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There’s an interesting story behind the white cloud minnow fish which dates back to 1930. In the year 1930, a boy and a scout leader, named “Tan” discovered these beautiful freshwater aquarium fish in Southern China that we now call white cloud minnows or Tanichthys albonubes. Tanichthys means Tan’s fish and albonubes means white cloud. Hene, the name.
White cloud mountain minnows are ideal for beginner aquarists as they are very hardy fish and easy to care for. Therefore, if you want a hassle-free fishkeeping experience, you’re about to make a great decision.
Keep reading to find out more about mountain minnows!
A Brief Overview Of The White Cloud Mountain Fish
|Scientific Name||Tanichthys albonubes|
|Common Names||Canton danio, Chinese danio, white cloud, white cloud mountain fish, white cloud mountain minnow, white cloud minnow|
|Origin||White Cloud Mountain (Baiyun Shan), Guangdong province, China|
|Care Level||Very easy|
|Lifespan||5 to 7 years|
|Tank Level||Middle to top level|
|Minimum Tank Size||10 gallons|
|Temperature Range||57°F to 72°F (ideal is 64°F)|
|Water Hardness||Low, around 10 to 15 KH|
|pH Range||6.0 to 8.5 (around 6.8 and 7.5)|
|Difficulty to Breed||Easy|
|OK, for Planted Tanks?||Yes|
What Are White cloud Mountain Minnows?
The white cloud fish or the white cloud minnows (Poor man’s neon tetra) are tropical fish that are ideal for beginners. They were first discovered in China around 1930 and ever since they have instantly gained popularity in the freshwater aquarium industry.
White cloud minnows belong to the family Cyprinidae of the Carp family which are cold water fish. Easy to care for and extremely hardy fish that require little maintenance. White clouds are considered a schooling fish. Hence, keep them in a group of five or more, otherwise, they will stress out and fade their vibrant color.
Origin and Habitat
The natural habitat of white cloud mountain minnows is the streams of Guangzhou’s Baiyun (White Cloud) Mountain, where they were discovered. The water of these streams is clear and slightly acidic and the flow is low to moderate. This is a cold water fish that prefer low water temperature. However, in their natural habitat, they are almost extinct as stated by the Chinese government.
The white cloud minnows are tropical fish that are small in size with dart-shaped bodies and pointed snouts. The bodies of these freshwater fish are slim and streamlined with their dorsal fin and ventral fins; triangular and pointing towards their bodies’ back. The upper part of the body is wider than the lower part, i.e., the tail with a soft-pointed snout.
The triangular ventral and dorsal fin showcases hues of red and white on the edges. However, there are a few parts of the fin that are entirely transparent.
The dominant color on white cloud minnows is soft brown which looks like a glistering bronze with a few hints of green here and there. The central part of their body possesses a horizontal line that follows the lateral line. This horizontal stripe is pink or white in color.
There are two major varieties of white cloud mountain minnows.
Meteor Minnow or The Long Finned Variety
The meteor minnows are the long-finned variety of Tanichthys albonubes or the white cloud mountain minnow with noticeably long and flowy fins in the adults (video source).
The long fins of meteor minnows are reddish in color, flowing behind them as they swim. This variety of cloud mountain minnows is more desirable because it has a beautiful overall appearance with a contrast between metallic scales and vibrant fin patches.
Apart from the fins and other differences, the meteor minnows are exactly the same as standard white cloud mountain minnows in other aspects.
Golden Cloud or The Gold White Cloud Mountain Variety
If you see a minnow with a striking deep gold color, know that it’s a golden cloud mountain minnow. These fish species fall under the same scientific name, Tanichthys albonubes. Thus, an alluring variety of the white cloud mountain minnow. Like the Meteor minnow variety, the golden cloud also possesses red patches on the fin that pose a striking contrast with their classic gold color.
The female golden cloud mountain minnow has a pale white patch on their bellies, whereas, the male golden cloud lacks it.
