Articles Caresheets Guest posts

Caresheet: White Cloud Mountain Minnow

March 23, 2014
white cloud mountain minnow

White Clouds are a unique fish. Although sold next to (and indeed physically similar to) the tropical tetras, they are actually a type of minnow able to withstand cold temperatures. Their docile nature and unique adaptability make them a great fish to keep in captivity.
This caresheet was written by the lovely Scalestails, Tumblr’s favorite pet expert!

Tank size 15 gal (57L)
Temperament Peaceful
Diet Carnivore
Temperature 60-72°F (15-22 °C)
pH 6.0-7.0
Length 1-2" (~3cm)

Name:  White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)

White Cloud Mountain Minnow lifespan: 4-5 years

White Cloud Mountain Minnow diet:  Micropredators feeding on small aquatic invertebrates. They will readily accept flakes, crisps, frozen foods (bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, etc.) and freeze dried foods.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow appearance:  Typical torpedo shaped body. They have a a shine of iridescence running along their lateral line. Males have a splash of red on their slightly larger and rounder dorsal and caudal fins, and a bit on their mouth as well.

Sexing White Cloud Mountain Minnows:  Females are slightly larger than males, lack the red coloration, and have rounder torsos. Males have that nicer coloration and can be seen displaying and sparring with other males.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow aggression Level and Social Characteristics:  These fish are very docile when kept correctly, making them excellent for keeping with fancy guppies, bettas, and other long finned fishes. However, they truly thrive in a colder environment. They will not bother any bottom feeder, algae eater, invertebrate (unless they are shrimplets), or community fish. They can be eaten or bullied by larger more aggressive fish so they shouldn’t be readily mixed with South American cichlids, African cichlids, and large semi aggressive fish like Congo tetras.

They are decidedly schooling fish, males displaying to females by opening their colorful fins. They may display to other males and occasionally “fight”, rarely resulting in injuries. A group of 8 or more is required.

The best tank mates are others sharing the same waters. This includes Odessa barbs, Rosy barbs, Golden barbs, and Paradise fish (M. opercularis).

Tank Region:  Middle

Maintenance Level: Low, these fish are tolerant of a huge range of water qualities and temperatures.

Reproductive Method and White Cloud Mountain Minnow Breeding:  Egg scatterers, breeding comes easily to healthy specimens.

  • To breed, get a school of 8-10 in a “conditioning” tank. This is the tank you will prepare the breeders in. You will feed them heavily, keep the tank clean and slightly warmer than usual. A 15 gallon (57L) works fine.
  • Make sure you have a good amount of females (at least half of the school). Females are slightly rounder than males, and males have that red to their dorsal and caudal fin. (see above for sexing).
  • Feed them high quality foods 3-5 times a day and raise the temperature to 72F (22 °C). As the conditions change, so should the fish. Females should swell with eggs. Once they do, put her and two males in the “breeding” tank.
  • The breeding tank is a 5-10gal (18-38L) with a special substrate. A common method is to use ~2” (5 cm) of glass marbles or low plants like pygmy chain sword. Just something for the eggs to fall into so the parents can’t get to them and eat them. Fill the tank only about an inch above the substrate, you’ll want it very shallow. Add a small air stone.
  • Add an egg heavy female and two males. By morning, they should have bred. If they don’t do a small water change every day until they do. Take the parents out and fill the tank with more water (doesn’t have to be all the way.)

In 48-60 hours the eggs will hatch and the fry will become free swimming. They are too small for conventional foods so they need to be fed infusoria when first hatched. The simplest way to supply this is by adding live plants, the infusoria should show up after a few days. However, it will be important to make sure there is some in the tank so buying some before hand is probably what you’ll have to do. As they get older feed them microworms, then baby brine shrimp, then daphnia, then brine shrimp/bloodworms/etc. and eventually flakes.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow Tank Set Up and Minimum Tank Size: These fish give us the unique chance to set up a small unheated tank. The most common fish that can go in unheated tanks are goldfish. However, their large waste output and adult size make them impossible to keep in small tanks! The minimum tank size for a school of white clouds is 15 gallons (57 L).

