Phoxinus phoxinus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common Name: Eurasian minnow

Synonyms and Other Names:

common minnow, Cyprinus aphya, C. chrysoprasius, C. galian, C. isetensis, C. lumaireul, C. morella, C. phoxinus, C. rivularis, Leuciscus phoxinus, Phoxinus csikii, P. laevis, P. marsilii, P. rivularis, P. varius, Phoxynus montanus, Salmo rivularis

Karel Jakubec ( Info

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Identification: Phoxinus phoxinus coloration can be variable according to age, maturity stage, environment, and season (Maitland 2004). The body is covered with small scales except for the belly between the pelvic and pectoral fins (Frost 1943). Normally, the dorsal side is brownish-green, and is separated from the whitish-gray ventral side by a longitudinal series of blotches that may unite into a dark line. During the breeding season, males are brightly colored and have reddish pectoral and pelvic fins, a black throat, and a scarlet belly.

Size: 29-78 mm fork length

Native Range: Most of Europe, including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, parts of Norway, Poland, and Sweden (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010).

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Phoxinus phoxinus has been introduced to eight counties in Norway (Museth et al. 2007). It is rare in the Czech Republic (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010). It is common in the European part of Russia (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010).

Ecology: Phoxinus phoxinus inhabits fresh and brackish ponds, lakes, and streams located in coastal areas to the high mountains (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010). It is more common in shallow lakes and slow flowing streams (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010). This species prefers stony substrates over sand (Jacobsen 1979) and occurs in areas with vegetation (Frost 1943). This species often occurs in shoals. It occurs in waters that have ice cover during the winter and has been recorded in waters with temperatures up to 31°C (Frost 1943). This species is found in waters with salinities up to 6 ppt (Thorman 1986). Observations performed by Jones (1952) on the reaction to various dissolved oxygen levels suggest that P. phoxinus can tolerate dissolved oxygen levels as low as 4-6 mg/L; it only produces a reaction at lower dissolved oxygen levels. Phoxinus phoxinus occurs in both acidic and alkaline waters (Frost 1943).

Phoxinus phoxinus feeds on zooplankton, aquatic and terrestrial macroinvertebrates, mollusks, and plant material (Frost 1943). Trout are known to prey on P. phoxinus (Borgstrøm et al. 2010, Dauod et al. 1985).

This species reaches sexual maturity after their second year to fourth year (Dauod et al. 1985, Mills and Eloranta 1985). The spawning season is from June to July (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010), and fish migrate from lakes toward rivers to spawn (Frost 1943). Adhesive eggs are produced over stones and gravel (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010). The relative fecundity of P. phoxinus is 97.3 egg/g total weight (Mills and Eloranta 1985).

Means of Introduction: Phoxinus phoxinus has a moderate probability of introduction to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: High).

Potential pathway(s) of introduction: Trans-oceanic shipping (ballast water)

Phoxinus phoxinus may be able to be taken up in ballast water and survive ballast tank environments. This species is capable of surviving over two weeks without food (Russell and Wootton 1992), and can tolerate a wide range of temperatures (Frost 1943, Thorman 1986) and moderately low dissolved oxygen levels (Jones 1952).  However, current ballast regulations may substantially impact its survival. Phoxinus phoxinus occurs in ports that have direct trade connections with the Great Lakes (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010, NBIC 2009).

Phoxinus phoxinus does not currently occur near waters connected to the Great Lakes. This species is not known to hitchhike or foul recreational gear. It is not cultured, stocked, or sold in the Great Lakes region.

Status: Not established in North America, including the Great Lakes.

Phoxinus phoxinus has a moderate probability of establishment if introduced to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: High).

