Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Two More Goldfish Subsitutes: the White Cloud Mountain Minnow, and the Common Guppie

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

Previously, I've posted about other fish that look similar to goldfish, such as Gold Barbs and Rosy Barbs. They look similar to goldfish, but are easier to care for in an aquarium setting (real goldfish being better suited for living in ponds or large pools, or very large aquariums).

But there are two other fishes, that don't look a lot like goldfish, but that are among the easiest to care for in an aquarium. One is the White Cloud Mountain minnow
[...] White Cloud Mountain minnows are considered good fish for beginners, as they are extremely forgiving with regard to aquarium temperature and water quality. They are often sold as ideal "starter fish" for cycling a new aquarium, however it is kinder if they are introduced to an already cycled tank. They are schooling fish, and feel most comfortable in a group of at least five. An individual of these minnows kept alone may become timid and lose its bright color. White Clouds are generally peaceful and happy to coexist with other fish, as long as they are not put in a tank with larger fish that may eat them. The minnows are usually top or middle-level swimmers and rarely swim close to the bottom of a tank.

Although the nominal temperature range for the species in the wild is 18–26 °C (64–79 °F), it can survive water temperatures down to 5°C (41°F).[4] This makes it an ideal fish for keeping in an unheated aquarium in cold climates. In fact, White Clouds are more active and healthier when kept at temperatures lower than those at which most tropical tanks are kept. Water hardness (dH) should be from 5 to 19, and pH levels should range between 6.0 and 8.0. Also, the aquarium should have a top. White Clouds have been known to jump out on rare occasions.

During the 1940s and 1950s, White Cloud Mountain minnows acquired the nickname, the "Poor Man's Neon Tetra," because they were much more affordable in price than the colorful and then expensive Neon Tetras.[5]

Two variants are commonly available: the "Golden Cloud" and the longer-finned "Meteor Minnow." The Golden Cloud is a relatively new variety as compared to the Meteor Minnow. The Meteor Minnow first made its appearance in the 1950s in Perth, Western Australia and the Golden Cloud in the 1990s. Breeding between the two varieties has recently resulted in another attractive fish, the "Golden Meteor Minnow." Inbreeding of Golden Clouds have resulted in "Blonde" Clouds, light yellow specimens similar in colour to blonde guppies and "Pink Clouds", flesh colour specimens which lacks further pigmentation still. [...]

I have a bunch of them, and they've been a very hardy fish, easy to care for, and at their full size are quite beautiful. I have the regular short fin, and the pink/gold ones. I'd eventually life to get the long finned "Meteor" variety:

The Meteor's look stunning, but I've not been able to get them through my local fish store. Darn!

My local fish store sells baby White Cloud Minnows as feeder fish, which means they can be purchased for only 0.20 cents apiece. Very affordable!

White Cloud Mountain Minnow Fact Sheet
[...] This fish is very hardy. It will survive in temperatures ranging from 4̊ C (39̊F) to 32̊ C (90̊ F) although the extremes of this range are not recommended. It is more comfortable at about 16-26 °C (60-72 °F). This is a lower temperature than some tropical tanks although, like most 'cold water' fish it can be kept in tropical aquariums, so it can be kept in either a tropical or an unheated aquarium.

The fish prefer clean water, and will grow and breed over a wide range of ph and hardness. I would avoid extremes of pH or very hard water. Make sure all the Chlorine or Chloramine is removed.

The White Cloud Mountain Minnow is intolerant of Copper in the water, and great care needs to be exercised if Copper is used for treatments. [...]

I read somewhere that, while a bowl is not really a suitable environment for any fish, the White Cloud Minnow might be the hardiest to be used as a bowl fish. But I really would not recommend a bowl; I'd recommend a filtered tank, no smaller than 10 gallons. I think a heater is preferable too, even for cool water fish; it keeps the temperature more stable, which is important if you live in a cold weather climate or somewhere that has very cold nights. I know that my house can get very cold at night in winter.

A bit of trivia about how the White Cloud the fish was "discovered" in China:

White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)
[...] This fish's ability to survive (and breed) over a wide range of water conditions, temperature and general hardiness means it's cheap and an excellent choice for beginners.

This fish is sensitive to copper in the water so ensure that you do not overdose when using any treatments containing copper and accidentally poison them.

