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Tinca tinca (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name: Tench

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Distinguishing characteristics were given in Berg (1949), Scott and Crossman (1973), Muus and Dahlstrom (1978), Wheeler (1978), and Page and Burr (1991). Identification keys that include this species and photographs or illustrations were provided in a few published state fish books (e.g., Whitworth et al. 1968; Woodling 1985; Bond 1994; Moyle 2002; Wydoski and Whitney 2003). A name used in some of the early literature for this species is Tinca vulgaris.

Size: 84 cm.

Native Range: Most of Europe, including the British Isles, and parts of western Asia (Berg 1949).

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Puerto Rico &
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Guam Saipan
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: States in which this species has been stocked or reported include Alabama (Baughman 1947); Arizona (Baughman 1947; Courtenay et al. 1991); Arkansas (Baughman 1947); California (Shapovalov 1944; Kimsey and Fisk 1964; Skinner 1972; Courtenay et al. 1984, 1991; Dill and Cordone 1997; Moyle 2002; Wydoski and Whitney 2003); Colorado (Ellis 1914; Baughman 1947; Beckman 1952; Everhart and Seaman 1971; Woodling 1985; Zuckerman and Behnke 1986; Rasmussen 1998; Wydoski and Whitney 2003); Connecticut (Webster 1942; Connecticut State Board of Fisheries and Game 1959; Whitworth et al. 1968; Courtenay et al. 1986); Delaware (Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947; Lee et al. 1976; Raasch and Altemus 1991); Florida (Baughman 1947); Georgia (Bean 1896; Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947); Idaho (Smith 1896; Ravenel 1898; Lampman 1946; Baughman 1947; Linder 1963; Simpson and Wallace 1978; Idaho Fish and Game 1990, 1996; Wydoski and Whitney 2003); Illinois (Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947); Indiana (Baughman 1947); Iowa (Bean 1896; Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947); Kansas (Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947); Kentucky (Baughman 1947); Louisiana (Baughman 1947); Maryland (Ferguson 1876; Anonymous 1892; Bean 1884, 1903; McDonald 1893; Ravenel 1898; Truitt et al. 1929; Baughman 1947; Schwartz 1963, 1964; Courtenay el al. 1991; Starnes 2003, Starnes et al. 2011); Massachusetts (Baughman 1947; USFWS 2005); Michigan (Baughman 1947); Mississippi (Ravenel 1896); Missouri (McDonald 1893; Evermann and Kendall 1895; Worth 1895; Bean 1896; Ravenel 1896, 1898; Baughman 1947; Pflieger 1971); Nebraska (Baughman 1947; Morris et al. 1974); Nevada (Smith 1896; Miller and Alcorn 1946; Baughman 1947; Deacon and Williams 1984); New Jersey (Ravenel 1896); New Mexico (Ravenel 1896; Baughman 1947; Koster 1957; Sublette et al. 1990); New York (Bean 1903; Baughman 1947; Courtenay et al. 1986; Schmidt 1986; Malchoff et al 2005); North Carolina (Ravenel 1896; Baughman 1947); Ohio (Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947; Trautman 1981); Oklahoma (McDonald 1893; Bean 1896; Baughman 1947; Hall 1956); Oregon (Smith 1896; Ravenel 1898; Chapman 1942; Lampman 1946; Baughman 1947; Courtenay et al. 1986; Wydoski and Whitney 2003); Pennsylvania (Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947; Hendricks et al. 1979); South Carolina (Ravenel 1896, 1898; Baughman 1947); Tennessee (Ravenel 1898; Baughman 1947); Texas (Worth 1895; Bean 1896; Ravenel 1896, 1898; Baughman 1947; Hubbs 1954; Howells 1992); Utah (Tanner 1936; Baughman 1947); Vermont (Vachon and Dumont 2002). Virginia (Baird 1887; Ravenel 1896, 1898; Baughman 1947; Hocutt et al. 1986; Courtenay et al. 1991; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994); Washington (Smith 1896; Ravenel 1898; Chapman 1942; Lampman 1946; Baughman 1947; Gray and Dauble 1977; McPhail and Lindsey 1986; Killgore et al. 1991; Wydoski and Whitney 2003); West Virginia (Baughman 1947); and Wisconsin (Baughman 1947; Becker 1983).