If you want to mimic their wild environment, think of this: A long shallow tank with a moderate water flow. A mix of sand and smooth pebbles for substrate, preferably grey-black. Large water worn (smooth) stones as your main decor, possibly a few pieces of driftwood. Plants should be “sparse” and able to withstand lower temperatures. However, they are such adaptable fish that they do perfectly well in normal aquariums. Still, a dark substrate brings out their color and dense vegetation provides them with much needed cover.

Distribution: Previously all around Mount Baiyun, north of Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China. However, because their native waters became polluted it was thought extinct until 2001. In 2007 an additional population was found on Hainan Island, a large island south of China and east of Vietnam. It is found at higher elevations in cool waters

Conclusion: These small bright fish are perfect for indoor tanks or outdoor ponds (that are properly secured!). They can be quite efficient mosquito control. However, special care should be taken so that they do not enter native waterways. They are an underrated fish, with interesting behavior to observe and in my opinion attractive colors and finnage.

Note from Mari: Thank you so much for this wonderful caresheet, Scalestails! I, too, would definitely recommend these lovely little fish to anyone who is interested in an unheated aquarium. Their display behavior is very interesting to see and their natural habitat is easy to imitate.

Happy fishkeeping!

Cover photo: fins on display (6) by axel

Join the mailing list!


You Might Also Like


  • Reply Axolotls in tall tanks? Other tankmates? - Newt and Salamander Forum May 26, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    […] me. The only reason I am considering the Mountain Minnows is how docile they are, to quote […]

  • Reply Gill February 20, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    I have been reading all the posts on white cloud mountain minnows. I have recently set up my 15Laquarium. We have introduced 5 white cloud mountain minnows into the tank yesterday. Please can I introduce more fish. I was originally thinking of adding 5 Neon Tetras. So 10 fish in total. Or should just keep to the Minnows ,maybe more WCMM or maybe 5 Golden Minnows. I would appreciate any advice.Thanks

    • Reply Mari February 20, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      As mentioned in the caresheet a 15L aquarium is much, much too small for white cloud mountain minnows, please return them to the store ASAP! A tank this size is unfortunately not suitable for any type of fish, just maybe some shrimp or snails. So please don’t introduce any more fish and rehome your white clouds. Sorry I don’t have better news!

    • Reply Alvin Yao February 23, 2016 at 11:13 am

      Did you mean 15 Gallons? cause 15L is too small, 1 gallon is aproximately 4L, so 15L is approximately 3.5 gallons

  • Reply Gregg Martin October 21, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    I love white clouds. I have them in two unheated tanks, a 20 gal and a 15 gallon tank, both with substantial water flow. I think that over the years I MAY have noticed that the gold variety may be less sturdy than the normal counterparts. Pairing them up with other sub tropical fish such as blood fin tetras, black skirt tetras, platys, and a local shiner (cold water native that has survived the heat,) has worked well. I definitely would have a pre filter on your HOB to enable collection of the fry.


  • Reply Marissa June 20, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    How many white clouds can i fit in my 2.8 gallon tank with my betta?

    • Reply Mari June 21, 2015 at 3:48 pm

      None. White clouds are neither compatible with bettas nor are they suitable for a 2,8 gallon tank. They’re also not suitable for a 5 gal like you mentioned in your other comment, and neon tetras and red fire guppies need bigger tanks as well! The minimum tank size is mentioned in the article. Please don’t put white clouds or other fish in such small setups. Sorry I don’t have better news!

      • Reply Mary August 5, 2015 at 8:32 am

        White clouds are compatible with bettas. I have three mixed with our betta, and they do well together. Many sites say they are mixed well together along with pet stores, so I am not sure where you got your info. I do recommend 1 gallon of water per inch of tank. Although, we do have about one more fish required for the size tank we have but have not experienced any problems. A six-and a half gallon houses a betta, three white cloud minnows, and a snail.

        • Reply Mari August 5, 2015 at 9:48 am


          Sure, bettas and white clouds are compatible if it doesn’t matter to you whether your fish are thriving or just surviving. When kept together, both species will be stressed out 24/7, although because they are fish that cannot knock at the tank lid to tell you this you often won’t see visible signs. There are however a few factors that should make it clear why they don’t work together.

