The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Hypophthalmichthys molitrix
Hypophthalmichthys molitrix
(Silver Carp)

Copyright Info
Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1844)

Common name: Silver Carp

Synonyms and Other Names: Leuciscus molitrix Valenciennes, 1844  

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Injurious: This species is listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as injurious wildlife.

Identification: The silver carp is a deep-bodied fish that is laterally compressed.  They are a very silvery in color when young and when they get older they fade from a greenish color on the back to silver on the belly. They have very tiny scales on their body but the head and the opercles are scaleless. They have a large mouth without any teeth in the jaw, but they have pharyngeal teeth. Its eyes are situated far forward on the midline of the body and are slightly turned down.

Silver carp are unlikely to be confused with native cyprinids due to size and unusual position of the eye. They are most similar to bighead carp (H. nobilis) but have a smaller head, and upturned mouth without teeth, a keel that extends forward past pelvic fin base, lack the dark blotches characteristic of bighead carp and have highly branched gill rakers.

Juvenile fish lack spines in fins.  Metalarvae and early juvenile are similar to bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) but pectoral fin extends only to base of pelvic fin (as opposed to beyond in the pelvic fin in bighead)

The species is known for leaping out of the water when startled (e.g., by noises such as a boat motor).

Distinguishing characteristics were given in Berg (1949). Keys that include this species and photographs or illustrations are provided in several of the more recently published state and regional fish books (e.g., Robison and Buchanan 1988; Etnier and Starnes 1993; Pflieger 1997).

Size: 1 m and 27 kg.

Native Range: Several major Pacific drainages in eastern Asia from the Amur River of far eastern Russia south through much of eastern half of China to Pearl River, possibly including northern Vietnam (Berg 1949; Li and Fang 1990).