It's latin name Tanichthys albonubes literally means "Tan's fish, white cloud". It was named after a boy scout leader named Tan who discovered it in the 1930s.[1] [...]

I've read too, that the fish is now believed to be extinct in it's original location. But it has survived in captivity and, through the aquarium fish trade, spread all over the world.

The other fish I considered to be an easier-to-keep alternative to goldfish, is the common Guppy. I say "common", because there are many fancy strains of this fish, some of which are not physically hardy, having been breed for their looks more than anything else.

Guppy Fact Sheet
[...] The Guppy is a popular aquarium fish. It can be kept with other small peaceful fish, including Platies, Swordtails and Mollies. It is in the same family as these fish and is in the same genus as Mollies. Other fish suitable as companions are White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Neon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, Siamese Fighting Fish, Peppered Catfish and other Corydoras catfish, Cherry Barbs, and other small peaceful fish.


Guppies generally thrive in fairly hard, slightly alkaline, water. They can tolerate very large amounts of salt in the water. In some countries they are bred in water which is a mixture of half fresh water and half sea water. The Guppies thrive in this water, but these fish can cause problems when people put them into normal fresh water aquariums. As well as having to be acclimatised to the fresh water, the Guppies have not been exposed to columnaris disease. These fish can die very quickly in a normal aquarium unless strong treatment is done quickly. To get immunity the fish have to be exposed to the disease, and the disease cured.


The Guppy is a tropical fish. However, different strains of Guppy have different tolerances to low temperatures. I have even heard of strains that are claimed to be able to tolerate temperature down to 4̊ C (39̊ F). I have never encountered any of these. Once I heard of a creek to the north of Adelaide that was supposed to have a naturalised strain of Guppies. I searched for the creek. I was able to identify the creek from the description I was given. There were no Guppies in it. (Actually, there was not even any water.) Although I tried to find where the Guppies would have gone, I was unable to find any Guppies. I suspect that this was a case of mistaken identity of the fish.

As a general thing I would not suggest a temperature of lower than 18̊ C (65̊ F). Guppies will certainly tolerate up to at least 32̊ C (90̊F), and probably higher. Although I sometimes give the maximum and minimum temperatures types of fish can tolerate, it needs to be remembered that subjecting fish to their limits is not good and you are stressing the fish very badly. Stress will leave the fish very vulnerable todisease.

I generally set the thermostat at 24̊ C (75̊ F) although some people prefer a few degrees higher, especially for breeding.


The modern Guppies have been selective bred for colour and fin length, as well as other external characteristics. In the process they have lost much of the original hardiness of the Guppy. The life span of the Guppy now is often no more than a year. [...]

The hardiness of the modern Guppy (or lack of it) is a subject of much debate, of which I will post more about later.

I do think some varieties may be more hardier than others. Buyer beware.

I know there are other fishes that might be considered as goldfish substitutes too. The Zebera Danio, for instance, is also a hardy fish that is tolerant of lower temperatures. But I have read, that it prefers a tank at least 36 inches long, because it likes to swim back and forth a lot.

The Siamese Fighting Fish is also considered to be a good bowl fish by some people. But it will not thrive in a bowl, and actually does better in a filtered, heated aquarium (it prefers it's water temperature to be kept around 80 degrees). And it prefers live food. If you keep it in colder temperatures and only feed it dried food, it might survive, but probably won't thrive and have a long life. But if you treat it right, it can be "easy" to care for and very satisfying to keep.

So, if you have been trying to keep goldfish indoors, but have been unsuccessful or found it too arduous, you might want to consider some of these other fish I've suggested. There are plenty to choose from, look them over and see which ones might be best for you to try.

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At Mon Sep 23, 06:44:00 AM 2013, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Old thread: But I had to add my 2c. This summer I experimented with fish in rain barrels using white clouds. I brought them in now after a summer of eating mosquitoes; they are attractive very easy to care for fish. They seem very happy in the 16 gallon aquarium home for the winter. Faustina

At Sun Sep 29, 11:13:00 AM 2013, Blogger Chas said...

I'm not surprised, I think they would be great for that purpose. I keep some in a 20 gallon tank by themselves, and they had babies, so they are fairly easy to breed too.


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