The Great Lakes climate is similar to the current range of Phoxinus phoxinus (Australian Bureau of Rural Sciences 2010). Phoxinus phoxinus can tolerate a broad range of temperatures and moderately low oxygen levels. This species occurs in the southern Bothnian Sea, Sweden, which has ice cover for about 4-5 months (Thorman 1986); thus it is likely that it is capable of overwintering in the Great Lakes. This species inhabits littoral zones with gravel and rocky bottoms (Museth et al. 2002), which are habitats that are available in the Great Lakes basin. Due to its broad physiological tolerance, Phoxinus phoxinus will likely be able to adapt to the effects of climate change in the Great Lakes.  As an omnivorous fish with a broad diet, P. phoxinus is likely able to find an appropriate food source in the Great Lakes. It has been suggested by Borgstrøm et al. (2010) that introduced P. phoxinus competes with brown trout for prey, causing reduced brown trout recruitment and individual growth rates. The fecundity of Phoxinus phoxinus ranges from 200-1,000 eggs per female (Museth et al. 2002), which is slightly lower than the fecundity of P. cumberlandensis of 1,540 eggs per female (Starnes and Starnes 1981).

After its introduction to Lake Øvre Heimdalsvatn in the 1960s, it was heavily preyed on by brown trout (Museth et al. 2005). Brown trout currently occurs in the Great Lakes and is non-native (Fuller et al. 2014), but it is unknown whether it will prevent the establishment of P. phoxinus in the Great Lakes. Its distribution has spread primarily by anglers (Museth et al. 2007). In Norway, its spread was limited to the southeast during the early 1900s, but by the 1950s, translocations of P. phoxinus had become frequent. In Lake Øvre Heimdalsvatn, P. phoxinus were first observed in 1969 and spread to the whole lake by 1985 (Naestad and Brittain 2010). Phoxinus phoxinus has also spread by unintentional introduction with the stocking of hatchery-reared brown trout, and by dispersal downstream from upstream reservoirs (Museth et al. 2007).

Great Lakes Impacts: Phoxinus phoxinus has the potential for moderate environmental impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Following the introduction of Phoxinus phoxinus, the composition of the littoral benthos changed from one that was once dominated by Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, Plecoptera, and Gammarus lacustris to one that is dominated by chironomids and ogliochaetes (Naestad and Brittain 2010). By changing the composition of the lower food web, P. phoxinus has the potential to alter predator-prey relationships. In subalpine lakes in southern Norway, P. phoxinus has been implicated as a carrier of parasites that infect snails, mussels, and some insects (Hesthagen and Sandlund 2010). There are no reports that show that Phoxinus phoxinus has outcompeted native species or genetically impacted native species. It has not been indicated that P. phoxinus negatively affects water quality or the physical components of an ecosystem.

Phoxinus phoxinus has the potential for low socio-economic impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

It has been suggested that the presence of Phoxinus phoxinus in Lake Øvre Heimdalsvatn has resulted in reduced recruitment and reduced annual individual growth rates in brown trout, a recreationally valuable fish that is stocked (Borgstrøm et al. 2010, Museth et al. 2007). Phoxinus phoxinus does not pose a threat to human health or water quality. This species is not known to damage infrastructure. It does not affect any markets or economic sectors, and does not diminish the perceived natural value of the areas it inhabits.

Phoxinus phoxinus has the potential for low beneficial impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Anglers in Europe value P. phoxinus as bait fish (Museth et al. 2007). There are no reports suggesting that P. phoxinus can act as a biological control agent. It is not recreationally or medically valuable. This species is not known to improve water quality or to have a positive ecological impact.

Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes region)

There are no known regulations for this species.*

*Ballast water regulations applicable to this species are currently in place to prevent the introduction of nonindigenous species to the Great Lakes via shipping. See Title 33: Code of Federal Regulations, Part 151, Subparts C and D (33 CFR 151 C) for the most recent federal ballast water regulations applying to the Great Lakes and Hudson River.

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.


There are no known biological control methods for this species.

There are no known physical control methods for this species. 

There are no known chemical control methods specific to this species. General piscicides (such as rotenone) may be used for control, but expect significant kill of non-target species.

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.


Australian Bureau of Rural Sciences. 2010. CLIMATCH: 7 August 2014. 