          – White clouds require a temperature between 60-72 °F, they are coldwater fish. Although they will do okay at higher temperatures for a short time, it will severely shorten their lifespan. Bettas require a temperature between 77-83 °F and will become lethargic when kept at anything lower. There is no overlap.
          – White clouds have brightly colored fins and your betta will see them as competition. The constant presence of what he perceives as possibly other bettas stresses him out 24/7.
          – White clouds are prey fish that naturally live in groups. When kept in groups that are too small (<6), they will feel vulnerable to predators and be stressed out. Yes, they can kept in small setups if you don't care about their natural behaviour and activity level.
          -As you mentioned, even with the (outdated and inaccurate) 1 gallon rule your tank is overstocked. The beneficial bacteria in your filter are likely not able to handle the waste of your fish and the snail, which means frequent cycle bumps and spikes in ammonia and nitrite as well as probably high nitrate levels. This, along with the as well as the overcrowding, stresses your fish out greatly. A betta and a snail would be perfect stock for a 6.5 gallon.

          Stress in fish shortens their lifespan and makes them vulnerable to disease. So yes, they are compatible in the sense that they won't kill each other, sure, but while they may apppear 'fine', it's clear they are not thriving, healthy or 'happy'/stress-free. I hope the reasons I listed made you reconsider and bring your white clouds back to the pet store or rehome them to another aquarist. Even if you choose not to, I really want to ask you to please not spread the belief that these fish are compatible any further. Thank you and good luck!

          • Tommy November 3, 2015 at 10:08 pm

            Wrong. I have a betta and 4 white clouds in a 10 gallon tank (I plan to add more white clouds). I’ve seen my Betta flair up only twice, other wise he and the white clouds are completely docile. Yes, white clouds prefer cooler waters but mine seem to very happy with what I have. They are colorful, schoaling, and eating vigorously. Really, it depends on the temperament of your Betta. I am sure that if my Betta was overly aggressive, the white clouds would be stressed.

          • Mari November 3, 2015 at 10:14 pm

            Please do not add more white clouds in such a small tank, and please separate these fish so both can live in a suitable environment. They’re just not compatible and white clouds really need a larger tank with cooler water. Just because it seems to be working doesn’t mean it is! It’s like saying smoking is fine because your grandfather smoked and lived to be 95.
            I hope you’ll consider taking my advice.

          • Tommy November 3, 2015 at 10:14 pm

            Also, my nitrate and ammonia levels are spot on because I take care of my fish tank. I have never had a fish die prematurely. In the end, it depends on the owners care of the tank and the fish’s temperament.
            You probably will say I don’t know what I am taking about and that my white clouds really are stressed, but honestly, they have not changed their behavior since I added the betta to their tank. Thank you for your concern.

      • Reply Henry August 29, 2016 at 8:10 am

        “making them excellent for keeping with fancy guppies, bettas, and other long finned fishes”
        That’s what it says about these fish in this article. So are they compatible or not?

        • Reply Mari August 31, 2016 at 6:06 pm

          I hadn’t noticed that while editing, this is a guest post. They can be combined with guppies as far as I know, but I really wouldn’t recommend any schooling fish with bettas – white clouds especially due to the temperature difference. I think the author may have forgotten about that. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, I’ll change it to avoid confusion.

  • Reply Marissa June 20, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Are White clouds compatible with red fire guppies and neon tetras?
    I am planning to own a 5 gallon tank. Is it fine if i put 5 or 3 white clouds in the tank?

  • Reply Alvin Yao November 3, 2014 at 11:05 am

    HELP!!! White clouds ragged fins, the only fish not with ragged fins is my glowlight tetra who was given to me accidentally when I bought my white clouds. The glowlight tetra used to be the one chased around, but now it is chasing and nipping my minnows incessantly. The minnows also chase and nip eachother. I know I should have returned my glowlight tetra to the fih store ages ago, but I never had time to, nor did I keep the bags my fish came in. The minnow with the brightest colours, which I assumed was the alpha male even has a huge chunk bitten out of his fins. My smallest minnow has been most affected and only has less than a third of a tail left, and only half a dorsal fin. I think its because I have too many males, I don’t know which are males or female, but most are skinny, and all of them except for my smallest one chase eachother around . Its as if I bought a school of fighting fish!

    • Reply Mari November 4, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      This caresheet was a guest post. I unfortunately don’t have personal experience with keeping white clouds, so I’m not sure if I’m the right person to answer questions about their behavior. You may want to contact the writer, Scalestails, they will probably be able to help you out more!