Means of Introduction: This species was imported into North America from Germany by the U.S. Fish Commission in 1877 apparently for use as a food and sport fish (Baird 1879). The Commission apparently spent several years learning to culture tench, for it was not until well into the 1880s that the agency started to seriously distribute the species in the United States. According to Baughman (1947), the Commission planted more than 138,000 tench across North America during the period 1886 to 1896. By the end of that period, the Commission had provided tench to at least 36 different states. Shortly thereafter, the agency discontinued working with tench and turned over their hatchery ponds to the rearing of bass (Baughman 1947). The U.S. Fish Commission stocked tench into lakes and ponds in the Pacific states, including Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, in 1895 (Smith 1896). Additional introductions occurred in Washington when tench exhibited at the 1909 Worlds Fair, held in Seattle, were dumped into a large pond on the University of Washington campus. Some of these fish later were transferred to Lake Washington; the population eventually spread to Lake Union (Wydoski and Whitney 2003). Although most tench introductions were the result of intentional stockings, some introductions were the result of escape from holding facilities. In 1889, many of the fish, including an estimated 25 tench, held in federal ponds in Washington, D.C., escaped into the Potomac River during a flood (McDonald 1893). However, tench had been introduced to the Potomac River prior to that date. For instance, Smiley (1889) recorded the taking of tench from that river during March 1887. Evermann and Kendall (1895) reported the escape of tench from the Neosho fish hatchery into Spring Branch near Neosho in southwestern Missouri. Baughman (1947) discussed the escape of tench into the Olentangy River of Ohio after the banks of an artificial lake collapsed in 1898. Schwartz (1964) stated that tench had escaped from commercial ponds into creeks in Maryland. Tench were first brought to California in 1922. At that time, specimens obtained in Italy were illegally released into a private reservoir near Half Moon Bay, San Mateo County; the species was later spread to other California waters by ranchers (Shapovalov 1944; Dill and Cordone 1997).

Status: The tench has been documented for 38 states. Baughman (1947) indicated that this species was established in California, Colorado, Idaho, Washington, and apparently Oregon; he also quoted information of previously breeding populations in Maryland. In a more recent work, Page and Burr (1991) considered it established in California, Colorado, Connecticut, and Washington, and possibly Delaware, Maryland, and New York. Courtenay et al. (1991) believed it to be established in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, and Washington. Dill and Cordone (1997) found evidence that the tench is still established in California, but described its distribution as very limited. Although the data are more than a decade old, Woodling (1985) confirmed that the species continued to survive in several Colorado waters. Zuckerman and Benhke (1986) also noted that the species persisted in Colorado, but they indicated populations in the San Luis Valley had declined dramatically in recent years. Whitworth (1996) reported that no specimens had been obtained in Connecticut for over fifteen years. There is recent literature indicating the species is still established in Washington and, probably, Idaho. For instance, in their analysis of Northwest drainages, McPhail and Lindsey (1986) listed tench as present in the upper, middle, and lower Columbia River system and in the Chehalis river system. Although Idaho was not listed by Page and Burr (1991), the continued presence or established status of tench in that state has been documented by several authors (i.e., Simpson and Wallace 1978; Courtenay et al. 1991, Idaho Fish and Game 1996). However, it likely has been extirpated in Delaware (contrary to Page and Burr 1991), where surveys since 1950 have failed to find the species (M. Raasch, personal communication). Koster (1957) stated that this species occurred in the middle Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, and Bond (1973) described its distribution in Oregon as the Columbia River and probably the lower Willamette River. Lee et al. (1980 et seq.) also recorded tench as established in Oregon and New Mexico. However, in more recent works, Sublette et al. (1990) considered it extirpated from New Mexico, and Courtenay et al. (1986) believed that tench had been extirpated from both Oregon and New Mexico. In his revised treatment of Oregon fishes, Bond (1994) noted tench as introduced to the Columbia River and stated that the species was once present in lower Willamette River. The Willamette is a tributary of the Columbia River. Although it seems to be the case that tench are no longer present in Oregon, Bond (1973, 1994) did not definitively state that the Willamette River population was the only Columbia River site with tench known in that state. Its present status in both Maryland and New York is unclear. According to Baughman (1947) it was temporarily established in Maryland. Schwartz (1964) concluded that wild populations no longer exist in Maryland. In fact, he indicated that the last wild specimens known from the state were taken from the C & O Canal at Buzzard's Hole, Maryland, in 1911; however, Schwartz did note that some tench may exist in Catoctin and Huntington creeks, Frederick County, as a result of escape from commercial ponds where the fish were reared for sale to the "dime-store goldfish trade." Apparently Schwartz did not consider tench in the two creeks to be reproducing. However, Lee et al. (1984) noted that it may occur in isolated areas of Piedmont in Maryland. Rohde et al. (1994) did not mention tench in their recent work on fishes of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Similarly, Smith (1985) did not mention tench in his treatment of New York fishes. Nevertheless, Schmidt (1986), in his analysis of fish distribution in 14 Atlantic coastal drainages, listed tench as introduced to lowland lacustrine habitats in the Delaware, Long Island, and Housatonic drainages. Shortly after its introduction, Smith and Bean (1899) indicated that the species was becoming common in the Potomac River. Much more recently, Hocutt et al. (1986) listed it as introduced to the Potomac River. However, Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) concluded that there was no evidence that the species persists in the Potomac drainage, a conclusion also reached by Starnes et al. (2011). Although the tench has maintained breeding populations in a few places, the frequent absence of this species in most fish samples suggests that the tench is no longer present in many areas where it had previously been introduced and, in some cases, was temporarily established (e.g., Hall 1956; Morris et al. 1974; Hendricks et al. 1979; Courtenay et al. 1986; Menhinick 1991). Ravenel (1896) reported that the U.S Fish Commission stocked 1,600 tench in the Musconetcong River in New Jersey. That is the only record of the species in that state. During the late 1800s, the U.S. Fish Commission distributed tench to many states. In many cases the Commission documented that tench were released into specific rivers or lakes. However, for a number of states the Commission simply noted that tench were distributed to "various applicants" without indicating whether or not these fish were ever released into open waters (Baughman 1947). Later data indicated that tench were found or collected in open waters of a few of these states (e.g., Arizona), but for ten states (i.e., Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and possibly Utah) the presence of this species in open waters has not been adequately confirmed. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that some of the tench delivered by the Commission to various applicants eventually found their way to open waters as a result of floods, dam breaks, or because of intentional releases. Such losses were frequent with common carp, another cyprinid widely distributed by the U.S. Fish Commission during the late 1800s (Smiley 1886). Tanner (1936) listed tench as one of the species introduced into Utah streams, but he provided no details.

