The minnow is distributed throughout most of Europe and into Russia, but it is not native to Ireland. Although it is an introduced species, minnow are considered benign as they have no significant impact on native species or ecosystems. They are thought to have been redistributed to angling waters as live bait, and they have a widespread but erratic distribution around the country.
One of our smallest fish species, with a distinctive black and gold stripe along their sides, minnow are often known as pinkeens in Ireland. They are most commonly found in shoals in rivers and lakes, and they are somewhat more rarely recorded in canals. Minnow feed on small invertebrates, algae and plant debris, insects, algae and plants, and in turn, they provide an important source of prey to other animals, including larger fish and birds.
Although they prefer to inhabit clean waters and to spawn in well-oxygenated shallows with a gravelly substrate, minnow appear to be quite tolerant to water pollution and may be found in large numbers in stretches of river where other species are absent. It is thought that if oxygen levels in the waters of poor quality remain high, they may benefit from the abundance of small food items that occurs in nutrient enriched, eutrophic conditions.