Asian Carps
ISC Inner Banner
Homebreadcrumb separatorASIAN CARPSbreadcrumb separatorBighead Carp

Bighead Carp

(Hypophthalmichthys nobilis)

Physical Description 


Bighead Carp is a deep-bodied fish with a large toothless mouth and very large head. Their eyes are located forward and low on the head, well below the axis of the body. Coloration is dark gray above and cream-coloured below with dark gray to black irregular blotches on the back and sides. Gill rakers are long, comb-like and close-set allowing the carp to strain planktonic organisms from the water for food. They have also been known to hybridize (cross-breed) with Silver Carp and produce viable, reproductive offspring.

 

Preferred Habitat 


Spawning can occur in many water bodies including moderate to large rivers and lakes with areas of slow current and depths of more than 2 metres. They are active in cold water and begin to feed at temperatures above 2-4⁰C, preferring temperatures of 4-26⁰C. Bighead carp are extremely hardy and can adapt to many temperate freshwater environments.

 

Diet 


Although the name H. nobilis implies nobility, these fish are anything but; they are voracious eaters and consume a wide range of zooplankton, detritus and small invertebrates, outcompeting native species for food. Bighead Carp lack a true stomach which requires them to feed almost continuously.

 

Size 


Bighead Carp mature in 2-3 years commonly weighing up to 18 kg, but can reach 40 kg (rare)

 
 

 

 

Image of a bighead carp

Illustration © Joseph Tomelleri


Fast Facts: 

Origin: Large rivers and lakes in eastern China and far eastern Russia. 


Diet: Zooplankton, detritus and small invertebrates


Behaviour: Exhibit schooling behaviour 


Life Span: 16+ years


Size:  Maximum: 40 kg, 1.5 metres 


Did You Know? 

  • Extremely hardy and can adapt to many temperate freshwater environments.
  • Lack a true stomach which requires them to feed almost continuously.

Size Relative to 6 ft Man:


Comparison of size between a bighead carp and a 6ft tall human

 


 

 

Woman holding a bighead carp  


Spread of Bighead Carp (1980 – Present)


Spread of bighead carp in America since 1980

Map courtesy of the United States Geological Survey