Misgurnus anguillicaudatus (Cantor, 1842)

Common Name: Oriental Weatherfish

Synonyms and Other Names:

dojo, weather loach, Japanese weatherfish, Amur weatherfish

Zachary Randall, Florida Museum (UF 236274)Copyright Info

Noel M. Burkhead - U.S. Geological SurveyCopyright Info

Windsor AguirreCopyright Info

Identification: Eel-like body, brown with greenish grey-brown marble markings dorsally, pale silver ventrum. The mouth is small, narrow and subinferior surrounded by six barbels. The lips are thick and fleshy. Short lateral line, not exceeding the length of the pectoral fin. Has a stout spine on its pectoral fin. Dorsal fin origin is above the pelvic fin origin. There are 9 dorsal rays, 6–7 pelvic rays, and 7–8 anal rays. Distinguishing characteristics were given by Berg (1949), Sterba (1973), Masuda et al. (1984), Page and Burr (1991), and Talwar and Jhingran (1992). The species is included in identification keys provided by Nichols (1943), Berg (1949), Moyle (1976), Talwar and Jhingran (1992), and Laird and Page (1996). Illustrations or photographs appeared in Nichols (1943), Berg (1949), Masuda et al. (1984), and Axelrod et al. (1985).

Size: To 28 cm SL (Kottelat and Freyhof 2007), but averages smaller.

Native Range: Eastern Asia from Siberia south to northern Vietnam, including Japan (Berg 1949; Masuda et al. 1984; Talwar and Jhingran 1992).

Great Lakes Nonindigenous Occurrences: Recently collected from Porthouse Branch, a tributary of the Coosa River in Talladega County, Alabama (B. Kuhajda, personal communication). Specimens were collected from a three-mile reach of the Westminster flood control channel in Orange County, California, in 1968 (St. Amant and Hoover 1969). Additional established populations were discovered upstream from the original collection sites in 1977 and in the adjacent Bolsa Chica Channel in 1979 (Shapovalov et al. 1981). It has also been recorded for Huntington Beach, Orange County, and in tributaries to the Salton Sea, Riverside County, California (e.g., Courtenay et al. 1986; Page and Burr 1991). In Florida, this species has been found in five Gulf coast counties, including specimens from the Little Manatee River drainage since about 1988 (L. G. Nico, unpublished data); and more recently in other areas in the Peace drainage (Charlotte Harbor NEP 2004); and in the Myakka River in 2003 (Lemon, personal communication). The species was introduced into Hawaii prior to 1900 (Brock 1960); it now occupies primarily stream habitats in Kauai, Maui, and Oahu (Maciolek 1984; Devick 1991a, 1991b). Specimens have been found in the Harton Davis Canal, in an irrigation ditch at Eagle State Park, in the Boise River system, Ada County, Idaho, since the mid-1980s (Courtenay et al. 1986, 1987; Idaho Fish and Game 1990). It has been found in the North Shore Channel, Cook County, Lake Michigan drainage, Illinois, since 1987, and in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal in 1994 (Page and Laird 1993; Burr et al. 1996; Laird and Page 1996; Thiel, personal communication). Found in the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor Canal near Hammond, Indiana (Simon et al. 2006). Several specimens including young-of-the-year were collected near Lacombe, Louisiana, just downstream of a fish farm (K. Piller, pers. comm. 2005). Recently (2007-2009) collected in Gwynns Falls and the Patapsco River, Maryland (Ashton and Ciccotto 2010). This species was collected in headwaters of the Shiawassee River, in Oakland and Genesee counties, Michigan, in 1958 and 1959 where it was considered to be established (Schultz 1960). Recently established near the Celery Farm Natural Area in Allendale, New Jersey. Several populations of weatherfish are known in New York: one in the Ball Creek drainage in western New York (NYSM voucher specimens), one in eastern Long Island (NYSM voucher specimens), one in the Susquehanna drainage (NYSM voucher specimens), and one in tributaries of the Hudson River (NYSM voucher specimens; Schmidt and Schmidt 2014). Two Oriental Weatherfish were collected in the Haw system, North Carolina, in 2009 (B. Tracy and W. Starnes, pers. comm.). The species has been reported from a diked secondary channel of the Clackamas River, Oregon, since the mid-1980s; it was found in the Malheur, Owyhee, and Snake River systems in 1995 (Logan et al. 1996). Several specimens were also collected in 1997 from Burlington Bottoms near the Multnomah Channel of the Columbia River (N. Bowers, personal communication), and farther downstream from Scappoose Bay on the Columbia River in 1994 (L. Pierce, personal communication; Beaston, personal communication). This species is known from Tennessee where it was collected in a tributary of Coffee Creek, near the Hiwassee River, Polk County, in April 1995 (D. Etnier, personal communication). Present in Lake Washington in Seattle, Washington, since the mid-1990s (K. Aitkin and R. Tabor, personal communication; Tabor et al. 2001). Collected in Tulalip Creek, near Marysville, Washington (DeLong 1999).

