Information Last Reviewed Spring 2007
Small fish lack spines in fins
Metalarvae and early juvenile are similar to bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) but pectoral fin extends only to base of pelvic fin (as opposed to beyond in the pelvic fin in bighead)
Silvery in color
Olive green coloration above lateral line and on back, silver below lateral line
Deep body that is laterally compressed
Eye positioned low on the head
Smooth keel on abdomen
Gill rakers thin and numerous
Dorsal fin origin posterior to pelvic fin base
Silver carp are unlikely to be confused with native cyprinids due to size and unusual position of the eye. They are most similar to bighead carp (H. nobilis) but have a keel that extends forward past pelvic fin base, lack the dark blotches characteristic of bighead carp and have highly branched gill rakers.
Fry form large schools
Fry exhibit increased feeding activity in the afternoon and lowest activities at night
Adults are known to leap out of the water when disturbed
Studies on the diet of juvenile silver carp have shown variable results for the size at which young switch from a diet of zooplankton to phytoplankton.
Below 114 mm will feed primarily on zooplankton and to a lesser degree phytoplankton
Below 18.8 mm, feed primarily on rotifers and nauplii, between 18.8 and 26 mm, feed on cladocera and copepods and at greater than 26 mm, the diet was almost exclusively phytoplankton
Diet of adult silver carp remains controversial in the literature. Some studies have reported a diet composed exclusively of phytoplankton while others have reported diets high in detritus and zooplankton. Spataru and Gophen suggested this variation might be a reflection of the relative abundance of zooplankton and phytoplankton in the environment.
Length of intestine can range from 7-15 times the body length
Feed primarily on phytoplankton but also consume small zooplankton and detritus
Will consume detritus and stir up bottom when phytoplankton numbers are low
Diet is high in detritus
"Versatile" omnivores- primarily phytoplankton and infrequently zooplankton
May reach an age of 20 years
May reach 44-60 lb
4-8 years in native range
60–70 cm TL
Occurs at temperatures greater than 18 C and when water levels and flow increase due to the monsoon in native range
Temperature is thought to be the primary cue
Spawning is expected to occur in US waters due to similarities in spawning requirements with grass carp
Require current to stay suspended
Minimum length of the spawning river is estimated to be 100 km and minimum current speed of 70 cm/s to keep eggs buoyant
3.2-4.7 mm diameter at maturity
Protolarvae 4.5-5.5 mm TL
Primarily found in large rivers in native range
No data available
Can withstand low dissolved oxygen (3 mg/l)
Can tolerate brackish water (up to 12 ppt)
May cause increased levels of turbidity
Large rivers of central and south Asia, eastern China, and USSR that flow into Pacific Ocean
North American Distribution (Fuller et al.)
Silver carp have been recorded from the following states. However, only those with an asterisk (*) are states that have verified records of established, reproducing populations. Reproducing populations appear to be restricted to large river systems and have been documented in several rivers in Louisiana (see below), Horseshoe Lake (Illinois), and the Mississippi River. Reproduction may also be occurring in Missouri.
Alabama- Mobile Basin
Arkansas- Mississippi River, White River
Colorado- water treatment ponds
Florida- Bay County
Illinois*- Mississippi River, Illinois River, Kaskaskia, Wabash, Little Wabash, and Ohio Rivers
Indiana- Ohio River
Kentucky- Mississippi River, Ohio River
Louisana*- Lake Providence; Lake Louis; Lake LaFourche; Henderson Lake; Bayou LaFourche; Gourd Bayou; Chauvin Canal; and Mississippi, Red, Tensas, Boeuf, Black and Ouachita Rivers
Missouri- Little, Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers
Tennessee- Mississippi River
Probable Means of Introduction
Accidental escape from aquaculture facilities
For control of plankton blooms in reservoirs and ponds (although this use has since been challenged)
Used for biofiltration of sewage lagoons
Direct competition with all native species that depend on zooplankton as young
Direct competition with native species such as gizzard shad, bigmouth buffalo, and paddlefish, which are planktivorous as adults
None identified, especially given that their presence in certain situations may increase algal blooms instead of controlling them
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Bernstein, N.P. and J.R. Olson. 2001. Ecological problems with Iowa’s invasive and introduced fishes. Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science 108(4):185-209.
Burke, J.S., D.R. Bayne, and H. Rea. 1986. Impact of silver and bighead carps on plankton communities of channel catfish ponds. Aquaculture 55:59-68.
Burr, B.M., D.J. Eisenhour, K.M. Cook, C.A. Taylor, G.L. Seegert, R.W. Sauer, and E.R. Atwood. 1996. Nonnative fishes in Illinois waters: What do the records reveal? Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science 89(1/2):73-91.
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Cremer, M.C., and R.O. Smitherman. 1980. Food habits and growth of silver carp and bighead carp in cages and ponds. Aquaculture 20:57-64.
Etenier, D.A. and W.C. Starnes. 1993. Fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee. 681 pp.
Freeze, M. and S. Henderson. 1982. Distribution and status of the bighead carp and silver carp in Arkansas. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 2(2):197-200.
Fuller, P.L., L.G. Nico, and J.D. Williams. 1999. Nonindigenous fishes introduced into inland waters of the United States. American Fisheries Society Special Publication Number 27.
