The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Pimephales promelas
Pimephales promelas
(Fathead Minnow)
Native Transplant

Copyright Info
Pimephales promelas Rafinesque, 1820

Common name: Fathead Minnow

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Moyle (1976a); Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Pflieger (1997).

Size: 10 cm.

Native Range: Over much of North America from Quebec to Northern Territories, and south to Alabama, Texas, and New Mexico (Page and Burr 1991).

Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Pimephales promelas are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL1968199619Bear; Black Warrior-Tombigbee; Cahaba; Coosa-Tallapoosa; Guntersville Lake; Locust; Lower Coosa; Lower Elk; Lower Tallapoosa; Middle Alabama; Middle Chattahoochee-Lake Harding; Middle Chattahoochee-Walter F; Middle Coosa; Middle Tallapoosa; Mulberry; Pickwick Lake; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Upper Alabama; Upper Tallapoosa
AK201820181Upper Kenai Peninsula
AZ1952200518Bill Williams; Black; Grand Canyon; Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Imperial Reservoir; Lake Mead; Lower Colorado; Lower Colorado Region; Lower Colorado-Marble Canyon; Lower Lake Powell; Lower Little Colorado; Lower Salt; Lower San Pedro; Middle Gila; Paria; Upper Gila-Mangas; Upper San Pedro; Whitewater Draw
AR1950198822Bayou Bartholomew; Bayou Macon; Bayou Meto; Bodcau Bayou; Dardanelle Reservoir; Lake Conway-Point Remove; Little Missouri; Little Red; Little River Ditches; Lower Arkansas-Maumelle; Lower Little Arkansas, Oklahoma; Lower Saline; Lower St. Francis; Lower Sulpher; McKinney-Posten Bayous; Ouachita Headwaters; Petit Jean; Poteau; Spring; Strawberry; Upper Ouachita; Upper Saline
CA1950202314Imperial Reservoir; Los Angeles; Lower Sacramento; Middle San Joaquin-Lower Chowchilla; Pajaro; Salinas; San Joaquin; San Pablo Bay; Santa Clara; Santa Ynez; Suisun Bay; Upper Cache; Upper Klamath; Upper Yuba
CO1969200912Colorado Headwaters; Colorado Headwaters-Plateau; Gunnison; Lower Dolores; Lower Green-Diamond; Lower Gunnison; Lower San Juan-Four Corners; Lower Yampa; Piedra; Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir; Upper Gunnison; White - Yampa
CT198620203New England Region; Outlet Connecticut River; Shetucket River
DE198619923Brandywine-Christina; Broadkill-Smyrna; Delaware Bay
FL195820246Apalachee Bay-St. Marks; Hillsborough; Lake Okeechobee; Lower Ochlockonee; Oklawaha; Peace
GA196819979Altamaha; Conasauga; Coosawattee; Savannah; South Atlantic-Gulf Region; Upper Coosa; Upper Ogeechee; Upper Savannah; Upper Tallapoosa
ID194520165Lower Boise; Lower Henrys; Pend Oreille Lake; Upper Snake; Upper Snake-Rock
KY198619867Barren; Middle Green; Rockcastle; Rolling Fork; Salt; Upper Cumberland; Upper Green
LA198020054Boeuf-Tensas; Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta; Lower Ouachita-Bayou De Loutre; Lower Red-Lake Iatt
ME197920195Kennebec; Lower Kennebec River; Maine Coastal; New England Region; Penobscot River
