Jump to content


Sheepshead minnow as a pond fish?

9 replies to this topic

#1 Joshaeus

  • NANFA Guest

Posted 12 February 2017 - 01:52 PM

Hello all! I am considering using the sheepshead minnow, Cyprinodon variegatus, in a container pond this year...I have a few questions about using them for such a purpose:

1 - How visible are they in container ponds? The 'pond' in question is a 24 inch diameter pot.

2 - How much salt will they need? Will 1/4th teaspoon reef salt work, or do they need more than that? (I want to have enough to keep them happy while having sufficiently little to grow typical pond plants...REALLY want a water lily)

3 - I understand that when they encounter low (below 50 degree) temperatures in the wild, sheepshead minnows burrow into the substrate until the temperatures warm up. Since adding the sand to the bottom of the pot would make it unwieldly and heavy, can I simply provide several jars with a couple inches of sand in them each? Should I even bother providing a substrate?


Thankx in advance :) Really confuses me why sheepsheads aren't more popular aquarium fishes considering how hardy they are.

#2 Joshaeus

  • NANFA Guest

Posted 14 February 2017 - 02:48 PM

Well...any thoughts?

#3 Doug_Dame

  • NANFA Member

Posted 14 February 2017 - 04:08 PM

Being a brackish water fish, this is probably not a fish that a lot of people have kept. So lack of experience probably explains why no answers yet.


I have kept a few ... that literally washed into my front yard during Hurricane Hermine ... in a pure f/w community tank. And I've kept them before in brackish water tanks. I have not tried keeping them outdoors. Some observations:

* seem to do fine in a pure f/w environment with plants. I had four originally, lost one in Dec and another last month. AFAICT, just normal age-related mortality, they were all adult-sized when I got them in August.

* they're reasonably active fish

* omnivores, happy to take a variety of flake foods

* bottom-dwellers, and semi-cryptically colored from above. 

* Breeding males get an irridiscent blue flash on their head which is attractive.

* They also tend to get rather territorial, and expend much energy defending their territory. Certainly from other male CVs, but also from some other species. Or individuals they don't like. I haven't figured out exactly what gets their attention. Having various pieces of structure reduces the visual stimulation and gives cover to the pursued. I have not seen physical damage, it's mostly chasing. They don't tend to go up and bother mid-water or top-water fish. (one batch of brackish water ones were in a 55g, mostly with other brackish water killies, like F. grandis and similis, and mollies; the others were in a 20L species tank.)


The fact that they seem to live well in freshwater is a big plus, since there's very few aquarium-type plants that like salt. Don't know if they would breed in f/w however.


I count these pupfish as "personality fish" with an interesting shape and behaviors. You'd miss out on a lot of that by putting them in a container pond, as opposed to an aquarium where you could more easily watch them,


In the wild, adults and especially juvvies are often seen in extremely shallow water, usually over sand. 


Cohabitate especially well with mollies, which tend to prefer the surface and mid-waters.


Don't have personal experience with their cold water adaptations.


A 24" pot filled with water is going to be heavy enough that an inch or two of substrate isn't going to make a significant difference in how movable the pot is. I think a substrate will make a significant difference in how comfortable your CV are in their environment. But you can get a serious wheeled plant stand (dolly) for $20 to $30 that would give your pot mobility. (On a smooth surface, not so much on grass.) I've had good luck with the DeVault brand (see Amazon) but there are others that look comparable. 



Doug Dame

Floridian now back in Florida

#4 Chasmodes

  • NANFA Member
  • Central Maryland

Posted 14 February 2017 - 05:36 PM

Good stuff Doug.


I had few along with some mummichogs in a 10 gallon many many years ago along with a blue devil damsel.  It was my first saltwater tank.  I caught them locally and just dumped them into the full saltwater.  It didn't phase them at all (as I was hoping).  They were out and eating the next morning.  I had one male and three females.  They were quite entertaining.    

Kevin Wilson

#5 don212

  • NANFA Member

Posted 14 February 2017 - 08:34 PM

there is a freshwater subspecies in lake eustis fl.

#6 Doug_Dame

  • NANFA Member

Posted 15 February 2017 - 12:13 AM

there is a freshwater subspecies in lake eustis fl.


Yes there is.


And according to the new Imperiled Species Management Plan adopted by the FWC at their November meeting, the "Lake Eustis pupfish" has been moved from a Florida Species of Special Concern, to De-Listed, effective last month. So now it's legal for hobbyists to keep them without getting special permits. 


There was a big push in this plan to move species from the Species of Special Concern status to either Threatened, or Not Listed. The current use of SSC is basically as a temporary time out, due to lack of sufficient scientific evidence to conclude that a species is indeed Threatened. (Or not.)


(Other species of possible interest here that had status changes were:

* Pt. welaka - bluenose shiner - from SSC to Threatened

* Kryptolebias (nee Rivulus) marmoratus - mangrove rivulus - from SSC to De-Listed)

Doug Dame

Floridian now back in Florida

#7 don212

  • NANFA Member

Posted 15 February 2017 - 02:49 PM

i wonder if anyone will want to head to lake eustis next week?

#8 Joshaeus

  • NANFA Guest

Posted 15 February 2017 - 05:12 PM

Was more worried about moving the pot when it is emptied of water (in which case the sand could be important). Anyhow, thankx!

#9 lilyea

  • NANFA Member
  • Peace River Watershed, Central Florida, USA

Posted 24 February 2017 - 11:25 PM

Joshaeus - I currently keep Cyprinodon variegatus in a brackish setup and have previously kept them in a full saltwater setup.  My understanding is that they could be kept in anything from full saltwater to full freshwater but would not breed without a certain minimal level of salt.  Although I don't have many answers to your questions, I will be interested to hear about your findings.  Best of luck!

#10 mmyers1976

  • NANFA Guest

Posted 26 February 2018 - 12:02 PM

I grew up catching sheepshead minnows down on Galveston Island, always thought of them as a brackish/marine species, so I was surprised to catch some about 30 miles upstream of where Buffalo Bayou enters the most inland, and lowest salinity part of the Galveston Bay system, in a little tributary creek that should be completely freshwater. I put them in my pond, but they disappeared, just like the male sailfin mollies and golden topminnows I've also tried to keep in my pond. Female mollies do fine and reproduce, as do all gambusia, so I suspect the more colorful fish like male sailfin mollies and sheepshead minnows are getting snatched by birds.

Reply to this topic


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users