Herodek, S., I. Tatrai, J. Olah, and L. Voros. 1989. Feeding experiments with silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix Val.) fry. Aquaculture 83:331-344.
Opuszynski, K. 1979. Silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Val.) in carp ponds. III. Influence on ecosystem. Polish Journal of Ecology 27:117-133.
Pfleiger, W.L. 1997. The fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation. 372 pp.
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Rasmussen, J. 2000. Summary (by state) of Asian carp distribution in the Mississippi River Basin. Unpublished document.
Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. The University of Arkansas Press. Fayetteville. 535 pp.
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Schofield, P.J., J.D. Williams, L.G. Nico, P. Fuller, and M. Thomas. 2004. Identification guide to the foreign nonindigenous carps and minnows (Cyprinidae) in the United States.
Sobolev, Y.A. 1970. Food interrelationships of young grass carp, silver carp and carp reared jointly in ponds in Belorussia. Journal of Ichthyology 10:528.
Soin, S.G. and A.I. Sukhanova. 1972. Comparative morphological analysis of the development of the grass carp, the black carp, the silver carp and the bighead (Cyprindidae). Journal of Ichthyology 12(1):61-71.
Spataru, P., and M. Gophen. 1985. Feeding behavior of silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix Val. and its impact on the food web in Lake Ninneret, Israel. Hydrobiologia 120:53-61.
Verigin, B.V., A.P. Makeyeva, and M.I. Zaki Mokhamed. 1978. Natural spawning of the silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, the bighead carp, Aristichthys nobilis, and the grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella, in the Syr-Dar'ya River. Journal of Ichthyology 18(1):143-147.
Wang, J., S.A. Flickenger, K. Be, Y. Liu, and H. Xu. 1989. Daily food consumption and feeding rhythm of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) during fry to fingerling period. Aquaculture 83:73-79.
Barthelmes, D. and U. Bramick. 2003. Variability of a cyprinid lake ecosystem with special emphasis on the native fish fauna under intensive fisheries management including common carp (Cyprinus carpio) and silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix). Limnologica 33(1): 10-28.
Beveridge, M.C.M., D.J. Baird, S.M. Rahmatullah, L.A. Lawton, K.A. Beattie, and G.A. Codd. 1993. Grazing rates on toxic and non-toxic strains of cyanobacteria of Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and Oreochromis niloticus. Journal of Fish Biology 43:901-907.
Bocek, A.J., Y.J. Brady, and W.A. Rogers. 1992. Exposure of silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix to Salmonella typhimurium. Aquaculture 103:9-16.
Boschung, H.T. 1992. Catalogue of freshwater and marine fishes of Alabama. Bulletin of the Alabama Museum of Natural History 14:1-266.
Bukvic, I., M. Kerovec, A. Plenkovic and M. Mrakovcic. 1998. Impact of silver and bighead carp (Cyprinidae) on plankton and water quality in fish ponds. Biologia 53(2):145-157.
Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.P. Jennings, and J.D. Williams. 1991. Appendix 2. Exotic Fishes. Pages 97-107 in C.R. Robins, R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. Common and Scientific Names of Fishes from the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 20. Bethesda, Maryland.
Domaizon, I. and J. Devaux. 1999. Experimental study of the impacts of silver carp on plankton communities of eutrophic Villerest reservoir (France). Aquatic Ecology 33:193-204.
Dong, S., and D. Li. 1994. Comparative studies on the feeding selectivity of silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead carp Aristichthys nobilis. Journal of Fish Biology 44:621-626.
Hampl, A., J. Jirasek, and D. Sirotek. 1983. Growth morphology of the filtering apparatus of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) II. Microscopic anatomy. Aquaculture 31:153-158.
Howes, G. 1981. Anatomy and phylogeny of the Chinese major carps Ctenopharyngodon Steind., 1866 and Hypophthalmichthys Blkr., 1860. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Zoology Series 41(1):1-52.
Jirasek, J., A. Hampl, and D. Sirotek. 1982. Growth morphology of the filtering apparatus of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) I. Gross anatomy. Aquaculture 26:41-48.
Kamilov, B.G. 1985. Morphology of growth structures in silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, in relation to estimation of age and growth rate. Journal of Ichthyology 25(1):49-59.
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Kamilov, B.G., and T.V. Salikhov. 1996. Spawning and reproductive potential of the silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix from the Syr Darya River. Journal of Ichthyology 36(8):600-606.
Kim, B.H., M.K. Choi and N. Takamura. 2003. Phytoplankton preferences of young silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, in hyperutrophic mesocosms during a warm season. Journal of Freshwater Ecology 18(1):69-77.
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Shubnikova, N.G. 1979. On sexual dimorphism in the silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix. Journal of Ichthyology 19(3):154-158.
Smith, D.W. 1989. The feeding selectivity of silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix Val. Journal of Fish Biology 34:819-828.
Spataru, P. 1977. Gut contents of the silver carp- Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Val.)- and some trophic relations to other fish species in a polyculture system. Aquaculture 11:137-146.
Verigin, B.V., D.N. Shakha, and B.G. Kamilov. 1990. Correlation among reproductive indicators of the silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and the bighead carp Aristichthys nobilis. Journal of Ichthyology 30(8):80-92.
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