MD197620206Conococheague-Opequon; Gunpowder-Patapsco; Monocacy; Potomac; Upper Chesapeake; Youghiogheny
MA197919924Ashuelot River-Connecticut River; Concord River; Housatonic; Outlet Connecticut River
MS198020067Bogue Chitto; Little Tallahatchie; Lower Yazoo; Upper Leaf; Upper Yazoo; Yalobusha; Yazoo
MO197520132Bull Shoals Lake; Upper Gasconade
MT1980200519Blackfoot; Box Elder; Bullwhacker-Dog; Flathead Lake; Judith; Lower Bighorn; Lower Milk; Lower Musselshell; Marias; Middle Clark Fork; Milk; Missouri-Poplar; Pend Oreille; Stillwater; Upper Missouri-Dearborn; Upper Tongue; Upper Yellowstone-Lake Basin; Upper Yellowstone-Pompeys Pillar; Willow
NV196720216Carson Desert; Havasu-Mohave Lakes; Lake Mead; Lower Virgin; Muddy; Truckee
NH197319912Contoocook River; Upper Androscoggin River
NM195020158Animas; Chaco; Middle San Juan; San Francisco; Upper Gila-Mangas; Upper San Juan; Upper San Juan; Zuni
NY195020194Lower Hudson; Mohawk; Owego-Wappasening; Upper Susquehanna
NC1980201619French Broad-Holston; Lower Dan; Lower Yadkin; Middle Neuse; Nolichucky; Pigeon; Roanoke; Rocky; South Fork Catawba; South Yadkin; Upper Broad; Upper Catawba; Upper Dan; Upper Neuse; Upper New; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Pee Dee; Upper Tar; Upper Yadkin
OH190019813Sandusky; Scioto; Upper Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio
OK197319731Arkansas-White-Red Region
OR197920179Clackamas; Klamath; Lower Malheur; Lower Willamette; Pacific Northwest Region; South Santiam; Umpqua; Upper Klamath Lake; Upper Rogue
PA1983202412Bald Eagle; Lehigh; Lower Susquehanna; Lower Susquehanna-Penns; Lower West Branch Susquehanna; Pine; Sinnemahoning; Susquehanna; Upper Juniata; Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna; Upper Susquehanna-Tunkhannock; Upper West Branch Susquehanna
PR198320042Eastern Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico
SC200920094Lower Catawba; Saluda; Upper Broad; Upper Catawba
TX189219856International Falcon Reservoir; Lower Frio; Rio Grande-Falcon; South Laguna Madre; Upper Sabine; Upper San Antonio
UT1960201514Dirty Devil; Lower Green; Lower Green-Desolation Canyon; Lower Green-Diamond; Lower Lake Powell; Lower San Juan; Lower San Juan-Four Corners; Lower White; McElmo; Upper Colorado-Dolores; Upper Colorado-Kane Springs; Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir; Upper Lake Powell; Utah Lake
VA1973199512Kanawha; Mattaponi; Middle New; Middle Potomac-Catoctin; Potomac; Roanoke; South Fork Holston; Upper Clinch, Tennessee, Virginia; Upper Dan; Upper Levisa; Upper Roanoke; York
WA199020039Lake Washington; Lower Yakima; Nisqually; Nooksack; Pacific Northwest Region; Puget Sound; Rock; Snohomish; Stillaguamish
WV197319935Little Kanawha; Middle New; Monongahela; Potomac; Upper Kanawha
WY1980199410Big Horn Lake; Middle North Platte-Casper; Sweetwater; Upper Green; Upper Green; Upper Green-Flaming Gorge Reservoir; Upper Green-Slate; Upper Laramie; Upper Powder; Upper Tongue

