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Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin

Minnow and carp family - cyprinidae,   pp. 415-605 ff. PDF (93.4 MB)

Page 605

Fathead Minnow     605 
  When St. Louis encephalitis, in epidemic propor- 
tions, precipitated serious concern throughout most 
of Illinois in the summer and fall of 1975, the fathead 
minnow, the blackstripe topminnow, and the golden 
shiner were recommended as possible natural con- 
trols against its vector, the mosquito (P. W Smith 
  In recent years, the fathead minnow has been used 
in Minnesota for mosquito control. Eddy and Under- 
hill (1974:249), writing of the program in the St. Paul- 
Minneapolis area, observed: 
. . . The Metropolitan Mosquito Control District has aban- 
doned insecticides and has stocked these minnows in the 
sloughs, ponds, and ditches where mosquitoes breed. The 
minnows have been successful in reducing the populations 
of larval mosquitoes in these areas to a satisfactory abate- 
ment level. Because the shallow depth of many ponds re- 
sults in frequent winterkills, those ponds will require con- 
tinued stocking, but the cost will probably be less than that 
for chemical controls and will eliminate any possible side 
effects from insecticides. The program provides us with a 
good example of biological pest control. 
  In Iowa, Konefes and Bachmann (1970) suggested 
introducing fathead minnow fry into one or more ter- 
tiary holding ponds whose water source is the ef- 
fluent of a sewage treatment plant. Such effluent wa- 
ters, after having received primary and secondary 
treatment (trickling filters), still contain high concen- 
trations of plant nutrients, such as nitrates, am- 
monia, and phosphorus. Huggins (1969) found that 
when the effluent water passes through several 
ponds arranged in a series, the water quality progres- 
sively improved; the final pond released into the re- 
ceiving stream or downstream reservoir a discharge 
water from which significant amounts of nutrients 
had been removed and unwanted algal blooms di- 
  Since the chemical elements in the holding ponds 
are the same as the fertilizers purchased by fish cul- 
turists and dispersed by them in their ponds to in- 
crease minnow productivity, tertiary ponds inher- 
ently save the cost of the fertilizer. If fathead minnows 
are stocked to holding ponds where they will be able 
to feed on the algae produced in the nutrient-rich wa- 
ters, and where they can reproduce and grow to 
adult size, they will be converting effluent nutrients 
into minnow flesh. As the fathead minnows are har- 
vested, the organic load within the tertiary ponds 
will be reduced. Also, the moneys earned from the 
minnow sale might be used to help offset the costs of 
construction and maintenance of the tertiary ponds. 
Konefes and Bachmann observed that the use of such 
ponds for fathead minnow production seems to be a 
viable approach toward both environmental preser- 
vation and conservation of natural resources. 
  In Wisconsin, from 45 kg (100 lb) of fathead min- 
nows stocked in a sewage treatment pond in White- 
hall (Trempealeau County) over 3,270 kg (7,200 Ib) of 
fatheads were harvested in 3.5 months (A. Oehmcke, 
pers. comm.). Sewage ponds are currently being used 
as holding ponds for feeding-out muskellunge fry 
prior to stocking (see p. 412). 
  The propagation of the fathead minnow has a rich 
literature. Details of propagation have been outlined 
in Hasler et al. (1946), Markus (1934), Dobie et al. 
(1956), Hedges and Ball (1953), Forney (1957), and 
Prather (1957b and 1958). In one study (Lord 1927), 
the production of fatheads was recorded as 505,000 
fish at approximately 133 kg/ha (202,000 fish and 119 

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