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Hypophthalmichthys molitrix are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
AL198420214Guntersville Lake; Lower Tallapoosa; Pickwick Lake; Wheeler Lake
AZ197219721Middle Gila
AR1975201923Bayou Macon; Bayou Meto; Boeuf; Cache; Lake Conway-Point Remove; Little Red; Little River Ditches; Lower Arkansas; Lower Arkansas-Maumelle; Lower Black; Lower Mississippi-Greenville; Lower Mississippi-Helena; Lower Mississippi-Memphis; Lower Ouachita-Bayou De Loutre; Lower Ouachita-Smackover; Lower St. Francis; Lower White; Lower White-Bayou Des Arc; Middle White; Petit Jean; Upper Ouachita; Upper Saline; Upper White-Village
CO198019962Cache La Poudre; Clear
HI199219921Hawaii Region
IL1983202438Apple-Plum; Bear-Wyaconda; Big Muddy; Cache; Cahokia-Joachim; Chicago; Copperas-Duck; Des Plaines; Embarras; Flint-Henderson; Kankakee; La Moine; Little Calumet-Galien; Lower Fox; Lower Illinois; Lower Illinois-Lake Chautauqua; Lower Illinois-Senachwine Lake; Lower Kaskaskia; Lower Ohio; Lower Ohio-Bay; Lower Rock; Lower Sangamon; Lower Wabash; Mackinaw; Macoupin; Middle Kaskaskia; Middle Wabash-Busseron; Peruque-Piasa; Saline; Salt; Skillet; South Fork Sangamon; Spoon; The Sny; Upper Illinois; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau; Upper Sangamon; Vermilion
IN1992202320Blue-Sinking; Eel; Highland-Pigeon; Lower East Fork White; Lower Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Lower Ohio-Little Pigeon; Lower Wabash; Lower White; Middle Ohio-Laughery; Middle Wabash-Busseron; Middle Wabash-Deer; Middle Wabash-Little Vermilion; Mississinewa; Ohio; Patoka; Silver-Little Kentucky; Tippecanoe; Upper East Fork White; Upper Wabash; Upper White
IA1986202320Big Papillion-Mosquito; Blackbird-Soldier; Copperas-Duck; East Nishnabotna; Flint-Henderson; Grant-Little Maquoketa; Keg-Weeping Water; Lake Red Rock; Little Sioux; Lower Big Sioux; Lower Cedar; Lower Des Moines; Lower Iowa; Lower Wapsipinicon; Maquoketa; Middle Cedar; Middle Iowa; Nodaway; Skunk; Upper Chariton
KS199120226Big Nemaha; Independence-Sugar; Lower Kansas, Kansas; Lower Missouri-Crooked; South Fork Big Nemaha; Tarkio-Wolf
KY1984202421Bayou De Chien-Mayfield; Blue-Sinking; Highland-Pigeon; Kentucky Lake; Little Scioto-Tygarts; Lower Cumberland; Lower Kentucky; Lower Mississippi-Memphis; Lower Ohio; Lower Ohio-Bay; Lower Ohio-Little Pigeon; Lower Tennessee; Middle Green; Middle Ohio-Laughery; Ohio Brush-Whiteoak; Pond; Rough; Salt; Silver-Little Kentucky; Tradewater; Upper Green
LA1983202328Amite; Atchafalaya; Bayou D'arbonne; Bayou Pierre; Bayou Teche; Black; Black Lake Bayou; Boeuf; East Central Louisiana Coastal; Eastern Louisiana Coastal; Lake Pontchartrain; Liberty Bayou-Tchefuncta; Loggy Bayou; Lower Calcasieu; Lower Grand; Lower Mississippi-Baton Rouge; Lower Mississippi-Greenville; Lower Mississippi-Natchez; Lower Mississippi-New Orleans; Lower Ouachita; Lower Pearl; Lower Red; Lower Red; Lower Red-Lake Iatt; Mermentau; Tensas; Vermilion; West Central Louisiana Coastal
MN200820237Buffalo-Whitewater; Coon-Yellow; La Crosse-Pine; Little Sioux; Lower St. Croix; Rush-Vermillion; Twin Cities
MS1988202114Bear; Big Sunflower; Deer-Steele; Lower Mississippi-Greenville; Lower Mississippi-Helena; Lower Mississippi-Natchez; Lower Yazoo; Middle Pearl-Silver; Middle Pearl-Strong; Mississippi Coastal; Pickwick Lake; Tallahatchie; Upper Tombigbee; Upper Yazoo
MO1982202121Big; Blackwater; Cahokia-Joachim; Lamine; Little Chariton; Lower Grand; Lower Mississippi-Memphis; Lower Missouri; Lower Missouri-Crooked; Lower Missouri-Moreau; Lower Osage; Meramec; One Hundred and Two; Peruque-Piasa; Salt; Tarkio-Wolf; The Sny; Town of Madrid-Saint Johns Bayou; Upper Grand; Upper Mississippi-Cape Girardeau; Whitewater
NE2000202315Big Nemaha; Big Papillion-Mosquito; Blackbird-Soldier; Keg-Weeping Water; Loup; Lower Elkhorn; Lower Middle Loup; Lower North Loup; Lower North Platte; Lower Platte; Middle Platte-Buffalo; Middle Platte-Prairie; Missouri Region; Salt; South Fork Big Nemaha
NV200620061Las Vegas Wash
ND201120182James Headwaters; Upper James
OH201220226Little Miami; Lower Great Miami, Indiana, Ohio; Middle Ohio-Laughery; Ohio Brush-Whiteoak; Raccoon-Symmes; Upper Scioto
OK201220223Bois D'arc-Island; Kiamichi; Pecan-Waterhole
PR197219721Eastern Puerto Rico
SD200320155Lewis and Clark Lake; Lower Big Sioux; Lower James; Middle James; Vermillion
TN200020209Kentucky Lake; Loosahatchie; Lower Cumberland; Lower Cumberland-Sycamore; Lower Duck; Lower Mississippi-Memphis; Lower Tennessee-Beech; Obion; Wolf
TX202120211Bois D'arc-Island
WV202220221Upper Ohio-Shade
WI200620217Apple-Plum; Buffalo-Whitewater; Coon-Yellow; Grant-Little Maquoketa; La Crosse-Pine; Lower St. Croix; Rush-Vermillion