Table last updated 7/16/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for states where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Means of Introduction: The popularity of this species as a baitfish and forage fish has led to widespread introductions. For example, Smith-Vaniz (1968) noted that this species is commonly used as a bait minnow and as a forage species in many farm ponds throughout Alabama; he concluded that records from that state's streams and impoundments were probably the result of introductions by anglers or escapes from nearby ponds. First recorded in Arizona in 1952, Minckley (1973) noted that the morphology of introduced populations in that state indicates a southwestern origin, most likely New Mexico or Texas. According to Shapovalov et al. (1959), the first record of Pimephales promelas in California is from a bait tank near the Colorado River in 1950. Shortly thereafter private interests, and also the Department of Fish and Game, imported the species for propagation. The resulting fish were distributed to a number of California waters to serve as forage for sport fishes (Shapovalov et al. 1959). Moyle (1976a) noted that as the bait industry grew, the species spread throughout California. According to Bell, the species may have spread into the Santa Clara River system, California, in imported water. Native to east slope rivers of Colorado, this species apparently was introduced to western parts of the state via bait bucket releases or as fish stock contaminants, or both (Woodling 1985). Pimephales promelas was found in Mill Creek, Delaware, in 1988, where it was probably introduced as a bait bucket release (Raasch and Altemus 1991). Swift et al. (1977) noted that specimens taken from two sites in Leon County, Florida, including Stiles Pond in 1958 and Jackson Lake in 1968, "are unquestionably the result of bait fish introductions." In Idaho, this species was introduced to two sites as a forage fish for bass, including ponds on the Perrine Trout Farm in Twin Falls County in about 1945 and Quayle Lake in Jefferson County in 1955 (Simpson and Wallace 1978). Burr and Warren (1986) noted that many Kentucky records are probably the result of deliberate introduction, but they did not provide details. Branson and Batch (1983) attributed the occurrence of Pimephales promelas in Meadow Creek, Kentucky, to a probable bait bucket release. Douglas (1974) noted that P. promelas has been transported from northern states and used as a forage fish in state and private fish hatcheries in Louisiana. He also reported the discovery of specimens in waters adjacent to some hatcheries and suspected that increased numbers entering Louisiana as a commercial bait import will, perhaps, result in wider distribution. Hendricks et al. (1979) remarked that the presence of this species in the Youghiogheny River drainage in Maryland may be the result of bait bucket introduction. Similarly, Hartel et al. (1996) attributed Massachusetts records to probable bait bucket releases. Eddy and Underhill (1974) noted that this species was important in the Minnesota bait industry and sold to local dealers and to out-of-state customers as far away as Florida and New Mexico. It also has been introduced to various water bodies in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota as a mosquito control agent (Eddy and Underhill 1974; Phillips et al. 1982). Ross and Brenneman (1991) considered its occurrence in parts of Mississippi to be due to introduction, most apparently the result of bait fish release; however, they noted that P. promelas in the Bogue Chitto system was "unfortunately released in a restoration effort by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks following a fish kill." Pflieger (1997) stated that most records from the Missouri Ozarks are probably the result of bait bucket releases or individuals that have escaped from minnow hatcheries. Although native to much of Nebraska, this species also has been introduced as food for gamefish in that state (Bouc 1987). Scarola (1973) stated that the single New Hampshire record, from a tributary of the Androscoggin River, may well be traced to the importation of this species as a bait fish. In their book on New Mexico fishes, Sublette et al. (1990) stated that it was introduced (apparently as a bait release) into the San Juan and Gila drainages by at least the 1950s, and into the Zuni and San Francisco drainages by the 1960s. Trautman (1981) remarked that the species was introduced to parts of Ohio outside its native range as a result of plantings by the conservation department and escapes from minnow buckets of anglers. Hendricks et al. (1979) stated that the presence of this species in the Youghiogheny drainage of Pennsylvania may be the result of bait bucket introductions. Ryon and Loar (1988) noted that a reproducing population in the White Oak Creek area (Clinch River system) of Tennessee resulted from escaped fish that had been used as food in various experiments and as test species for toxicological evaluations (also see Simon and Markle 1997). The presence of this species in one or more other areas in Tennessee may have been the result of bait bucket release (Etnier and Starnes 1993). Hubbs et al. (1991) presumed that the presence of this minnow throughout much of Texas is a result of bait releases. Sigler and Sigler (1987) stated that it was introduced in Utah Lake, Utah, as forage in 1969. Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) stated that the earliest record of capture in Virginia is 1950 and that Virginia populations likely are the result of bait bucket release or hatchery escapes. For example, these researchers noted that the York drainage record in Virginia may represent an escape from the Stevensville Hatchery and that the probable source of the South Fork Holston records is ponds at Buller Hatchery. According to Pearson and Krumholz (1984), reports of this species from the upper 300 miles of the Ohio River are possibly the result of bait bucket releases since the fathead is imported and sold extensively throughout the Ohio River basin. Becker (1983) reported the stocking of Pimephales promelas in sewage treatment ponds in Wisconsin and presumably elsewhere; however, he did not make clear reference to introductions into open waters of that state.