Outside of the U.S., this species is established in Australia (Lintermans and Burchmore 1996), Germany (Freyhof and Korte 2005), the Philippines (Juliano et al. 1989), Spain (Franch et al. 2008), and Turkmenistan (Sal'nikov 1998)

Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, 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 Misgurnus anguillicaudatus are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Indiana200520051Little Calumet-Galien

Table last updated 9/30/2019

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: The Oriental Weatherfish is found in muddy or silty substrates in low-gradient, shallow water, often in aquatic macrophyte beds (Tabor et al. 2001; Schmidt and Schmidt 2014). Its diet is composed mostly of small benthic invertebrates and detritus; Tabor et al. (2001) found that cladocerans and chironomids were the most frequently ingested prey items collectively; Schmidt and Schmidt (2014) found that amphipods, gastropods and chironomids comprised the most important food items in several New York populations; Urquhart and Koetsier (2014b) identified chironimids and small bivalves as the most frequently ingested prey items in Idaho populations. Misgurnus does not forage by sight, but requires chemical stimuli to induce feeding behavior (Watanabe and Hidaka 1983). It can use its intestine as an accessory respiratory organ, enabling it to live in oxygen-poor waters and to bury itself in soft substrates to survive long droughts (Ip et al. 2004). This species exhibits sexual size dimorphism, with the average length of female Oriental Weatherfish is considerably larger than that of the males (Tabor et al. 2001; Schmidt and Schmidt 2014). Schmidt and Schmidt (2014) examined the fecundity of introduced New York populations: ovary weight was 4-19% of total wet body weight, and total oocytes in unmated females ranging between 150-18,000 (with fecundity increasing with total length).

Highly tolerant to extreme conditions or marginal habitat quality: Koetsier and Urquhart (2012) found that M. anguillicaudatus can withstand desiccation and starvation for more than 81 days, and Urquhart and Koetsier (2014a) estimated a critial thermal minimum of between -1° and -2°C and reported survival of experimental fish partially or fully encased and in direct contact with ice.

Means of Introduction: California populations are apparently descended from individuals that escaped from a local goldfish farm, possibly as early as the 1930s (St. Amant and Hoover 1969). Similarly, populations in the upper Shiawassee River system, Michigan, are believed to have descended from individuals imported from Kobe, Japan, which escaped from a nearby aquarium supply company in Oakland County before 1951, possibly as early as 1939 (Schultz 1960; Courtenay et al. 1984). In Hawaii, the species was presumably introduced by Asian immigrants during the 1800s, probably for food (Maciolek 1984; Devick 1991b). Brock (1960) stated that its use as bait for fish was apparently instrumental in its spread in Hawaii. Collections in Louisiana were the result of escapes from a fish farm. Introductions into other states were presumably the result of aquarium releases.

Status: Established in Shiawassee River and L. Michigan (USEPA 2008). Established in California, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington, and possibly in Louisiana. Status is unkonwn in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Maryland.

Great Lakes Impacts:  

Current research on the environmental impact of Misgurnus anguillicaudatus in the Great Lakes is inadequate to support proper assessment.

Rixon et al. (2005) predicted that oriental weatherfish has the potential to continue spreading throughout the Great Lakes (likely via the aquarium trade), despite its current limited distribution.

There is concern that if M. anguillicaudatus becomes more abundant and spreads, it will reduce populations of aquatic insects important as food to native fishes (Page and Laird 1993). Based on its preferred habitat and diet and on its population size, Maciolek (1984) categorized Misgurnus along with several other introduced fishes as species having an intermediate impact on Hawaiian streams. Experimentation in Australia on the environmental impacts of oriental weatherfish suggests that this species may significantly reduce macroinvertebrate abundance and increase turbidity and nitrogen levels in standing water (Keller and Lake 2007).

There is little or no evidence to support that Misgurnus anguillicaudatus has significant socio-economic impacts in the Great Lakes.

There is little or no evidence to support that Misgurnus anguillicaudatus has significant beneficial effects in the Great Lakes.

In addition to appearing in the aquarium trade, M. anguillicaudatus has been introduced into several parts of the world for aquaculture purposes and as a bait fish; however, the occurrence of such use in the Great Lakes is not currently known (Welcomme 1988).

Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes)
In Michigan, Misgurnus anguillicaudatus is a prohibited species under MI NREPA 451 § 324.41301. No person shall knowingly possess a live prohibited organism in Michigan except for educational, research, or identification purposes as listed in MI NREPA 451 § 324.41303. It is also unlawful to introduce a prohibited organism in MI under MI NREPA 451 § 324.41305. In Michigan, a violation involving a prohibited species is a felony, and a knowing introduction violation with intent to harm is punishable with up to 5 yrs. imprisonment and a $2,000 to $1,000,000 fine (MI NREPA § 324.41309). In Wisconsin, M. anguillicaudatus is restricted as a nonnative viable fish species in the aquarium trade (Wis. Admin. Code § NR 40.02, 40.05).

