvious exceptions. The hornyhead chub and creek chub will rise readily to a fly or other small lure and provide some sport when taken on light tackle.
Small minnows are commonly used as bait fish.
For people, perhaps the greatest importance of minnows lies in their role in converting plants and aquatic invertebrates — the basic productivity of streams and lakes — into their own bodies, which become food for fish of more direct benefit to humans.
Aquatic wildlife, including the many small minnows that dart around in Missouri streams, is one of the reasons people enjoy going on float trips. Float trips contribute to Missouri’s economy and to people’s health and well-being.
People who keep tropical fish in aquariums are familiar with several members of the minnow family from other parts of the world, such as barbs (including the so-called bala shark), danios, rasboras, rainbow or redfin “sharks,” and the White Cloud Mountain minnow.
Aquarists and people who have fish ponds are familiar with goldfish and koi. For centuries, these two species of Asian minnows have been bred for bright colors and patterns, and were a way to show wealth and social affluence.
Some minnows are called “daces,” but what's a “dace”? It's a word that goes back to Middle English, where it became the name for a certain type of minnow, and then for just about any kind of small, darting minnow. It was derived from the word “dars,” which was the Old French word for “dart.”
It is possible to observe fishes in nature, and minnows can be fun to watch. Many species occur in clear, fairly shallow waters, and in spring, you can watch them during spawning season. Many minnows have brilliant colors and interesting behaviors during spawning season. If you are looking at them from above water, approach cautiously and avoid creating vibrations that may be transferred to the water. Consider using binoculars, or wear polarized sunglasses to reduce glare from the reflected sunlight. Choose days with little wind to break up the water’s surface.
The construction of large hydroelectric and flood control reservoirs in the last century has altered and destroyed stream habitat, leading to declines in many types of fishes, including some minnows. The presence of a dam, and an immense lake not inhabitable by stream-dwelling fishes, blocks waterways, preventing fishes from one side of the dam from recolonizing streams on the other side of it. So if a population in a small tributary stream is eliminated for some reason, there may be no way for that stream to become repopulated. Some of the minnows that have disappeared from certain stream systems due to this situation are the Ozark chub, bigeye chub, and Ozark shiner.
Other environmental changes that have caused declines are due to land management, such as timber cutting, construction, and agricultural practices that disturb soils and, through runoff, lead to increased siltation in streams. For fishes (like many of our Ozark minnows) that require clear-flowing streams with rocky or gravelly substrates, siltation is a major threat.