What to Know About White Cloud Minnows

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on January 09, 2023
5 min read

White cloud minnows are colorful and strong freshwater fish. This adaptable species lives happily in community tanks, small spaces, and outdoor ponds. These traits make them excellent pets for beginning aquarium owners and seasoned hobbyists. Are you considering adding white cloud minnows to your home? Discover their characteristics, needs, and breeding habits. 

The white cloud mountain minnow (Tanichthys albonubes) is a small freshwater species. This fish was first discovered in 1932 at White Cloud Mountain in Guangdong Province, China. Its natural range includes the surrounding Pearl River Delta region in China and Northern Vietnam. 

In the wild, this fish lives in slow-moving brooks and streams filled with heavy vegetation. The species has adapted to frequent temperature changes in its native environment, which allows it to survive in water as cold as 41 F (5 C). 

Tourism in the White Cloud Mountain area has threatened the survival of white cloud minnows in their natural habitat. No wild specimens were found between 1980 and 2001, which led people to believe they're extinct. 

In the last two decades, scientists have discovered wild populations of the minnows in Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan Island. Researchers have also found six new cryptic — or sister — species of wild white cloud minnows in South China. Despite these discoveries, the species remains critically endangered. 

By contrast, white cloud minnows thrive in the global aquarium trade. Pet owners frequently seek this fish out because of its low care requirements. To satisfy demand, many countries have stable captive breeding populations of white cloud minnows and sell them as ornamental pet fish.

This species is known for its peaceful temperament. It enjoys traveling in schools, so it does best when kept in a tank with at least six other white cloud minnows. The fish’s docile nature also makes it a suitable addition to community freshwater tanks containing other species with similar care requirements.  

The white cloud minnow is an active fish that enjoys swimming in the upper and middle layers of the tank. Its constant motion makes it an entertaining fish to watch.

The white cloud minnow is a small, attractive fish. It has blunt snouts with thin lips and slightly bulging lower jaw. It has a single long anal fin and smaller dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins. The minnow also has a single caudal — or tail — fin. It doesn’t have any barbels, or organs that look like whiskers, around its mouth. 

One rare kind of white cloud minnows has moderately elongated fins. Some people refer to these fish as meteor minnows or red rocket minnows.

Many aquarium owners choose white cloud minnows because of their stunning colors. This fish typically has a green and gold body. Dark blue or black horizontal stripes run from the head to the tail. The dorsal and anal fins are green with transparent edges. Red spots cover the caudal fin. 

There are several color variations in white cloud minnows. For example, the Linni variation has white fins edged with red and a slightly redder body.

Females typically have duller colors than males.

The white cloud minnow can grow up to 2 inches (5 centimeters) long.  Females have round bodies, while males are generally slim. 

Because of the fish’s small size, it’s a good idea to avoid housing it with large species known to eat smaller fish.

The white cloud minnow has minimal care requirements, making it a great choice for inexperienced freshwater fish owners.  

The minimum white cloud minnow tank size is 10 to 12 gallons. The water should have a hardness of 5 to 25 dH and a pH of 6 to 8. 

This fish likes to hide in vegetation, so stock the tank with fine-leaved plants. This species also enjoys mild currents resembling its native mountain streams, so consider adding a wave maker to the tank.

An acceptable white cloud minnow temperature ranges from 64 F to 72 F. Because of its ability to tolerate many temperatures, this flexible species can live in a tropical aquarium or an unheated fish tank. 

In most climates, you can also keep this hardy fish outside in a pond from May to October. A white cloud minnow raised outside will develop a richer color and grow larger than fish kept in tanks year-round. However, you should relocate the minnow to an indoor fish tank when the temperature drops during the winter.

When properly cared for, the expected white cloud minnow lifespan is 3 to 5 years, though many live 5 to 7 years.

The white cloud minnow is an omnivorous fish. In the wild, its diet includes aquatic insect larvae, plankton, and tiny metazoans called meiobenthos. 

You can feed a pet white cloud minnow many foods, such as fish flakes, live foods, and pellets.

You can breed white cloud minnows at home easily under the right conditions. Heat the fish tank to 68 F to 72 F (20 C to 22 C). Females lay eggs between plant leaves, and fry hatch between 36 and 72 hours. One mating pair can produce 200 to 300 fry at once.

Feed the fry infusoria and fine dust food to start. As they grow bigger, they begin to hunt on the water’s surface and can eat micro-worms and larval brine shrimp. Change the water frequently to maintain cleanliness.

Adults eat their eggs, so you should remove them from the tank. 

School teachers have bred white cloud minnows in the classroom to teach students about embryogenesis and the development stages of fish. The minnow is an ideal species for this learning experience because it reproduces quickly.

White cloud minnows make excellent pets, especially for beginner aquarium owners. These hardy fish can thrive in many different tank setups and temperatures, so they’re easier to care for than more fussy species. You can even breed more white cloud minnows in your fish tank, though it’s best to ensure that you have a plan for keeping or selling any fry your fish produce. 

If you’re looking for a brightly colored, low-maintenance freshwater fish, you can’t go wrong by choosing the white cloud minnow.