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.
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.
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.
Bighead Carp mature in 2-3 years commonly weighing up to 18 kg, but can reach 40 kg (rare)
Illustration © Joseph Tomelleri
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:
Spread of Bighead Carp (1980 – Present)
Map courtesy of the United States Geological Survey