Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, Bighead carp : fisheries, aquaculture, aquarium

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Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (Richardson, 1845)

Bighead carp
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Hypophthalmichthys nobilis
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Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes(genus, species) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Teleostei (teleosts) > Cypriniformes (Carps) > Xenocyprididae (East Asian minnows)
Etymology: Hypophthalmichthys: Greek, hypo = under + Greek, ophthalmos = eye + Greek, ichthys = fish (Ref. 45335);  nobilis: nobilis, meaning noble (Ref. 10294).
More on author: Richardson.

Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range Ecology

Freshwater; brackish; benthopelagic; potamodromous (Ref. 51243); depth range 0 - ? m (Ref. 59043). Temperate; 1°C - 38°C (Ref. 120904); 34°N - 21°N, 101°E - 123°E (Ref. 121042)

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Asia: China. Introduced to numerous countries and has achieved a near global distribution. However, its breeding requirements are very specialized and stocks are maintained by artificial reproduction or continuous importation. Several countries report adverse ecological impact after introduction (Ref. 1739). Often confused with Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Ref. 59043).

Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm 64.2, range 55 - 70 cm
Max length : 146 cm SL male/unsexed; (Ref. 59043); common length : 60.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 2059); max. published weight: 40.0 kg (Ref. 59043); max. reported age: 20 years (Ref. 59043)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Dorsal spines (total): 3; Dorsal soft rays (total): 7; Anal spines: 1-3; Anal soft rays: 12 - 14. Body with numerous scattered small black blotches. Keels extend from pelvic base to anus. Barbels absent. Posterior margin of last simple dorsal ray not serrated. Branched anal rays 13-14.5 (Ref. 13274). Differs from Hypophthalmichthys molitrix by having scaled keel from pelvic to anal, 240-300 long gill rakes, head length 27-35% SL, dark overall coloration, flank with dark, large, very irregularly shaped blotches, fin bases and inferior parts of head and belly yellowish (Ref. 59043).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

In its natural environment, it occurs in rivers with marked water-level fluctuations, overwinters in middle and lower stretches. Forages in shallow (0.5-1.5 m deep) and warm (over 24°C) backwaters, lakes and flooded areas with slow current. Feeds on zooplankton throughout its life under natural conditions (Ref. 120904). Breeds in very deep, very turbid and warm water above 18°C (usually 22-30°C), with high current (1.1-1.9 m/s) and high oxygen concentrations. Stocked to large rivers and almost all still water bodies as lakes and ponds. In aquaculture, adults can survive brackish water (up to 7 ppt) when released into estuaries and coastal lakes. Feeds mainly on zooplankton, but also takes algae as food (Ref. 59043). Bottom feeding fish (Ref. 6459). Undertakes long distance upriver migration at start of a rapid flood and water-level increase (in April-July depending on locality). Spawns in upper water layer or even at surface during floods. Spawning ceases if conditions change and resumes again when water level increases. After spawning, adults migrate for foraging habitats, Larvae drift downstream and settle in floodplain lakes, shallow shores and backwaters with little or no current. During autumn-winter, when temperature drops to 10°C, juveniles and adults form separate large schools and migrate downstream to deeper places in main course of river to overwinter (Ref. 59043). Marketed fresh and frozen.

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Produces up to 100,000 eggs (Ref. 2059). Eggs are yellowish, transparent, and hatch after about 2 days at temperatures around 25°C while drifting downstream in the deep open-water layer (Ref. 59043).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Kottelat, M., 2001. Freshwater fishes of northern Vietnam. A preliminary check-list of the fishes known or expected to occur in northern Vietnam with comments on systematics and nomenclature. Environment and Social Development Unit, East Asia and Pacific Region. The World Bank. 123 p. (Ref. 44416)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 130435)

  Data deficient (DD) ; Date assessed: 02 September 2010


Not Evaluated

CMS (Ref. 116361)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans

  Potential pest

Human uses

Fisheries: highly commercial; aquaculture: commercial; aquarium: public aquariums
FAO - Aquaculture: production, species profile; Fisheries: landings; Publication: search | FishSource | Sea Around Us

More information

Common names
Spawning aggregation
Egg development
Larval dynamics
Aquaculture profile
Mass conversion
Stamps, Coins Misc.
Swim. type
Gill area


Special reports

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Internet sources

Estimates based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82804):  PD50 = 0.6250   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.01000 (0.00861 - 0.01161), b=3.10 (3.06 - 3.14), in cm total length, based on LWR estimates for this species (Ref. 93245).
Trophic level (Ref. 69278):  2.8   ±0.33 se; based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 120179):  Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 - 4.4 years (tm=3-5; tmax=20; K=0.15-0.27; Fec=50,000-1 million).
Fishing Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  High vulnerability (64 of 100).
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.
Nutrients (Ref. 124155):  Calcium = 15.1 [5.5, 42.3] mg/100g; Iron = 0.422 [0.206, 0.879] mg/100g; Protein = 17.1 [16.0, 18.3] %; Omega3 = 0.543 [0.287, 1.037] g/100g; Selenium = 14.3 [7.2, 28.2] μg/100g; VitaminA = 10.6 [2.8, 41.9] μg/100g; Zinc = 0.271 [0.152, 0.501] mg/100g (wet weight); based on nutrient studies.