White cloud minnows (Tanichthys albonubes), like all true minnows, are members of the family Cyprinidae, more commonly referred to as the carp family. White clouds are a primarily cold water species native to China. They were first discovered in the 1930s on White Cloud Mountainin the Chinese province of Guangdong Boy Scout leader, Tan. The white cloud minnow’s genius name, Tanichthys, literally translates to Tan’s fish.
Unfortunately White Cloud Mountain’s popularity as a tourist attraction and over fishing for the burgeoning aquarium trade industry of the post World War II era soon led to the demise of native populations in the region. From 1980 through 2001 there was not a single reported sighting of this species. It was feared that the white cloud minnow had been driven into extinction. But in a day and age when man’s encroachment on native habitats threatens the very existence of many species, nature persevered, at least in the case of the white cloud minnow. While these minnows struggled for their very existence atop White Cloud Mountain, additional populations were discovered in isolated regions along the Guangdong coastal areas and in the Quang Ninh province of northeastern Vietnam. In 2007 an established population of this species was found on Hainan Island, an island just south of Guandong province. This discovery indicates that Hainan Island and the Guangdong province were land locked at some point in the distant past. White Cloud minnows are currently listed as an endangered species in their natural habitat by the Chinese Government. All white clouds available for sale in the aquarium industry are commercially raised.
Like all minnows, this is a relatively small species. White clouds only grow to a maximum length of 1.5 inches. These minnows grew to immense popularity in the 1940s and 50s. So much so that they earned the nickname “Poor Man’s Neon Tetra,” because they were much more reasonably priced than their more colorful and expensive counter parts. Even to this day, white cloud minnows are commonly marketed under the label White Cloud Tetras. They are also sold under the names Cardinal fish, Cantonand China Danio despite the fact that they bear no relation to danio breeds.
In their wild habitat, white cloud minnow are genetically identical. Interbreeding of what has become known as the Golden Cloud produced a longer finned variation dubbed the Meteor Minnow. Further genetic manipulation between the two led to the development of the Golden Meteor Minnow. A latter genetic deviation of this species resulted in a minnow devoid of much of the natural pigmentation of the parent species, the Blonde Cloud.
Regardless of genetic variation, white clouds are and extremely hardy fish. They make an excellent choice for first time aquarium owners. Their ability to prosper in a multitude of environmental conditions makes them the ideal starter fish for cycling new aquariums. These minnow are a cold water species by nature. Although they can survive in temperatures as low as 41°F, they thrive in the 64-72 °F range. This makes them the ideal candidate for unheated aquariums and common fish bowls. Despite their cold water nature, these minnow can easily endure the slightly higher water temperatures of a standard tropical aquarium community tank. A pH level anywhere between 6.0 and 8.0 is perfectly acceptable. White clouds have an average lifespan of 3-5 years in captivity.
This species works well in a community aquarium provided they are house with even tempered tank mates of similar size. It should be noted that white clouds are schooling fish. They will best adapt to their new environment if introduced in groups of no less than five. When kept as a single species specimen it is common for this minnow to become very timid in nature. The needless stress of a solitary existence will often result in a noticeable reduction of brightness in the color palette. In an aquarium setting, these minnows are top to mid-level swimmers. They rarely venture to the bottom of an aquarium.
In nature, white clouds are carnivores. Their diet consists of small insects, worms and crustaceans. In captivity this species will readily accept standard garden variety fish fare. However high protein supplements will help maintain their general health, coloration and insure longevity.
Males are typically thinner than females. In specimens where natural color pigment has not been bred out, the red coloration is more vibrant in males.
Breeding White Cloud Minnows
This species will reach sexual maturity anywhere between 6 to 12 months. Adult males will typically flare their fins and engage in a ritual courtship mating dance to attract the females’ attention. It is common for males to attempt to out perform each other in the pursuit of a female during the mating cycle. Prior to breeding males will often nip at one another but this display of aggression rarely manifests into a full out skirmish.
Spawning is best suited for a breeding tank to protect unborn eggs and newly hatched fry from possible predation. A breeding tank as small as 5 gallons will suffice. You can select a single mature pair if you wish. However since male aggression is of no serious consequence, you can place two or three males in the breeding tank with an equal or greater number of females and let nature take its course.
A pH balance of 6.5-7.5 with a temperature range between 68-75 °F is conducive to initiating the breeding cycle. You should also provide an adequate supply of java mass as a spawning medium.
Females will lay as few as a dozen or as many as couple hundred eggs during spawning. The eggs will hatch in approximately two days. White cloud minnow are not noted for eating their eggs or hatchlings. Some may be eaten but many will survive. Therefore, removing the adults from the breeding tank after spawning is purely discretionary.
Within a few days the fry will become free swimming. Newly hatched fry can be fed infusuria or luqifry. Within a week their diet can be switched over to baby brine shrimp or finely crushed fish flakes. The fry will grow to within 1/2 inch in the first three months and will reach full adult size within a year.
Stephen J Broy