The fathead has been very commonly used as a baitfish, and more recently has emerged in the aquarium trade as the rosy-red minnow. This colour morph was discovered in several Arkansas breeding farms in 1985. Both sexes of this strain have a rosy-golden body and fins, and are sold in pet shops primarily asfeeder fish. They can also be used in home aquariums as pets.
This species is also important as a biological model in aquatic toxicology studies. Because of its relative hardiness and large number of offspring produced, EPA guidelines outline its use for the evaluation of acute and chronic toxicity of samples or chemical species in vertebrate animals.