How to Raise Minnows & Shad

How to Raise Minnows & Shad

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Big fish eat little fish. This is a simple fact of nature that every fisherman knows and takes advantage of. While there are countless lures and artificial baits designed to mimic little fish, in many cases there is simply no substitute that can match the real thing. There is no doubt that live minnows catch fish, but they can also put a serious strain on a fisherman's wallet. If you have found this to be the case, it may be time to consider raising your own minnows.

Items you will need

  • Tank

  • Water (non-chlorinated)

  • Clay pots

  • Filtration and aeration system

  • Fish food


Select a tank in which to keep your minnows or shad. A stock tank, large aquarium or very small swimming pool will work. The size of the tank depends on the number and size of the minnows you plan to raise. Shad are larger than most minnows and need a larger space.

Choose a location that is away from direct heat or cold, somewhere you can maintain temperature and water levels year-round. Fill the tank with clean, non-chlorinated water and place a few clay flower pots on their sides in the tank. This will give the minnows a place to breed. Rocks are another option for spawning habitat.

Set up the aeration and filtration systems. There are a number of different brands and models that can be effective. Bubble or waterfall aerators are recommended over spray aerators, which can hurt delicate minnows with their harsh spray. Run the filtration and aeration systems for at least two days before you add minnows to the tank; this will remove any chemicals or impurities from the water.

Purchase or catch minnows to serve as your initial breeding stock. Minnows are available at bait shops, but can also be trapped or netted from local creeks and lakes. Check your state's regulations regarding what minnow species can be used as bait in your state. Avoid species that do not naturally occur in your area. Shad, fathead minnows, shiners and creek chubs are widely used for bait.

Start with your minnows in a separate container, and gradually raise or lower the water temperature until it is the same as your main tank. This can be done by gradually adding tank water to the container until the temperatures are the same. Minnows are highly sensitive to abrupt temperature changes, and can can go into shock or die if you do not perform this step.

Gently release your minnows into the main tank.

Feed your minnows two to three times a day. There are a variety of commercially available fish flakes that will sustain minnows; look for food that has the most complete nutritional content.


  • Most states require you to have a separate license to sell bait fish, but raising them for your own personal use usually only requires that you have a valid fishing license. To be sure, check your state's laws before you begin.


  • Minnows will occasionally die of natural causes. Remove any dead minnows from the tank with a dip net.
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