Phoxinus phoxinus (European minnow)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Water Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Phoxinus phoxinus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Preferred Common Name
- European minnow
International Common Names
- English: Eurasian minnow
Local Common Names
- Denmark: elritse
- France: vairon
- Germany: elritze
- Norway: ørekyt
- Sweden: elritsa
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
P. phoxinus is mainly being introduced to new watercourses bordering on watercourses where it already is established, thereby slowly but steadily widening its area of distribution. The species is able to establish viable populations in most freshwater systems, from lowland to high alpine areas, in particular where few other fish species are present. However, successful establishment seems to require habitats which include some slow-flowing or lake-like areas. Rivers with only swift currents seem not to provide suitable habitats for P. phoxinus to complete its lifecycle.
Impacts on native ecosystems have not been well documented, except in the case of allopatric brown trout, where establishment of P. phoxinus leads to reduced brown trout densities.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Cypriniformes
- Family: Cyprinidae
- Genus: Phoxinus
- Species: Phoxinus phoxinus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
This species retains the name given by Linnaeus in 1758. The common English name, minnow, needs a geographical qualifier (“European” or “Eurasian”) to be precise, as “minnow” may be used for a number of small cyprinids, both in Eurasia and America. Some authors indicate that several species may be included in the present Phoxinus phoxinus (cf. Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).
DescriptionTop of page
P. phoxinus has a torpedo-shaped body, with 80-100 small cycloid scales along the lateral line.
P. phoxinus has variable colours, but are normally brownish green on the back, separated from the whitish belly by numerous brown and black blotches along the side, sometimes uniting to form a stripe. Males are brightly coloured during spawning, with white flashes at the fins, reddish pectoral and pelvic fins, a black throat, green along the sides and a scarlet belly (Maitland, 2004).
DistributionTop of page
P. phoxinus is found in almost all of Europe (including the British Isles) and northern Asia. Notable exceptions concerning native distribution are north western Scotland and major parts of Norway. Native distribution in Norway is restricted to the south eastern low altitude areas and parts of Finnmark county in the far north. In Scandinavia, the minnow was also originally absent from most alpine areas. This is less known for other parts of the distribution area.
On the Red List (IUCN), minnows are stated as of least concern. However, their status differs highly in different European countries. In Denmark, P. phoxinus is considered rare (Frier, 1994). In Germany, P. phoxinus is listed as an endangered native species on the red list of all Federal states (Hesthagen and Sandlund, 2007), and in some areas the species is produced in hatcheries and released to sustain natural populations (e.g. in the river Treene in Schleswig-Holstein; LANU, 2002). In the Baltic countries, P. phoxinus is very common (Hesthagen and Sandlund, 2007). It is found in many Latvian rivers, also in brooks and ditches, but not in lakes and coastal waters.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Originally, minnows were spread because fishermen used them as live bait for catching species like brown trout (Salmo trutta), Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus), perch (Perca fluviatilis) and pike (Exos lucius) (Huitfeldt-Kaas, 1918). This practice is considered to be the main reason for most introductions throughout the 1900s. However, minnows have also been accidentally introduced in a large number of lakes together with stocked hatchery-reared brown trout (Borgstrøm, 1973; Lura and Kålås, 1994). Brown trout stocking has been routinely done especially in lakes modified as hydropower reservoirs, in order to compensate for reduced natural recruitment (Vøllestad and Hesthagen, 2001). These reservoirs are often located in the upper sections of watersheds. Whenever minnows were introduced, they were able to subsequently migrate downstream and become established in more lakes. This frequently occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. Minnows have also been spread through tunnels constructed for hydropower development between watersheds. In a few cases minnows have been intentionally introduced to provide forage fish for brown trout. In one case minnows were introduced as a control measure against the locally bothersome ‘Tune fly’ (Simuliidae) (Halleraker and Hesthagen, 1994).
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
As minnows are quite hardy animals, they may be kept and transported alive in very small bodies of water with high temperatures and low oxygen contents. This makes it easy for anyone to move the species between lakes or water courses.
P. phoxinus disperse easily downstream, but extended river stretches with continuous swift currents may appear to constitute a barrier to downstream migration. In the river Sanddøla, central Norway, a major tributary of the River Namsen, minnows were established in the headwater Lake Otersjøen around 1960. By 2005 they had still not spread downstream in Sanddøla, probably due to the continuous swift currents over a distance of more than 45 km (Thorstad et al., 2006). Based on the observation in several cases that downstream spread by minnows may cover 3-7 km per year, it may be speculated that the species require appropriate habitats for feeding, over wintering and possibly reproducing (i.e. lakes, pools or slow flowing river habitats) at suitable intervals. In such extreme lotic habitats, “resting habitats” at 5-10 km intervals may be necessary for individuals to survive the downstream migration.
HabitatTop of page
P. phoxinus are found in a variety of habitats over a wide geographical range throughout its native distributional area; in brackish water as well as in different types of freshwater; streams, rivers, ponds, and large lakes located from coastal areas to high mountains. P. phoxinus has been found at an altitude of 1,403 m above sea level. in a lake in the central mountain area in southern Norway (Jotunheimen), and even up 2000 m above sea level in other parts of the distribution area (Lelek, 1987). The species is less numerous in steep, fast flowing rivers. It occurs most abundantly in shallow lakes and slow flowing streams and rivers. P. phoxinus is also abundant in regulated lakes, even when the water level might vary by several metres throughout the year.