  • Reply Alvin Yao October 15, 2014 at 9:49 am

    HELP! My White clouds have started spawning!!! I had only put had them in the tank for a week and they have already spawned!! I didn’t even know! The eggs must have hatched, as I can see a single tiny newly hatched fry, sticking onto the corner of the tank. I’m making some infusoria or greenwater, but I know it would take a long time to make. I’m worried it will starve to death, get sucked up by the filter intake or get eaten by the adults. What should I do?

    • Reply Mari October 15, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      I personally wouldn’t do anything and just let “nature” run its course. I get this question from goldfish keepers all the time. Raising fish can be a lot of work and take quite some time; if you’re not prepared, it’s probably not the right moment. If you want to breed your white clouds be sure to have infusoria ready so you’re prepared next time. That’ll save you a lot of stress. If the current fry do survive, which is possible because there are infusoria on most live plants and white clouds don’t eat their fry all that often, then that’s just extra lucky!

      • Reply Alvin Yao November 1, 2014 at 8:52 am

        Thanks for replying, though a bit too late though.The fry I saw is no here to be seen, probably didn’t survive. Oh well, I’ll be better prepared next time.
        Does this look like a fish? >(:)3

  • Reply Alvin Yao October 8, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I just recieved my online order of a mix of golden and standard white cloud mountain minnows today, and they all arrived alive, but extremely pale, even nearly transparent, I could see some of their bones! I drip acclimised them for an hour, using airline tubing, and a control valve, the water dripped at about 2 drops per second, but the water level quickly tripled in an hour. when I released them into my aquarium, all of them but two seemed fine. One seemed like it could not dive down lower, and kept staying at the surface, away from the rest of the minnows. The other one kept staying near the substrate, barely moving, again away from the rest of the minnows. Most of the minnows had already started colouring up and become opaque, but still pale, but the one lone minnow near the substrate, was still extremely transparent and I could clearly see its bones. The shipping took approx 24 hours, and the healthy minnows kept ripping at the java moss, probably eating the biofilm that had grown on it, so I decided to feed a tiny amount of flake food. They swam up to the surface quickly and started eating the flakes, except for the two “loners” I am worried and wondering what I should do, should I quarantine them?

    • Reply Mari October 8, 2014 at 4:53 pm

      Fish are usually pretty shaken when they arrive, so that’s normal. I would definitely quarantine the 2 that seem less healthy so they don’t have to compete with the others for food. Keep their stress levels down and the water values pristine! Try feeding them a few times a day, but be sure to remove the food if they don’t eat it.

      • Reply Alvin Yao October 9, 2014 at 7:47 am

        They have all coloured up now, and all are doing fine the more unhealthy ones are fine now, except that the staying near the bottom one looks more like some kind of tetra, with rounder snout, shorter tail, bigger eyes and a red stripe on its side as well as red behind its eyes, the rest of its body is transparentish grey. It is constantly chased around by a dominant male minnow, and it seems lonely. This is a coldwater setup, but luckilly it is summer where I live. I wonder what species of fish it is, and I will tell the website I bought the fish from. What should I do? It doesn’t swim to the surface, and I don’t have any sinking foods.I will get them, but only have time in the weekends.

        • Reply Alvin Yao October 9, 2014 at 7:50 am

          looks like a glowlight tetra!

  • Reply Dlap23 March 25, 2014 at 1:59 am

    What do you think about keeping Goldfish with White Clouds? They seem compatible, but I am kind of worried that goldfish might snack on white clouds. If I do keep them together, what should I feed them? Goldfish flakes or Tropical flakes? Thank you!!

    • Reply Mari March 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm

      Goldfish will definitely try to snack on white clouds – whether they will succeed in doing so is something else, especially if we’re talking clumsy fancies! I know they’re kept with goldfish sometimes, but I would personally recommend to only keep goldfish with other goldfish. Their care and requirements are pretty complicated and they could end up harrassing other fish. As for the food, neither! Flakes, especially the brands made for goldfish, are usually not very nutritious at all. It’s better to combine a good quality pellet with frozen foods and, in the case of goldfish, fresh veggies!
      Hope that answers your questions. 🙂

    Leave a Reply

    Please prove you're not a robot! * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.