In captivity, the life expectancy of white cloud mountain minnows is around five to seven years, provided that the water condition is optimal and within the suitable temperature. It is imperative to keep these aquarium fish in cooler waters as they are cold water fish that significantly lose their health and reduce their lifespan if kept in warmer temperatures.
The average adult size of a white cloud mountain minnow is approximately around an inch and a half in length. Like other minnows, the white cloud mountain minnow is also a very small fish that thrive in a small fish tank.
Fun fact: The white cloud mountain minnows rose to fame during the 1940s and 1950s. And during the period, they were more reasonably priced than other fish. That's the reason they are called Poor man's neon tetra because they were much more affordable than the expensive fish in the market. To date, despite having no relation to Danio breeds, white cloud minnows are sold by the names of Cardinal fish, Canton, and China Danio.
Unlike other fish with genetic variation, the white cloud mountain minnow is hardy species that are excellent to keep as pets for beginners. They are cold water fish but due to their super flexible nature, white cloud minnows are known to thrive in different conditions.
However, some things should be taken into consideration to keep them happy and thriving in your home aquariums.
White cloud mountain minnows are freshwater, peaceful fish that grow no longer than 1.5 inches. The best part is it’s a schooling fish that enjoys the company of other fish such as Siamese fighting fish (Betta fish), Guppies, Rummy nose tetras, etc. And because of their shoaling nature, I suggest keeping them at least in a group of six fishes that are not aggressive and equal to the size of your white cloud minnow.
Also, these fish thrive in the top and middle levels of the tank and rarely move to the bottom of the tank. Therefore, avoid floating plants that may cause a hindrance in their daily activities.
While going for a tank for community fish, bigger is always better. However, as far as the white cloud mountain minnows are concerned, they thrive in at least 10 to 12 gallons tanks which can accommodate a school of around six fish easily.
However, if you want to keep more species in a community tank, aim for a bigger tank to provide them with lots of space for free swimming.
Despite being a cold water fish, white cloud minnows are flexible when it comes to water temperature. They can survive in as low as 4°F and can function well in the 64-72 °F range. Due to this, you can easily keep them in unheated aquariums and fish bowls. Also, if you’re in places where the temperature is slightly lower than the recommended range, your white cloud mountain minnow will be a very comfortable and active fish.
The recommended pH level for the white cloud mountain minnow tank is around 6.0 to 8.0 and on a slightly acidic side with a water column moderate to low.
Filtration and Aeration
The white cloud mountain minnow is sensitive to water quality. Therefore, keep an eye on the traces of Chlorine and Chloramine. Avoid it altogether by using a tap water conditioner. Seachem Prime is what I usually use. Also, I suggest avoiding extremes of pH and hard water for their healthy survival. In white cloud mountain minnows, the copper tolerance is zero. Therefore, make sure to eliminate copper traces from your aquarium, if any.
For moderate flow, consider a power filter or purchasing a canister filter and limiting the flow on the return side.
Though white cloud mountain minnow does just fine without tank lights, installing high-quality, adjustable tank lights make a huge difference.
First of all, if you want your white cloud minnows to distinguish between day and night, which is essential for breeding, you need to install a tank light. Secondly, the lights in your tank keep your aquatic plant healthy. Thirdly, the tank lights help you monitor the overall health of your fish. Thus, lighting is important. However, the intensity of the light should be taken into consideration.
White cloud mountain minnow appreciates subtly lit tanks, which also helps the color of your fish pop. I suggest installing an adjustable LED light in your aquarium tank with an automatic timer that turns off automatically during night hours.
Aquatic Plants and Decorations
The natural environment of white cloud mountain minnows in freshwater streams and rivers comprises several live plants. And so, adding live plants to your aquarium tank is a must. I suggest keeping plants like dwarf rotala and water sprite. Avoid keeping floating plants in your tank as they may hinder their view, provided that white cloud minnows occupy the top and middle level of the tank.
