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

Invasive Fish Species

Bighead Carp

Scientific Name

Hypophthalmichthys nobilis  - Visit ITIS for full scientific classification



  • Large, freshwater fish. Elongated body, with a large scale-less head, and downward facing eyes.  
  • They have a large mouth, no teeth, and a protruding lower jaw.
  • They are a silvery dark gray color on their back and sides with dark blotches, fading to white on their belly.
  • Possible for individuals to grow over 4 feet, and up to 88 pounds. 
  • Found in shallow, flooded areas of rivers, ponds, irrigation canals, lakes, and reservoirs.
  • Bighead Carp can tolerate extreme environmental conditions including: low oxygen levels, brackish water, and temperatures ranging from 33-101 degrees F. 
Invasion Pathways and Distribution
  • In 1972, Bighead Carp were introduced to control plankton populations in a fish farm in Arkansas.
  • 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.
  • Now widespread throughout the U.S.
  • Visit 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.
  • Females migrate to areas of moderate water flow in order to release their eggs into the water column.
  • Enormous reproductive capabilities.
  • Possible for females to release over 1 million eggs in a single season.
  • Bighead Carp feed on a wide variety of plankton, using their modified gills to filter food from the water column.
  • Due to their ability to filter feed and grow to a large size, Bighead Carp can greatly reduce the amount of plankton in their surrounding environment.
  • This plankton reduction can decrease food availability for native species, possibly reduce water quality, and increase the chance for algal blooms.
  • Bighead Carp also carry diseases that can spread to native fishes.
References and Useful Links

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

Top of page

Webmaster Email: