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
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
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
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)
o Can tolerate brackish water (up to 12 ppt)
o 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.
Production cycle of Hypophthalmichthys molitrix
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Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme
Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Valenciennes,
I. Identity V. Status and trends
a. Biological features VI. Main issues
b. Images gallery a. Responsible aquaculture practices
II. Profile VII. References
a. Historical background a. Related links
b. Main producer countries
c. Habitat and biology
a. Production cycle
b. Production systems
c. Diseases and control measures
a. Production statistics
b. Market and trade
Hypophthalmichthys molitrix Valenciennes, 1844 [Cyprinidae]
FAO Names: En - Silver carp, Fr - Carpe argentée, Es - Carpa plateada
Body laterally compressed and deep. Ventral keel extending from isthmus to anus. Head large. Eye small, on
ventral side of head. Gillrakers sponge-like. Dorsal fin with 8 rays; no adipose fin. Anal fin with 13 to 15 rays.
Lateral line with 83 to 125 scales.
View SIDP Species fact sheet
Fish rearing pond area
Seedling collection cages
In the 5th Century B.C. in China, Fan Li described the ponds used, the selection of fish, and the breeding season of
common carp, together with its sex ratio and growth rate. By the Han Dynasty (3 rd Century B.C. to 3rd Century A.D.),
there were further developments in the production of common carp. In the Tan Dynasty (7 th –10th Century) there was
a transition period from common carp culture to the rearing of grass carp, black carp, silver carp and bighead carp.
From the 10th to the 12th Century, expansion in the production of these four cyprinids was even greater, and the
feeding habits and relationship between the species became better known. Subsequently, there has been great
progress in pond-fish culture in China from the monoculture of common carp to the polyculture of grass carp, black
carp, silver carp and bighead carp.
Since the 1950s, after a breakthrough in artificial breading, the culture of silver carp, as well as other carps, has
spread tremendously into most areas of China. Silver carp has long been an important cultured species in China
It is herbivorous and low in the food chain; feeds and fertilizers are therefore easily available at low cost.
It can be polycultured with some other species, due to its specific habitat.
Seeds are readily available from artificial breeding, without reliance on natural resources.
Production management is simpler and the rearing period is shorter than for other carp species.
In recent decades, silver carp have been widely introduced into European and Israeli waters for algal control and as
a food source.
Main producer countries
Main producer countries of Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (FAO Fishery Statistics, 2006)
Habitat and biology
Silver carp is a freshwater species living in temperate conditions (6-28 °C) and its natural distribution is in Asia. This
species requires static or slow-flowing water, as found in impoundments or the backwaters of large rivers. In its
natural range, it is potamodromous, migrating upstream to breed; eggs and larvae float downstream to floodplain
zones. While it is fundamentally benthopelagic, as an active species it swims just below the water surface and is
well known for its habit of leaping clear of the water when disturbed.Silver carp are typical planktivores, the
gillrakers being the main means of filtration. Silver carp consume diatoms, dinoflagellates, chrysophytes,
xanthophytes, some green algae and cyanobacteria ('blue green algae'). In addition, detritus, conglomerations of
bacteria, rotifers and small crustaceans are other major components of their natural diet. Silver carp spawn in late
spring and summer, when the temperature of the water is relatively high. From April to August, either because of
the rainstorms or the swollen upper reaches of streams and rivers, its broodstock are concentrated in spawning
locations where conditions are favourable, and the current swift, complicated and irregular. Spawning temperature
is generally between 18 ºC and 30 ºC, with an optimum of 22-28 ºC. The eggs of silver carp, like all Chinese carps,
are non-adhesive. After spawning, the eggs begin to absorb water through the egg membrane and swell until its
specific gravity is slightly greater than that of water, so they can stay at the bottom (in the case of static waters) or
float halfway in mid-water (in flowing waters) until the fry hatch.