Impact of Introduction: For the most part, unknown. In the 1940s this species was reported to be a nuisance because of high abundance in certain parts of Maryland and Idaho (Baughman 1947). The diet consists mainly of aquatic insect larvae and molluscs (Scott and Crossman 1973). Moyle (2002) considered it a potential competitor for food with sport fishes and native cyprinids. In their discussion of tench introduced to Africa, de Moor and Bruton (1988) noted that the species is known to stir up bottom sediments, possibly affecting water quality, but not to the extent of common carp Cyprinus carpio.

Remarks: Baughman (1947) reviewed the history of tench introductions in North America. He also presented evidence suggesting the presence of centrarchids somehow prevented more widespread establishment of tench. Zuckerman and Behnke (1986) noticed that the decline of tench in Colorado coincided with the spread and establishment of the common carp. These authors also noted the occurrence of tench at two sites in Colorado at elevations greater than 2,850 meters. Shapovalov (1944) and Dill and Cordone (1997) reviewed the history of tench in California. In addition to the normal- or wild-colored tench, the U.S. Fish Commission distributed an orange-yellow or reddish variety, the golden tench, to various applicants in the United State during the late 1800s (Bean 1896). That genetic strain apparently was only distributed as an ornamental. There is no evidence that this ornamental variety was introduced to open waters. The golden tench is still used as an ornamental fish in European ponds (Scott and Crossman 1973; Muus and Dahlstrom 1978).

Tench were introduced to Tasmania in the 19th century (Weatherley 1961).

DeVaney et al. (2009) performed ecological niche modeling to examine the invasion potential for tench and three other invasive cyprinids (common carp Cyprinus carpio, grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella, and black carp Mylopharyngodon piceus). All of the current established populations of tench were in areas of predicted high suitability for this species. Interestingly, many areas where tench failed to become established or is currently extirpated (e.g., Great Lakes region) also had a moderate to high predicted suitability. DeVaney et al. (2009) attributed this potentially to negative interactions with sunfishes or unmeasured environmental factors.

Voucher specimens: Colorado (USNM 055569), Maryland (USNM 31003, 37850, 30336, 27234), Missouri (USNM 073666), New Mexico (UMMZ 118218), Virginia (USNM 30336, 31003, 37850).

References: (click for full references)

Baird, S.F. 1887. Report of the Commissioner for 1885. Part XIII. U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, Washington, D.C.

Baughman, J.L. 1947. The tench in America. Journal of Wildlife Management 11(3): 197-204.

Bean, T.H. 1884. List of the fishes distributed by the United States Fish Commission. Pages 1039-1044 in Report of the Commissioner for 1882, Part X. U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, Washington, D.C.

Bean, T.H. 1896. Report on the propagaton and distribution of food-fishes. 20-80 in Report of the Commissioner for the year ending June 30, 1894, Part XX. U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, Washington, D.C.

