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.).
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).
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.
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.