How to Keep Minnows Alive (Step by Step Guide)

One of the effective ways how to attract a fish is to use live bait. This is because there’s a higher tendency for your targeted fish—whether it’s large or small—will be drawn to its movement. 

The commonly used live baits are minnows. It’s a popular bait for anglers because it can guarantee a good catch. However, it’s a bit challenging to use this kind of bait. For it to be an effective bait, you must ensure that it’s kept alive. 

Good thing there are ways to ensure that minnows are still alive to be an effective lure. Know more information about minnows, and we’ll give you the step-by-step process on how to keep minnows alive. 

how to keep minnows alive
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Fishing Tip! Here are the best fishing hooks to pair with your live bait for the best fishing experience!

Kinds of Minnows Best for Fishing

There are over 48 known species of this fish bait that have varying colors and sizes. The type of minnows that you can use would depend on the fish species that you’re targeting.

Here are some of the types of minnows that anglers use:

Fall Fish

The fall fish is known as one of the largest native minnows in New York that can grow up to a length of 17 inches. It’s commonly used by fly fish anglers that usually catch fish on clear streams, ponds, and lakes. It’s not an effective bait for muddy water.

Common Fathead 

This has a thick body and blunt head with an overall dark olive and lighter silvery bodily shade. If you want to breed your own bait, the common fathead minnow is the right choice.

It can survive in any environmental condition, it can feed on a variety of food sources, and it has a high reproductive output.

Creek Chub

Large creek chubs may range from 6-12 inches in length. They usually live in fast-moving waters like rivers. You can easily distinguish them through the dark spot found at their fins. It’s a favorite bait even for children’s use because this bait can easily be attached to the hook.

Golden Shiner

This bait is widely found in almost all bodies of water. It’s also one of the minnows that anglers raise as baits. It can grow up to 7 inches long. It’s an ideal bait for bass with its long and narrow body.

Blacknose Dace

These minnows can be distinguished through the speckles found all over their body. It’s an excellent bait because of its hardiness.

If you want to breed them, you’ll not have a hard time multiplying their population because they don’t require much care. It’s usually given to predator fish like trout and bass.

How to Keep Minnows Alive at Home (With or Without an Aerator): Step-by-Step Guide

Purchasing live bait from bait shops is the best option if you’re an occasional angler. However, if you fish regularly, it’s practical to breed them personally at home.

Minnows don’t live long once they’re taken into captivity, so it’s essential to learn how to take good care of them. Here’s the step on how to keep minnows alive at home:

Step 1: Before purchasing live minnows, prepare the bait tank where you’ll place them. The tank’s size will depend on how many you’re going to place in there. Make sure that they aren’t crowded. There’s a possibility that overcrowding will kill your minnows in less than 24 hours due to oxygen depletion. 

Step 2: It’s ideal to fill the bait container with creek, lake, or spring water. If it’s unavailable, it is better to use distilled water because its pH level is close to the waters in its natural habitat. Avoid using tap water because its chemicals may harm minnows.

Step 3: Acclimation is a necessary process. Before placing the minnows into their tank, mix some of their water into the water where they’re held in. This will allow them to adjust to the water and its temperature. After 30 minutes, that’s when you can transfer them into their tank.

Step 4: Minnows can thrive in changing temperatures, but they prefer a cooler temperature. Since you’re taking them out from their natural habitat, the ideal temperature that you need to maintain is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Step 5: Minnows prefer the summer season to mimic a summer-like atmosphere and invest in a LED light that’s lit for about 15 hours a day. 

Step 6: If you’re keeping minnows alive for just a few hours or a couple of days, you may no longer use an aerator. An aerator ensures that the oxygen level is sufficient to avoid suffocation. If you’re breeding them for longer use, you need to change the water often, so an aerator is much needed. 

Tips to Keep Minnows Alive While Fishing

  1. During the fishing trip, it’s important to keep the water cool. It can be done by placing ice cubes in a jar and placing them inside the best fishing bucket that you have. Don’t add the ice cubes directly into their water, especially if you don’t know where it came from. It may contain chemicals that may kill them.
  2. If you’re at the destination, immerse the bait bucket into the waters where you’re fishing. This is a way of acclimation, so they won’t die easily if they’re thrown into the water as bait.
  3. During your fishing adventure, the water in your minnow bucket can become stale, affecting the water quality that may result in poorly oxygenated water. If you’ll fish for long hours, always check the water condition and change with cool water. 
  4. If you’re bringing in a lot of minnows, keep in mind not to overcrowd them. Use more than one minnow bucket if necessary. Overcrowding may also stress them.
  5. Placing hooks into the minnows is also a skill. As long as you’ve incorporated the hook well, they can swim naturally into the water, which can lure your targeted fish easily. The way how you place the hook will determine how long your minnow can stay alive as bait. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I keep minnows alive at home?

It’s important to keep minnows alive at home before the actual fishing trip because using dead minnows as bait can be useless. If you’ve purchased that live bait in a bait shop, you need to keep them alive so as not to waste your money.
Your goal is to make your minnows healthy before using them as bait to ensure that they’ll stay alive with the hook for an extended period.

What do I feed minnows?

They feed on smaller fish, insect larvae, zooplankton, fish eggs, and even algae in their natural habitat. If taken into captivity, food sources like bread and vegetables can be their food.
You may give them frozen blood worms, fish flakes, or frozen shrimp if you have the budget. 
Even though you’re giving them the best foods, it may still affect their lifespan if you feed them incorrectly. Like other fishes, minnows are also susceptible to overfeeding, so you need to follow proper feeding.


Keeping minnows alive needs great patience and effort. There may be some hard types of minnows that can withstand all environmental changes.

However, it still requires optimum care to ensure that it’s still kicking when it’s time for them to be used as bait. Keeping minnows alive longer can be achieved by following the steps mentioned above properly. 

Diana Nadim
Fishing Expert
Diana began fishing at the age of seven, as it has been a long-time family tradition. From catching small bullheads to catching strippers on the backwaters of Bighorn, she loves to get out in the wild and have a marvelous day on the water. Her dad was an expert angler, and he taught her fishing along with her two siblings. They used to go to the Bighorn River in Montana and Henry’s fork, Idaho. As a pragmatic person, she is obsessed with creating well-researched and practical guides and reviews of the best fishing methods and gear.
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