Table last updated 7/15/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: Silver carp are primarily a species of large rivers.  They can tolerate salinities up to 12 ppt and low dissolved oxygen (3mg/L).  Silver carp feed on both phytoplankton and zooplankton (Radke and Kahl 2002).

In their native range, silver carp reach maturity at between 4 and 8 years old but are noted in North America to mature as early as just 2 years old.  They can live to 20 years.  Spawning occurs at temperatures greater than 18oC.  A mature female can lay up to 5 million eggs per year.  Eggs require current to stay suspended, with a minimum length of spawning river estimated at 100km and a current speed of 70cm/s.

Means of Introduction: This species was imported and stocked for phytoplankton control in eutrophic water bodies and also apparently as a food fish. It was first brought into the United States in 1973 when a private fish farmer imported silver carp into Arkansas (Freeze and Henderson 1982). By the mid 1970s the silver carp was being raised at six state, federal, and private facilities, and by the late 1970s it had been stocked in several municipal sewage lagoons (Robison and Buchanan 1988). By 1980 the species was discovered in natural waters, probably a result of escapes from fish hatcheries and other types of aquaculture facilities (Freeze and Henderson 1982). The occurrence of silver carp in the Ouachita River of the Red River system in Louisiana was likely the result of an escape from an aquaculture facility upstream in Arkansas (Freeze and Henderson 1982). The Florida introduction was probably a result of stock contamination, a silver carp having been inadvertently released with a stock of grass carp being used for aquatic plant control (Middlemas 1994). In a similar case, the species was apparently introduced accidentally to an Arizona lake as part of an intentional, albeit illegal, stock of diploid grass carp (W. Silvey, personal communication). Pearson and Krumholz (1984) suggested that individuals taken from the Ohio River may have come from plantings in local ponds or entered the Ohio River from populations originally introduced in Arkansas.

Status: Records are available for 12 states. It is apparently established in Louisiana (Douglas et al. 1996) and is possibly established in Illinois; silver carp have been reported in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. Douglas et al. (1996) collected more than 1600 larvae of this genus from a backwater outlet of the Black River in Louisiana in 1994. Burr et al. (1996) found young-of-the-year in a ditch near Horseshoe Lake and reported this as the first evidence of successful spawning of silver carp in Illinois waters and the United States. They felt that the species would be `established' in the state within the next ten years. Based on the occurrence of juvenile fish in Illinois waters, Pflieger (1997) felt that successful spawning of silver carp in Missouri seems inevitable. In the early 1980s commercial fishermen in Arkansas had caught 166 silver carp from seven different sites; however, during an intensive 1980-1981 survey to determine the distribution and status of bighead and silver carp in state open waters, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission personnel were unsuccessful in procuring any additional specimens (Freeze and Henderson 1982). Although Arkansas state personnel did not find young-of-the-year fish, several specimens taken by the commercial fishermen were sexually mature and exhibited secondary sexual characteristics (Freeze and Henderson 1982). Nevertheless, Robison and Buchanan (1988) reported that there was still no evidence of natural reproduction in Arkansas waters. Rinne (1995) listed silver carp as introduced to Arizona in 1972 and denoted it as established. Apparently in reference to the same record, William Silvey of the Arizona Game and Fish Department recently informed us that the only silver carp documented in Arizona open waters was a population inhabiting an urban lake in Chandler during the early 1970s. However, further investigation has shown that it was most likely a bighead x grass carp hybrid population (P. Marsh, pers.comm.). That population, along with a large population of diploid grass carp, was exterminated in 1975 or 1976 by personnel from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Arizona State University (W. Silvey, personal communication). Pearson and Krumholz (1984) documented records from the Ohio River, but they did not include it as one of the species that exist in well-established, reproducing populations. Etnier and Starnes (1993) provided information on silver carp, but by publication they were unaware of any records of the species in the state of Tennessee.

