Hypophthalmichthys molitrix - Silver Carp


Information Last Reviewed Spring 2007




General Biology

Life Cycle

Habitat Characteristics





Web Sites







Phylum: Chordata

Class: Actinopterygii

Order: Cypriniformes

Family: Cyprinidae








Juvenile Morphology


Adult Morphology


Distinguishing Characteristics 

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. image\17.jpg




General Biology:






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.



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 image\21.jpg suggested this variation might be a reflection of the relative abundance of zooplankton and phytoplankton in the environment.




Life Cycle:














Habitat Characteristics:


Preferred Environment








Water Quality






Native Range

Large rivers of central and south Asia, eastern China, and USSR that flow into Pacific Ocean image\6.jpg


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. image\4.jpg image\5.jpg image\10.jpg image\13.jpg Reproduction may also be occurring in Missouri. image\15.jpg



Probable Means of Introduction














Control Measures






  1. Abdusamadov, A.S. 1987. Biology of white amur, Ctenopharyngodon idella silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead, Aristichthys nobilis acclimatized in the Terek Region of the Caspian Basin. Journal of Ichthyology 26:41-49.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Burr, B.M., and M.L. Warren, Jr. 1993. Fishes of the Big Muddy River drainage with emphasis on historical changes. Pages 186-209 in L.W. Hesse, C.B. Stalnaker, N.G. Benson, and J.R. Zuboy, editors. Proceedings of the symposium on restoration planning for rivers of the Mississippi River ecosystem. Biological Report 19, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey, Washington, D.C.


  1. Costa-Pierce, B.A. 1992. Review of the spawning requirements and feeding ecology of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and reevaluation of its use in the fisheries and aquaculture. Reviews in Aquatic Sciences 6(3,4):257-273.


  1. 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.


  1. Etenier, D.A. and W.C. Starnes. 1993. Fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee. 681 pp.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Herodek, S., I. Tatrai, J. Olah, and L. Voros. 1989. Feeding experiments with silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix Val.) fry. Aquaculture 83:331-344.


  1. Opuszynski, K. 1979. Silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Val.) in carp ponds. III. Influence on ecosystem. Polish Journal of Ecology 27:117-133.


  1. Pfleiger, W.L. 1997. The fishes of Missouri. Missouri Department of Conservation. 372 pp.


  1. Radke, R.J. and U. Kahl. 2002. Effects of a filter-feeding fish [silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Val.)] on phyto- and zooplankton in a mesotrophic reservoir: Results from an enclosure experiment. Freshwater Biology 47(12):2337-2344.


  1. Rasmussen, J. 2000. Summary (by state) of Asian carp distribution in the Mississippi River Basin. Unpublished document.


  1. Robison, H.W., and T.M. Buchanan. 1988. Fishes of Arkansas. The University of Arkansas Press. Fayetteville. 535 pp.


  1. Ross, S.T. 2001. Inland Fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi. 624 pp.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.



Additional Literature:


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.


Kamilov, B.G. and M.Y. Komrakova. 1999. Maturation and fecundity of the silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix, in Uzbekistan. Israeli Journal of Aquaculture-Bamidgeh 51(1):40-43.


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.


Laws, E.A., and R.S.J. Weisburd. 1994. Algal response to silver carp: Response to comment. The Progressive Fish Culturist 56:77-80.


Lu, M., P. Xie, H.J. Tang, Z.J. Shao, and L.Q. Xie. 2002. Experimental study of trophic cascade effect of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) in a subtropical lake, Lake Donghu: On plankton community and underlying mechanisms of changes of crustacean community. Hydrobiologia 487(1):19-31.


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.


Vörös, L., I. Oldal, M. Présing, and K. V.-Balogh. 1997. Size-selective filtration and taxon-specific digestion of plankton algae by silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix Val.). Hydrobiologia 342/343:223-228.


Vovk, P.S. 1974. The possibility of using the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) to increase the fish production of the Dnieper reservoirs and to decrease eutrophication. Journal of Ichthyology 14(3):351-355.


Wang, Z.W., Y.Z. Ye, J.F. Zhou and Q.J. Wu. 2004. Rapid establishment of pure lines of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis). Progress in Natural Science 14(1):60-63.


Xu, Y., J. Zhang, W. Li, K.W. Schramm, and A. Kettrup. 2002. Endocrine effects of sublethal exposure to persistent organic pollutants (POPS) on silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix). Environmental Pollution 120(3):682-690.


Zhang, G.H., J.B. Chang, and G.F. Shu. 2000. Applications of factor criteria system reconstruction analysis in the reproduction research on grass carp, black carp, silver carp and bighead in the Yangtze River. International Journal of General Systems 29(3):419-428.




Web Sites:


Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission:



Fish Base:



USGS Nonindigenous Species Program:



ITIS Report:



Asian Carp Work Group:

http://wwwaux.cerc.cr.usgs.gov/MICRA/ACWG Page.htm