Borgstrøm, R., J. Museth, and J.E. Brittain. 2010. The brown trout (Salmo trutta) in lake, Øvre Heimdalsvatn: long-term changes in population dynamics due to exploitation and the invasive species, European  minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus). Hydrobiologia 642: 81-91.

Dauod, H.A., T. Bolger, and J.J. Bracken. 1985. Studies on the minnow Phoxinus phoxinus (L.) from an upland Irish reservoir system. Irish Fisheries Investigations Series A 26: 3-22.

Frost, W.E. 1943. The natural history of the minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus. Journal of Animal Ecology 12(2): 139-162.

Fuller, P., J. Larson, A. Fusaro, T.H. Makled, and M. Neilson. 2014. Salmo trutta. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI. Revision Date: 7/8/2014.

Hesthagen, T., and O.T. Sandlund. 2010. NOBANIS—Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet Phoxinus Phoxinus. From: Online Database of the European Network on Invasive Alien Species—NOBANIS 5 August 2014.

Jacobsen, O.J. 1979. Substrate preference in minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus). Polskie Archiwum Hydrobiologie 26: 371-378.

Jones, J.R.E. 1952. The reactions of fish to water of low oxygen concentration. Journal of Experimental Biology 29(3): 403-415.

Kolar, C.S., and D.M. Lodge. 2002. Ecological predictions and risk assessment for alien fishes in North America. Science 298: 1233-1236.

Maitland, P.S. 2004. Keys to the freshwater fish of Britain and Ireland, with notes on their distribution and ecology. Freshwater Biological Association. Scientific Publication No. 62. 

Mills, C.A., and A. Eloranta. 1985. The biology of Phoxinus phoxinus (L.) and other littoral zone fishes in Lake Konnevesi, central Finland. Ann. Zool. Fennici 22: 1-12.

Museth, J., R. Borgstrøm, J.E. Brittain, I. Herberg, and C. Naalsund. 2002. Introduction of the European minnow into a subalpine lake: habitat use and long-term changes in population dynamics. Journal of Fish Biology 60: 1308-1321.

Museth, J., R. Borgstrøm, T. Hame, and L.Å. Holen. 2005. Predation by brown trout: a major mortality factor for sexually mature European minnows. Journal of Fish Biology 62: 692-705.

Museth, J., T. Hesthagen, O.T. Sandlund, E. Thorstad, and O. Ugedal. 2007. The history of the European minnow in Norway: from harmless species to pest. Journal of Fish Biology 71 (Supplement D): 184-195.

Naestad, F., and J.E. Brittain. 2010. Long-term changes in the littoral benthos of a Norwegian subalpine lake following the introduction of the European minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus). Hydrobiologia 642: 71-79.

National Ballast Information Clearinghouse 2009. NBIC Online Database. Electronic publication, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center & United States Coast Guard. Available from; searched 5 August 2014.

Russel, N.R., and R.J. Wootton. 1992. Appetite and growth compensation in the European minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus (Cyprinidae), following short periods of food restriction. Environmental Biology of Fishes 34(3): 277-285.

Starnes, L.B., and W.C. Starnes. 1981. Biology of the blackside dace Phoxinus cumberlandensis. American Midland Naturalist 106(2): 360-371.

Thorman, S. 1986. Colonisation and effects of salinity and temperature on species richness and abundance of fish of some brackish and estuarine shallow waters in Sweden. Holarctic Ecology 9(2): 126-132.

U.S. EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency). 2008. Predicting future introductions of nonindigenous species to the Great Lakes. National Center for Environmental Assessment, Washington, DC; EPA/600/R-08/066F. Available from the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA, and

Author: Baker, E., M. Tucker, and J. Li.

Contributing Agencies:

Revision Date: 2/4/2015

Citation for this information:
Baker, E., M. Tucker, and J. Li., 2018, Phoxinus phoxinus (Linnaeus, 1758): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI,, Revision Date: 2/4/2015, Access Date: 12/11/2018

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.