Bean, T.H. 1903. CAtalogue of the fishes of New York. Bulletin of the New York State Museum 60:1-784.

Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Madison Press, Madison, WI.

Beckman, W.C. 1952. Guide to the fishes of Colorado. Colorado Department of Fish and Game.

Berg, L.S. 1949. The freshwater fishes of the USSR and adjacent countries. 4th edition. Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Moscow.

Bond, C.E. 1973. Keys to Oregon freshwater fishes. Oregon State University Agriculture Experimental Station Technical Bulletin 58:1-42, revised.

Bond, C.E. 1994. Keys to Oregon freshwater fishes. Oregon State University Bookstores, Corvallis, OR.

Chapman, W.M. 1942. Alien fishes in the waters of the Pacific northwest. California Fish and Game 28:9-15.

Connecticut State Board of Fisheries and Game. 1959. A fishery survey of the lakes and ponds of Connecticut. Connecticut State Board of Fisheries and Game, Hartford, CT.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.A. Hensley, J.N. Taylor, and J.A. McCann. 1984. Distribution of exotic fishes in the continental United States. 41-77 in W.R. Courtenay, Jr., and J.R. Stauffer, Jr., eds. Distribution, biology and management of exotic fishes. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.A. Hensley, J.N. Taylor, and J.A. McCann. 1986. Distribution of exotic fishes in North America. 675-698 in C.H. Hocutt, and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.P. Jennings, and J.D. Williams. 1991. Appendix 2: exotic fishes. 97-107 in Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada, 5th edition. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 20. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, Maryland.

Deacon, J.E., and J.E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103-118.

DeVaney, S.C., K.M. McNyset, J.B. Williams, A.T. Peterson, and E.O. Wiley. 2009. A tale of four "carp": invasion potential and ecological niche modeling. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5451.

Dill, W.A., and A.J. Cordone. 1997. History and status of introduced fishes in California, 1871-1996. California Department of Fish and Game Fish Bulletin, volume 178.

Everhart, W.H. and W.R. Seaman. 1971. Fishes of Colorado. Colorado Game, Fish and Parks Division, Denver, CO.

Evermann, B.W., and W.C. Kendall. 1895. A list of the species of fishes known from the vicinity of Neosho, Missouri. Bulletin of the United States Fish Commission 14:469-472.

Ferguson, T.B. 1876. Report of the Commissioners of Fisheries of Maryland to the General Assembly. 1 January 1876. John F. Wiley, Annapolis, MD.

Gray, R.H., and D.D. Dauble. 1977. Checklist and relative abundance of fish species from the Hanford reach of the Columbia River. Northwest Science 51(3):208-215.

Hall, G.E. 1956. Additions to the fish fauna of Oklahoma with a summary of introduced species. Southwestern Naturalist 1(1):16-26.

Hendricks, M.L., J.R. Stauffer, Jr., C.H. Hocutt, and C.R. Gilbert. 1979. A preliminary checklist of the fishes of the Youghiogheny River. Chicago Academy of Sciences, Natural History Miscellanea 203:1-15.

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Howells, R.G. 1992. Annotated list of introduced non-native fishes, mollusks, crustaceans and aquatic plants in Texas waters. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Management Data Series 78, Austin, TX.

Hubbs, C. 1954. Corrected distributional records for Texas fresh-water fishes. Texas Journal of Science 6(3):277-291.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1990. Fisheries Management Plan 1991-1995. Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1996. Fisheries Management Plan 1996-2000. Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Jenkins, R.E., and N.M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater Fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Killgore, K.J., J.J. Hoover, and R.P. Morgan. 1991. Habitat value of aquatic plants for fishes. Technical Report A-91-5. U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

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Lampman, B. H. 1946. The coming of the pond fishes. Binfords and Mort, Portland, OR.

Lee, D.S., A. Norden, C.R. Gilbert, and R. Franz. 1976. A list of the freshwater fishes of Maryland and Delaware. Chesapeake Science 17(3):205-211.

Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Lee, D.S., A.W. Norden, and C.R. Gilbert. 1984. Endangered, threatened, and extirpated freshwater fishes of Maryland. 287-328 in A.W. Norden, D.C. Forester, and G.H. Fenwick, eds. Threatened and endangered plants and animals of Maryland. Maryland Natural History Program, Spec. Publ. 84-I, Annapolis, MD.

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McPhail, J.D., and C.C. Lindsey. 1986. Zoogeography of the freshwater fishes of Cascadia (the Columbia system and rivers north to the Stikine). 615-638 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

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FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 8/19/2015

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Tinca tinca (Linnaeus, 1758): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 8/19/2015, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 1/19/2018

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [1/19/2018].

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