Live plants in the aquarium provide your minnows with a safe place in a form of shelter. Some great examples of live plants are Hornwort, Pondweed, and Duckweed.
The decorations should also constitute a significant part of your tank because the white cloud minnow is an active fish that like to move and hide in a few places here and there. Driftwoods, rocks, and caves should be added to your tank to make your aquarium worthwhile for minnows. You can also add rocks or other ornaments to give your tank an interesting look.
I don’t recommend adding floating plants. However, if you must, invest in those plants that don’t obstruct your minnows from free swimming near the top or middle of the tank.
When it comes to cleaning, even the hardiest fish won’t compromise. So why should your beloved white cloud mountain minnow?
White cloud minnows are vulnerable to toxins such as Ammonia, Copper, Chlorine, and Chloramine. Therefore, proper cleaning and filtration are imperative to increase their life expectancy and improve their overall health,
I recommended cleaning the filter at least once a month to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
- Cycle your tank entirely to avoid toxic buildups of nitrogen and ammonia in your tank
- A minimum of 15% of the water should be replaced every week
- Maintain the water temperature, pH levels, and hardness of water to keep your tank conditions optimal
While white cloud mountain minnows spend most of their time at the top or middle of your tank, it’s still important to pay special attention to the substrate.
White cloud mountain minnows enjoy a variety of substrates, ranging from sand, gravel, pebbles, or rocks. I recommend getting a dark-colored sand and gravel mixture to complement the beautiful colors of your cloud minnows. Make sure to get the gravel large enough so your fish can’t swallow it and choke.
Community Tank Mates
If you’re introducing your white cloud mountain minnows for the first time in an aquarium, I suggest adding them in groups of at least six to avoid stressful behavior. Also, make sure to add them with even-tempered fish to avoid conflicts.
The best community tank mates for white cloud mountain minnows are:
- Rosy barbs
- Endlers Livebearers
- Pristella Tetras
- Rummy Nose Tetras
- Harlequin Rasboras
- Scissortail Rasboras
- Lemon Tetras
- Black Widow Tetras
- Emperor Tetras
- Head and Tail Light Tetras
- Glass Bloodfin Tetras
- Swordtails, Platies
- Zebra Danios
- Glowlight Tetras
- Cherry Barbs
- Corydoras catfish, e.g., Peppered catfish
- Paradise fish
Incompatible Tank Mates
Avoid all large and aggressive fish that might end up swallowing your white cloud mountain minnows.
Some incompatible tank mates for white cloud mountain minnows are:
- Most Cichlids
- Tiger barbs
- Buenos Aires Tetras
- Colombian Tetras
Many people consider small goldfish to be a great tank mate for white cloud minnows. However, I don’t recommend keeping goldfish and white cloud mountain minnows together, as goldfish will eventually prey on your white minnows.
White cloud mountain minnow reaches maturity around six to twelve months, and the process before breeding is a beautiful sight to behold.
Adult white cloud mountain minnows flare their fins and perform a ritual dance, attracting the females. It’s a kind of competition for males to outperform each other, winning the females during the mating cycle. During this process, males can nip at one another to show minor aggression, but this aggression doesn’t lead to serious skirmish.
When it comes to breeding, the white cloud mountain minnows are the easiest fish species to breed without any difficulty even if you’re a novice breeder. Since white cloud minnows are egg scatterers (lays eggs throughout the year), it’s easy to breed them in any season.
The best part about breeding these incredible species is you don’t necessarily need a separate breeding tank for your white minnows. Keep them in their standard tank with clumps of aquatic plants and a spawning mop where your fish can easily scatter their eggs. Make sure to keep the pH level, hardness, and temperature level in an optimal range. After the eggs are fertilized, the fry doesn’t need their parents’ help.
