California Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)
University of California
California Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS)

Invasive Fish Species

Black Carp

Scientific Name

Mylopharyngodon piceus - Visit ITIS for full scientific classification. 


  • Large, freshwater fish. Elongated body shape, similar in appearance to Grass Carp.
  • Adults are black, dark blue, or brown on their back and sides, and light gray to white on their bellies.
  • Large, smooth teeth in throat adapted to crush the shells of snails, mussels, and clams.
  • Possible for individuals to grow over 5 feet long and up to 150 pounds. 
  • Bottom dwellers, preferring floodplains and the backwaters of rivers. Also found in reservoirs, irrigation canals, and lakes.
  • Black Carp can tolerate extreme environmental conditions including: low oxygen levels, brackish water, and temperatures ranging from 32-100 degrees F.
Invasion Pathways and Distribution
  • In 1973, Black Carp were accidently introduced into a fish farm in Arkansas with a shipment of Grass Carp.
  • They now occur in the Mississippi River and continue to spread to other surrounding states.
  • Asian Carp can spread through fish farming activities, legal and illegal stocking, accidental inclusion in shipments, escape or release to open waters, and natural dispersal.
  • Native to China and Russia.
  • See USGS for a map of current U.S. distribution. 
Life History
  • Mating season begins in the summer when the water is warmer than 65 degrees F.
  • Enormous reproductive capabilities. Females migrate to areas of moderate water flow in order to release hundreds of thousands of eggs into the water column. 
  • Compete with native fishes for resources.
  • Can reduce native populations of the snails, mussels, and clams they feed on.
  • Black Carp also carry parasites and diseases that can then spread to native fishes. 
References and Useful Links

For references by category and links to other useful AIS sites see our LEARN MORE page.

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