Laboratory studies of minnows revealed a significant preference for stony substratum (grain diameter 5-50 mm) over sand (grain diameter 0.5-1.0 mm) (Jacobsen, 1979). The preference for a stony substratum was strongest in old, schooling individuals, and significantly higher than in schools of juveniles aged 2-5 months. Substrate selection in minnows is probably associated with shelter against predator fish. In Lake Øvre Heimdalsvatn, located at 1,090 m above sea level. In southern Norway, where minnows were introduced in the late 1960s, brown trout preyed heavily on mature minnows shortly after ice break at the end of June, when minnows constituted 9 and 20% of the stomach volume of trout in length groups 16-30 and = 30 cm, respectively (Museth et al., 2005). Predation on minnows was only occasionally detected during July, August and September. Brown trout selectively preyed on minnows infected by Ligula intestinalis (Museth, 2001).
In Lake Øvre Heimdalsvatn, gillnet catches of minnows decreased significantly with increasing depth, being 32.1, 13.1 and 0.9 fish per 100 m2 net area at 1.5, 3.0 and 6.0 m depths, respectively (Museth et al., 2002). The highest densities of minnows were obtained at depths between 0.2 and 0.5 m (Museth et al., 2002). Furthermore, the minnows captured by gillnets were restricted to the net area close to the bottom, and less than 1% were captured more than 50 cm above the bottom.
Habitat ListTop of page
|Irrigation channels||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Lakes||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Reservoirs||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Rivers / streams||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Ponds||Present, no further details||Natural|
|Estuaries||Present, no further details||Natural|
Biology and EcologyTop of page Reproductive Biology
Water TolerancesTop of page
|Parameter||Minimum Value||Maximum Value||Typical Value||Status||Life Stage||Notes|
|Water pH (pH)||Optimum||6.5–7.5 tolerated|
|Water temperature (ºC temperature)||Optimum||2–20 tolerated|
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Salmo trutta||Predator||All Stages||not specific|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page Accidental Introduction
Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
P. phoxinus may introduce new parasites where they become established. In some sub-alpine lakes in southern Norway introduced minnows caused infection with new parasite species in snails, mussels and different insects, but not in brown trout (Hartvigsen, 1997).
In Norway, survey net catches of brown trout in lakes with and without introduced European minnows demonstrated a 35% reduction in catches in lakes where brown trout were sympatric with introduced minnows (Museth et al., 2007).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page Invasiveness
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Long lived
- Has high reproductive potential
- Altered trophic level
- Damaged ecosystem services
- Modification of natural benthic communities
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Negatively impacts aquaculture/fisheries
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
- Difficult/costly to control
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
Prevention and ControlTop of page Prevention
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Research is needed on the potential of applying habitat modification in order to reduce the impact of introduced P. phoxinus on salmonids and other fish species. This is particularly relevant in regulated rivers (Heavily Modified Water Bodies according to the EU Water Framework Directive). There may also be a potential for bio manipulation (management of predators or competitors) to reduce population densities and impacts of introduced minnows.
ReferencesTop of page
Borgstrøm R; Brittain JE; Hasle K; Skjølas S; Dokk JG, 1996. Reduced recruitment in brown trout Salmo trutta, the role of interactions with the minnow Phoxinus phoxinus. Nordic Journal of Freshwater Reserach, 72:30-38.
Borgstrøm R; Garnas E; Saltveit SJ, 1985. Interactions between brown trout, Salmo trutta L. and minnow, Phoxinus phoxinus (L.) for their common prey, Lepidurus arcticus (PALLAS). Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol, 22:2548-2552.
Brittain JE; Brabrand A; Saltveit SJ; Bremnes T; Røsten E, 1988. The biology and population dynamics of Gammarus lacustris in relation to the introduction of minnows, Phoxinus phoxinus, into Øvre Heimdalsvatn, a Norwegian subalpine lake. Rapp. Lab. Ferskv. Økol. Innlandsfiske, 109:1-30.
Hartvigsen R, 1997. [English title not available]. (Spredning av parasitter ved innvandring og/eller introduksjon av nye fiskearter: spredning av ørekyt (Phoxinus phoxinus) til ørretvassdrag) NINA Oppdragsmelding,, 466:1-14.
Hesthagen T; Sandlund OT, 2006. NOBANIS - Invasive Alien Species Fact Sheet - Phoxinus phoxinus. Online Database of the North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species - NOBANIS. http://www.nobanis.org
Hesthagen T; Walseng B; Karlsen LR; Langaker RM, 2007. Effects of liming on the aquatic fauna in a Norwegian watershed: Why do crustaceans and fish respond differently? Water and Soil Pollut. Focus, 7:339-345.
Holthe E; Lund E; Finstad B; Thorstad EB; Mckinley RS, 2005. A fish selective obstacle to prevent dispersion of an unwanted fish species, based on leaping capabilities. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 12:143-147.
Museth J, 2002. Dynamics in European minnow Phoxinus phoxinus and brown trout Salmo trutta populations in mountain habitats: effects of climate and inter- and intraspecific interactions. Agricultural University of Norway, 29.
Museth J; Borgstrøm R; Brittian JE; Herberg I; Naalsund C, 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.
Reshetnikov YS; Bogutskaya NG; Vasil'eva ED; Dorofeeva EA; Naseka AM; Popova OA; Savvaitova KA; Sideleva VG; Sokolov LI, 1997. An annotated check-list of the freshwater fishes of Russia. J. Ichthyol, 37(9):687-736.
Thorstad EB; Sandlund OT; Heggberget TG; Finstad A; Museth J; Berger HM; Hesthagen T; Berg OK, 2006. [English title not available]. (Ørekyt I Namsenvassdraget. Utbredelse, spredningsrisiko og tiltak) NINA Rapport, 155:1-69.
ContributorsTop of page
24/01/08 Original text by:
Odd Sandlund, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Tungasletta 2, NO-7485 Trondheim, Norway
Distribution MapsTop of page
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