Even though unnecessary, I suggest spawning your white minnows in a separate breeding tank to protect the newly hatched fry from quickly becoming food. For a breeding tank, you need a tank as small as 5 gallons that safely accommodates a single adult pair. But since there’s no issue of male aggression in mountain minnows, you can keep two or three males together. Keep the temperature, pH levels, and water hardness within optimal limits. I also suggest adding java mass as a spawning channel.
During spawning, females lay eggs that will hatch in around two days. After the eggs are fertilized, they don’t need parental care and guidance and can be seen swimming freely in the water. It’s recommended to feed infusoria or luqifry to the newly hatched fry.
After the fry is around a week old, you can feed them baby brine shrimp or crushed fish flakes of high-quality flake food. The fry will reach 1/2 inch in less than four months, and reach their full potential size within a year.
Food and Diet
In their native habitat, white cloud mountain minnows are carnivorous. Their primary diet includes small insect larvae, worms, and crustaceans. However, in captivity, the same species are omnivorous that happily accept a varied diet, including vegetation and green algae in the water. But in order to keep their colors bright and shimmery, you need to feed them high-quality protein content as in flake or pellet food to improve their overall health and ensure longevity.
Besides, small insect larvae, white cloud mountain minnows eat mosquito larvae and daphnia fondly.
How Often Should You Feed Them?
Don’t be fooled by their tiny size. White cloud mountain minnows, despite being small fish, have big appetites. It’s recommended to feed them two or three times a day. However, since their stomachs are tiny, avoid overfeeding them or it will create health issues.
Common Health Problems and Diseases
Even though a hardy fish, white cloud mountain minnows can also experience some common health problems and diseases like most fish, including ich, dropsy, and fin rot.
However, the most common disease in white cloud mountain minnows is streptococcal infections.
This is a type of infection caused by bacteria. The symptoms of this disease are:
- Fish swimming erratically
- Inability to hold itself towards the water surface
- Sinking down to the bottom of the tank
The causes of strep infections are mainly unhygienic conditions of the tank. To keep your fish away from health issues and diseases, change the water regularly ad install a foolproof filtration system. Also, be careful about the temperature range.
Differences Between Male and Female
If you have a problem differentiating between male and female white cloud minnows, remember—males are thinner than females with slender bodies. Also, the colors are more vivid in males than in females. Male white clouds show hues of red around their fins and mouth area and the nature is quite aggressive as compared to females.
On the other hand, females are usually round in shape and possess no red hints whatsoever.
How many should be kept together?
White cloud mountain minnows are shoaling and schooling fish that enjoys the company of a group of at least six fish in a single tank.
What size tank do they need?
White cloud mountain minnows are small fish that need a minimum tank size of around 10- 12 gallons.
What fish can I put with them?
Any fish that are small and even-tempered. Some of the best tank mates of white cloud mountain minnows are:
Rummy Nose Tetras
Black Widow Tetras
Head and Tail Light Tetras
Glass Bloodfin Tetras
Do they need a heater?
Are they good fish?
White clouds are excellent freshwater fish that are small, colorful, and peaceful. Also, they love being in a community tank around fish of their size and temperament. White clouds are also hardy fish that require little to no care.
However, the only requirement to keep them happy and thriving is keeping their tank clean and providing them with the optimal water parameters.
How many can be kept in a 15-gallon tank?
You can keep around 10 male white clouds in a 15-gallon tank. Since females are active and slightly larger fish, it’s recommended to keep 7 or 8 female white clouds in a 15-gallon tank.
How long do they live?
The estimated age of white clouds in captivity is around 5 to 7 years, provided that the water quality is top-notch and the food is rich in protein and other nutrients.
Are they fin nippers?
No, unlike other species, white clouds are not fin nippers.
The white cloud minnow is a peaceful freshwater fish that is both; beautiful and hardy. They are small fish that need a minimum tank size of no larger than 10 to 15 gallons stocked with aquatic live plants and decorations.
The only requirement to keep them thriving and happy is a clean tank and nutritious diet that promote their healthy color, and immune system, and increase their life expectancy.
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.