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Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) are heavy bodied fish from the family Cyprinidae and can weigh up to 60 pounds. Silver carp can be identified by low-set eyes and an upturned mouth lacking barbels. The silver carp looks very similar to another invasive Asian carp, the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis). Both species of fish were imported to control populations of phytoplankton in the 1970's.
Silver carp are aggressive fish that consume up to half their body weight in plankton and detritus. They are able to out-compete native fish populations for resources with their foraging abilities and aggressive behaviors. Native species of mussels, larvae fish, and adult fish such as the paddlefish are at greatest risk of being out-competed because of a proven diet overlap. Silver carp are reported to be migrating north up the tributaries of the Mississippi river. These fish are also known for their ability to jump several feet out of the water when disturbed by boaters. Silver fish are capable of jumping into boats of fishermen and injuring people by jumping into them.
Silver carp reach maturity at 3 years and are capable of reproducing until 10 years of age. Temperatures must be 18-20o C for silver carp to spawn. Spawning occurs from May to September, where they can be witnessed migrating upstream in groups of 15 to 20 adults. Eggs are laid in a stream containing enough current to transport eggs downstream.
Silver carp were introduced to the United States in 1973 as an import to stock fish farms in Arkansas. Popularity of stocking the silver carp increased by the mid 1970's with records of six state, federal, and private facilities importing the fish. The silver carp was ideal for phytoplankton control and a food source. By the 1980's there were occurrences of silver carp in natural waters from accidental escapes.
The silver carp is native to the major drainages in Eastern Asia, Southern Russia, Eastern half of China, and possibly part of Vietnam.
U.S. Habitat: Silver carp can be found in freshwater ponds, sewage ponds, and eutrophic ponds. Their diet consists primarily of phytoplankton, but they are also known to feed on zooplankton, bacteria, and detritus.
U.S. Present: AL, AR, CO, HI, IL, IN, IA, KS, KT, LA, MS, MO, NE, PR, SD, TN
Click here to view range map -- provided by USGS, NAS
It is prohibited to spread, sell, or import silver carp within the United States. If a silver carp is caught, it is permitted to release it back into the lake it was taken from or use it as food. Silver carp can be readily identified in the adult form because they jump violently out of the water surrounding boats that disturb them. Juvenile silver carp are difficult to distinguish from other native species of bait fish (ie gizzard shad) and contaminate live bait. To help prevent the spread of silver carp, do not take live bait from lakes where silver carp are found. If you believe to have caught a silver carp in a new area, please contact local fish and wildlife department.
Aquatic Invasive Species Fact Sheet -- provided by Indiana Department of Natural Resources
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Carter, F. A., and J. K. Beadles. 1983. Range extension of the silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix. Proceedings of the Arkansas Academy of Science 37:80.
Laird, C. A., and L. M. Page. 1996. Non-native fishes inhabiting the streams and lakes of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 35(1):1-51.
Li, S., and F. Fang. 1990. On the geographical distribution of the four kinds of pond-cultured carps in China. Acta Zoologica Sinica 36(3):244-250.
Rinne, J. N. 1995. The effects of introduced fishes on native fishes: Arizona, southwestern United States. Pages 149-159 in D. P. Philipp, J. M. Epifanio, J. E. Marsden, and J. E. Claussen, editors. Protection of Aquatic Biodiversity. Proceedings of the World Fisheries Congress, Theme 3. Science Publishers Inc., Lebanon, NH.