Red roseys, the aquarium variant of this species, have also been collected from an unnamed tributary to Big Branch Bayou in Lacombe, Louisiana, near a tropical fish farm in 2004 (K. Piller, pers. comm.).

Status: Established in most states where introduced. Pflieger (1997) noted that few self-sustaining populations occur in natural waters of the Missouri Ozarks. Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) remarked that it is unknown how many, if any, Virginia populations are stable. They commented that the species probably exists in numerous reservoirs and farm ponds. Swift et al. (1977) remarked that the establishment of this species in Florida is uncertain (Swift et al. 1977). Gilbert (personal communication) informed us that the species has never become established in Florida, even though it is sold in bait shops throughout that state. Starnes et al. (2011) suggest that this species rarely becomes established where introduced, and that records sporadic records from the Potomac drainage represent survivors from bait releases rather than breeding populations.

Impact of Introduction: Largely unknown. This species has been implicated as an adverse threat to young of the Colorado Pikeminnow (Ptychocheilus lucius), an endangered species (Karp and Tyus 1990). There is also concern that this species, as well as other introduced fishes, may compete with or prey on young suckers and thereby contribute to the decline of imperiled species including the Lost River Sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and Shortnose Sucker (Chasmistes brevirostris) in Oregon and northern California (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1993e). Fathead Minnow has a similar diet composition to juvenile Bluehead (Catostomus discobolus) and Flannelmouth (Catostomus latipinnis) Suckers, indicating the potential for competition over food resources (Zahn Seegert et al. 2014).

Introduced fishes, including Pimephales promelas, are likely at least partially responsible for the decline of the Chiracahua leopard frog Rana chiricahuensis in southeastern Arizona (Rosen et al. 1995).

Remarks: The popularity of Pimephales promelas as a bait fish and the ease with which it is propagated have led to widespread introductions both within and outside its native range. However, because the species has been so widely introduced, its natural range is somewhat obscure. Consequently, the literature is somewhat confusing and, in part, contradictory concerning the native versus nonnative distribution. For instance, Boschung (1992) noted that it apparently is not native to Alabama, and Etnier and Starnes (1993) indicated that its status as native in Tennessee also is uncertain. In addition, some early reports of this species actually pertain to Pimephales notatus (Jenkins and Burkhead 1994). Schmidt (1986) listed this species as introduced to several river drainages in the northern Appalachians including the Delaware, Hudson, Connecticut, Kennebec, and St. John; however, he stated that the "status of P. promelas as native or introduced in the Hudson River is problematic." Based on their dot distribution map, Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) considered records from the Hudson River drainage in New York and a record from the Androscoggin River system (Kennebec drainage) in northern New Hampshire to be part of its native distribution. Hocutt et al. (1986) listed Pimephales promelas as introduced to nine river drainages in the Central Appalachians and Central Atlantic coastal plain including the Pee Dee, Roanoke, York, Potomac, Susquehanna, Muskingum, Allegheny, Monongahela, and Little Kanawha; they listed it as introduced (but possibly native) to the Kanawha above and below the falls. In their summary table of West Virginia fishes, Stauffer et al. (1995) listed it as introduced to several river drainages including the Potomac, Monongahela, Little Kanawha, and the Kanawha above and below the falls. Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) noted that it was native to the Tennessee and Big Sandy drainages, but they considered all populations in Virginia as well as those in extralimital parts of the New drainage to have been introduced. In their summary table of Virginia fishes, Jenkin and Burkhead listed Pimephales promelas as introduced to the Potomac, York, Roanoke, and York river drainages, and introduced (but possibly native) to the Holston, Clinch-Powell, and Big Sandy river drainages. In his summary table on fishes introduced to North Carolina, Menhinick (1991) listed this species as introduced to the New, Broad, Catawba, and Roanoke river drainages, and probably introduced to the Tennessee River drainage. Etnier and Starnes (1993) indicated that substantial reproducing populations are not known from natural habitats in Tennessee and "suggests the fathead may not be indigenous to the region." Although currently widespread in Tennessee, Etnier and Starnes also remarked that the species was not reported or collected during early fish surveys and reports. Walters (1997) listed this species as introduced to the Conasauga River system in Georgia. Ross and Brenneman (1991) considered it to be introduced to two systems (Leaf River and Bogue Chitto systems) that are part of the Gulf of Mexico Basin in Mississippi and likely introduced to the Yazoo River drainage (Mississippi River basin).