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

There are no known biological control methods for this species.

There are no known physical control methods for this species.

Of the four chemical piscicides registered for use in the United States, antimycin A and rotenone are considered general piscicides, but no studies have been found of their effects on M. anguillicaudatus (GLMRIS 2012).

Increasing CO2 concentrations, either by bubbling pressurized gas directly into water or by the addition of sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) has been used to sedate fish with minimal residual toxicity, and is a potential method of harvesting fish for removal, though maintaining adequate CO2 concentrations may be difficult in large/natural water bodies (Clearwater et al. 2008). CO2 is approved only for use as an anesthetic for cold, cool, and warm water fishes the US, not for use as euthanasia, and exposure to NaHCO3 concentration of 142-642 mg/L for 5 min. is sufficient to anaesthetize most fish (Clearwater et al. 2008).

When planning control and management of this species, special attention should be given to the high physiological tolerances which place it in the profile of a successful invader. The oriental weatherfish can survive temperatures that range from 0-38° C, utilize atmospheric oxygen as a facultative air-breather to survive hypoxic conditions, and has been documented surviving desiccation for over 81 days with no food, likely perishing from desiccation before starvation (Koetsier and Urquhart 2012).

It should be noted that chemical treatment will often lead to non-target kills, and so all options for management of a species should be adequately studied before a decision is made to use piscicides or other chemicals. Potential effects on non-target plants and organisms, including macroinvertebrates and other fishes, should always be deliberately evaluated and analyzed. The effects of combinations of management chemicals and other toxicants, whether intentional or unintentional, should be understood prior to chemical treatment.   Other non-selective alterations of water quality, such as reducing dissolved oxygen levels or altering pH, could also have a deleterious impact on native fish, invertebrates, and other fauna or flora, and their potential harmful effects should therefore be evaluated thoroughly.

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.

Remarks: In addition to appearing in the aquarium trade, M. anguillicaudatus has been introduced into several parts of the world for aquaculture and as a bait fish (Welcomme 1988). It is considered a cool-water species (Welcomme 1988); individuals burrow into soft substrates and tolerate low-oxygen conditions by breathing atmospheric air (Sterba 1973). As its name suggests, this fish becomes more active in response to changes in barometric pressure; thus it frequently has been cited as a harbinger of storms (Sterba 1973; Axelrod et al. 1985). There is concern that if M. anguillicaudatus becomes more abundant and spreads, it will reduce populations of aquatic insects important as food for native fishes (Page and Laird 1993). Maciolek (1984) categorized Misgurnus, along with several other introduced fishes, as having an intermediate impact on Hawaiian streams based on their preferred habitat and diet and on their numbers. The Bolsa Chica Channel, California, cited by Shapovalov et al. (1981), likely represents the Huntington Beach, Orange County site reported by other authors (e.g., Courtenay et al. 1986; Page and Burr 1991). Shafland et al. (2008) reclassified this species from Established to Possibly Established in Florida because of unrealiability of collection of specimens.

Voucher specimens: California (CAS 24192; LACM 36986.002, 36988.002, 56916.001; SIO 68-213; UF 87981); Florida (UF 98633, 98634, 100519, 100533, 119925, 128570, 139432, 139507, 143225, 143230, 143271, 143299, 143309, 143376, 143381, 143386, 143541, 143728, 143738, 148188, 148224, 163658, 163662, 163673, 163681, 163684, 163694, 163695, 163719, 163751, 163777); Hawaii (BPBM 3624, discarded in 1969; ANSP 54151, 89309; UWFC 115671); Idaho (UNLV 1951); Illinois (INHS 61129, 61130, 61131); Michigan (UMMZ 173823, 174568, 198978, 212412, 225614); New Jersey (ANSP 188939); New York (NYSM 53924, 55379, 57313, 54195, 65640, 65919, 65922, 68732, 68734); Oregon (OS 13196, 13215, 13216, 15467, 15473, 15474; Portland State University); Tennessee (UT 46.17); Washington (UF 168231; UWFC 111106)

References: (click for full references)

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Author: Nico, L., P. Fuller, M. Neilson, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, T.H. Makled, and B. Loftus

Contributing Agencies:

Revision Date: 9/12/2019

Peer Review Date: 1/27/2016

Citation for this information:
Nico, L., P. Fuller, M. Neilson, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, T.H. Makled, and B. Loftus, 2020, Misgurnus anguillicaudatus (Cantor, 1842): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/greatLakes/FactSheet.aspx?SpeciesID=498&Potential=N&Type=0&HUCNumber=, Revision Date: 9/12/2019, Peer Review Date: 1/27/2016, Access Date: 2/27/2020

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.