Although silver carp has not been physically detected in the Great Lakes, environmental DNA (eDNA) has been found in water samples collected in several areas in 2012: above electric barriers from Lake Calumet, the Little Calumet River, the North Shore Channel, and the Chicago River (USACE 2012), as well as Maumee Bay, Lake Erie (Jerde et al. 2013).

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...

EcologicalEconomicHuman HealthOther

Pflieger (1997) considered the impact of this species difficult to predict because of its place in the food web. In numbers, the silver carp has the potential to cause enormous damage to native species because it feeds on plankton required by larval fish and native mussels (Laird and Page 1996). This species would also be a potential competitor with adults of some native fishes, for instance, gizzard shad, that also rely on plankton for food (Pflieger 1997).  A study by Sampson et al. (2009) found that Invasive Carp (silver and bighead carps) had dietary overlap with gizzard shad and bigmouth buffalo, but not much of one with paddlefish.

Invasive carps have been shown to affect zooplankton communities (Burke et al. 1986, Lu et al. 2002, Cooke et al 2009; Calkins et al. 2012; Freedman et al. 2012; Sass et al. 2014).

Freedman et al. (2012) showed that resource use and trophic levels of the fish community change when Invasive Carps are present. They also demonstrated an impact on Bigmouth Buffalo and found isotopic values similar to Bluegill, Gizzard Shad, and Emerald Shiner. Irons et al. (2007) showed significant declines in body condition of Gizzard Shad and Bigmouth Buffalo following invasion by Silver and Bighead carps. They state that ultimately, declines in body condition may decrease fecundity.

Remarks: Jenkins and Burkhead (1994) reported on the use of silver carp in a wastewater treatment pond in the upper James River drainage of Virginia. However, there is as yet no record of the species in Virginia open waters. One of the so-called Invasive Carps, the silver carp is a filter-feeder capable of taking large amounts of phytoplankton. Its diet also includes zooplankton, bacteria, and detritus (Leventer 1987). This species has been intensively cultured in many parts of the world, often raised in combination with other fishes.

The report in Fuller et al. (1999) from Bay County, Florida was actually a bighead carp (UF 98162).

Voucher specimens: Illinois (SIUC 17716, 23043, 23046, 24415; INHS 88425); Louisiana (NLU 65811, 66858, 66859).

References: (click for full references)

Baerwaldt, K., A. Benson, and K. Irons. 2013. State of the carp: Asian carp distribution in North America.  USACE. 8 pp.

Berg, L.S. 1948-1949. Freshwater fishes of the U.S.S.R. and adjacent countries, 4th edition. Three volumes. Translated from Russian, 1962-1965, for the Smithsonian Institution and the National Science Foundation, by Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, Israel. Volume 1:504 pp.; volume 2:496 pp.; volume 3:510 pp.

Burke, J.S., D.R. Bayne, and H. Rea. 1986. Impact of silver and bighead carps on plankton communities of channel catfish ponds. Aquaculture 55:59-68.

Burr, B.M. 1991. The fishes of Illinois: an overview of a dynamic fauna. Proceedings of our living heritage symposium. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 34(4):417-427.

Burr, B.M., D.J. Eisenhour, K.M. Cook, C.A. Taylor, G.L. Seegert, R.W. Sauer, and E.R. Atwood. 1996. Nonnative fishes in Illinois waters: What do the records reveal? Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Science 89(1/2):73-91.

Burr, B.M., and M.L. Warren, Jr. 1986. A distributional atlas of Kentucky fishes. Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission Scientific and Technical Series 4. 398 pp.