On a broad geographic scale, Minnesota and Nebraska are well within the boundaries of the native range of Pimephales promelas. Nevertheless, it is likely that this minnow was introduced to sites within parts of one or more sites in these state where it was previously absent. Cross et al. (1986) listed it as introduced to several river drainages in the western Mississippi River basin including Ouachita, the lower Arkansas, the White, and the St. Francis-Little. In their summary of fishes of the western Gulf Slope, Conner and Suttkus (1986) listed Pimephales promelas as introduced to several drainages including the Nueces, San Antonio Bay, and Sabine Lake; they listed it as native to the Colorado, Brazos, and Galveston Bay drainages. Lee et al. (1980) indicated that the species was native to eastern Montana and introduced to many sites in the central part of the state; however, Holton (1990) listed it as native to Montana and did not discuss the possibility of introduction. Tyus et al. (1982) gave a map showing the distribution of this species in the upper Colorado basin. Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) provided a dot distribution map distinguishing between what was considered native records versus those thought to represent introduced records.

References: (click for full references)

Bradley, W. G. and J. E. Deacon. 1967. The biotic communities of southern Nevada. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers No. 13, Part 4. 201-273.

Erdsman, D.S.  1984.  Exotic fishes in Puerto Rico, p 162-176, In:  W.R.Jr. Courtenay and J.R.Jr. Stauffer, eds. Distribution, Biology, and Management of Exotic Fishes. John Hopkins. Baltimore and London.

Karp, C.A. and H.M. Tyus. 1990. Behavioral interactions between young Colorado squawfish and six fish species. Copeia 1990(1):25-34.

Lanigan, S. H. and C. R. Berry Jr. 1981. Distribution of Fishes in the White River, Utah. The Southwestern Naturalist, 26(4): 389-393.

Matern, S.A., P.B. Moyle, and L.C. Pierce. 2002. Native and alien fishes in a California estuarine marsh: twenty-one years of changing assemblages. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 131: 797-816.

Miller, R.R. and C.H. Lowe. 1967. Part 2. Fishes of Arizona, p 133-151, In: C.H. Lowe, ed. The Vertebrates of Arizona. University of Arizona Press. Tucson.

Piller, K. - Southeastern Louisiana University.

Rohde, F. C., R. G. Arndt, J. W. Foltz, and J. M. Quattro.  2009.  Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina.  University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC. 430 pp.

Rosen, P.C., C.R. Schwalbe, D.A. Parizek, Jr., P.A. Holm, and C.H. Lowe. 1995. Introduced aquatic vertebrates in the Chiricahua region: effects on declining native ranid frogs. Pages 251-261 in DeBano, L.H., P.H. Folliott, A. Ortega-Rubio, G.J. Gottfried, R.H. Hamre, and C.B. Edminster, eds. Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago: the sky islands of southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Fort Collins, CO.

Starnes, W.C., J. Odenkirk, and M.J. Ashton. 2011. Update and analysis of fish occurrences in the lower Potomac River drainage in the vicinity of Plummers Island, Maryland—Contribution XXXI to the natural history of Plummers Island, Maryland. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 124(4):280-309.

Sommer, T, B. Harrell, M. Nobriga, R. Brown, P. Moyle, W. Kimmerer, and L. Schemel. 2001. California's Yolo Bypass: Evidence that flood control can be compatible with fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and agriculture. Fisheries. American Fisheries Society. 26 (8): 6-16.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1993. Lost River (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose (Chamistes brevirostris) sucker recoery plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Portland, Oregon.

Vinyard, G.L. 2001. Fish Species Recorded from Nevada. Biological Resources Research Center. University of Nevada, Reno. 5 pp.

Zahn Seegert, S.E., E.J. Rosi-Marshall, C.V. Baxter, T.A. Kennedy, R.O. Hall, and W.F. Cross. 2014. High diet overlap between native small-bodied fishes and nonnative Fathead Minnow in the Colorado River, Grand Canyon, Arizona. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 143(4):1072-1083.

Other Resources:
Florida Museum of Natural History - Ichthyology Collection Database.  University of Florida.  http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/Collection/collection.htm

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 7/11/2024

Peer Review Date: 2/17/2015

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2024, Pimephales promelas Rafinesque, 1820: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=621, Revision Date: 7/11/2024, Peer Review Date: 2/17/2015, Access Date: 7/16/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/16/2024].

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