Calkins, H.A., S.J. Tripp, and J.E. Garvey. 2012. Linking silver carp habitat selection to flow and phytoplankton in the Mississippi River. Biological Invasions 14:949-958. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10530-011-0128-2.

Carp Task Force. 1989. Report to the Louisiana Legislature, March 1989. Three volumes. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Baton Rouge, LA. 35 pp.

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.

Chen, J. P. Xie, D. Zhang, Z. Ke and H. Yang. 2006.  In situ studies on the bioaccumulation of microcystins in the phytoplanktivorous silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) stocked in Lake Taihu with dense toxic Microcystis blooms.  Aquaculture 261(3)1026-1038.

Chick, J.H. and M.A. Pegg. 2001. Invasive carp in the Mississippi River Basin. Science. 292(5525):2250-2251.

Conover, G., R. Simmonds, and M. Whalen. 2007. Management and control plan for bighead, black, grass, and silver carps in the United States. Asian Carp Working Group, Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force, Washington, D.C.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.A. Hensley, J.N. Taylor, and J.A. McCann. 1984. Distribution of exotic fishes in the continental United States. Pages 41-77 in W. R. Courtenay, Jr., and J. R. Stauffer, Jr., editors. Distribution, biology and management of exotic fishes. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 430 pp. 

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.P. Jennings, and J.D. Williams. 1991. Appendix 2: exotic fishes. Pages 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.

Davidson, J.R., J.A. Brock, L.G. L. Young. 1992. Introduction of exotic species for aquaculture purposes.  Page 83-101 in Rosenfield, A. and Mann, R. (eds.). Dispersal of Living Organisms into Aquatic Ecosystems, Maryland Sea Grant, College Park, Maryland, 471 pp.

Domaizon, I., and J. Devaux. 1999. Experimental study of the impacts of silver carp on plankton communities of utrophic Villerest reservoir (France). Aquatic Ecology 33:193-204.

Douglas, N.H., S.G. George, J.J. Hoover, K.J. Killgore, and W.T. Slack. 1996. Records of two Asian carps in the lower Mississippi Basin. Page 127 in Abstracts of the 76th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA.

Erdman, D.S. 1984. Exotic fishes in Puerto Rico. Pages 162-176 in Courtenay, Jr., W. R. and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. (eds.), Distribution, Biology, and Management of Exotic Fishes, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Etnier, D.A., and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Freedman, J.A., S.E. Butler, and D.H. Wahl. 2012.  Impacts of Invasive Asian Carps on Native Food Webs. Final Project Report. Kaskaskia Biological Station, Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 18pp.

Freeze, M., and S. Henderson. 1982. Distribution and status of the bighead carp and silver carp in Arkansas. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 2(2):197-200.

Hayer, C-A., J.J. Breeggemann, R.A. Klumb, B.D.S. Graeb, and K.N. Bertrand. 2014. Population characteristics of bighead and silver carp on the northwestern front of their North American invasion. Aquatic Invasions 9(3):289-303. http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/ai.2014.9.3.05.

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Hoff, M. 2004. Asian carp: huge fish with huge impacts. Aquatic Nuisance Species Digest 5(3)25-28.

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Irons, K.S., G.G. Sass, M.A. McClelland, and J.D. Stafford. 2007. Reduced condition factor of two native fish species coincident with invasion of non-native Asian carps in the Illinois River, U.S.A. Is this evidence for competition and reduced fitness? Journal of Fish Biology 71:258–273.

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FishBase Summary

Author: Nico, L., G. Nunez, E. Baker, P. Alsip, and J. Redinger

Revision Date: 5/31/2024

Peer Review Date: 1/22/2015

Citation Information:
Nico, L., G. Nunez, E. Baker, P. Alsip, and J. Redinger, 2024, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Valenciennes in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1844): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=549, Revision Date: 5/31/2024, Peer Review Date: 1/22/2015, Access Date: 7/15/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/15/2024].

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