Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Squalius cephalus
(European chub)



Squalius cephalus (European chub)


  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2019
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Squalius cephalus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • European chub
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The chub is a European freshwater cyprinid which has been reported as an invasive species in Italy and targeted for removal from a river system where introduced in Ireland. It is a long lived fish and has high mobilit...

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European chub (Squalius cephalus); captive adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April 2011.
CaptionEuropean chub (Squalius cephalus); captive adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April 2011.
CopyrightPublic Domain - Released by Karel Jakubec/Prague, Czech Republic
European chub (Squalius cephalus); captive adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April 2011.
AdultsEuropean chub (Squalius cephalus); captive adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April 2011.Public Domain - Released by Karel Jakubec/Prague, Czech Republic


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Squalius cephalus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Preferred Common Name

  • European chub

Other Scientific Names

  • Cyprinus albula Nardo, 1827
  • Cyprinus cephalus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Cyprinus chub Bonnaterre, 1788
  • Cyprinus kietaibeli Reisinger, 1830
  • Cyprinus kittaibeli Reisinger, 1830
  • Cyprinus lugdunensis Walbaum, 1792
  • Cyprinus orthonotus Hermann, 1804
  • Cyprinus rufus Vallot, 1837
  • Cyprinus salmoneus Gronow, 1854
  • Leucalburnus kosswigi Karaman, 1972
  • Leuciscus albiensis Valenciennes, 1844
  • Leuciscus albus (non Bonaparte, 1838)
  • Leuciscus brutius Costa, 1838
  • Leuciscus cabeda Risso, 1827
  • Leuciscus cabeda pamvoticus (non Stephanidis, 1939)
  • Leuciscus cavedanus Bonaparte, 1838
  • Leuciscus cephaloides Battalgil, 1942
  • Leuciscus cephalus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Leuciscus cephalus albus Bonaparte, 1838
  • Leuciscus cephalus cabeda Risso, 1827
  • Leuciscus cephalus cephalus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Leuciscus cephalus macedonicus Karaman, 1955
  • Leuciscus cephalus moreoticus (non Stephanidis, 1971)
  • Leuciscus cephalus orientalis Nordmann, 1840
  • Leuciscus cephalus orientalis aralychensis Barach, 1934
  • Leuciscus cephalus orientalis ardebilicus Barach, 1934
  • Leuciscus cephalus orientalis kaznakovi Berg, 1912
  • Leuciscus cephalus orientalis thracica Drensky, 1930
  • Leuciscus cephalus orientalis thracicus Drensky, 1930
  • Leuciscus cephalus orientalis zangicus Barach, 1934
  • Leuciscus cephalus ruffoi Bianco & Recchia, 1983
  • Leuciscus cephalus wjatkensis Lukasch, 1925
  • Leuciscus chub pictava De la Pylaie, 1835
  • Leuciscus cii (non Richardson, 1857)
  • Leuciscus fellowesii Günther, 1868
  • Leuciscus frigidus Valenciennes, 1844
  • Leuciscus latifrons Nilsson, 1855
  • Leuciscus nothulus Bonaparte, 1841
  • Leuciscus orientalis Nordmann, 1840
  • Leuciscus orientalis pursakensis Hanko, 1924
  • Leuciscus peloponensis (non Valenciennes, 1844)
  • Leuciscus rissoi Schinz, 1840
  • Leuciscus ruffoi Bianco & Recchia, 1983
  • Leuciscus squalius Valenciennes, 1844
  • Leuciscus svallize zrmanjae risae Vladykov & Petit, 1930
  • Squalius agdamicus (non Kamensky, 1901)
  • Squalius berak Heckel, 1843
  • Squalius cephaloides (Battalgil, 1942)
  • Squalius cephalopsis Heckel, 1843
  • Squalius cephalus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Squalius cephalus athurensis Roule & Cardaillac de Saint-Paul, 1903
  • Squalius cephalus cavedanus prespensis Karaman, 1924
  • Squalius cephalus vardarensis (non Karaman, 1928)
  • Squalius clathratus Blanchard, 1866
  • Squalius meridionalis Blanchard, 1866
  • Squalius meunier Heckel, 1852
  • Squalius orientalis (non Heckel, 1847)
  • Squalius orientalis (Nordmann, 1840)
  • Squalius pareti Bonaparte, 1841
  • Squalius turcicus (non De Filippi, 1865)
  • Squalius turcicus platycephala Kamenskii, 1897
  • Squalus tyberinus Bonaparte, 1841

International Common Names

  • English: English chub; vardar chub
  • Spanish: bagre
  • French: cabot; chavasson; chevaine; chevesne; chovaine; juègne; meunier; mulet
  • Russian: golavl; govali

Local Common Names

  • Albania: blyshi; kleni; mëlyshi
  • Austria: Döbel
  • Belgium: kopvoorn; meun
  • Bulgaria: rechen cefal; rechenclen
  • Czech Republic: dyblink; jelec; klen; tloušt
  • Denmark: almindelig døbel
  • Finland: turpa
  • Germany: Aitel; Aitel; Alsert; Breitschädel; Butt; Hässel
  • Italy: cavedano
  • Netherlands: Kopvoorn; meun
  • Portugal: escalo
  • Spain: bagra
  • Sweden: färna
  • Turkey: kepenez; talisu kefali
  • UK: chub; round chub, fat chub, chevin, pollard

Summary of Invasiveness

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The chub is a European freshwater cyprinid which has been reported as an invasive species in Italy and targeted for removal from a river system where introduced in Ireland. It is a long lived fish and has high mobility due to its pelagic condition. Humans may also facilitate its spread due to its value as a game or bait species in recreational fishing. It is also considered a valuable food resource in some regions, although the flesh is of poor quality (Dahl and Medem, 1964).

S. cephalus has ecological characteristics associated with invasiveness. It is omnivorous, and its food sources range from small (i.e. detritus, plants, invertebrates) to large (i.e. tadpoles, small fish) items. In addition it has high fecundity, fast growth rate, and is considered tolerant of anthropogenic pressures. However, there are few reports of impacts in its introduced range and indeed the changes in the taxonomic status of the species make it difficult to identify introduced populations.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Actinopterygii
  •                     Order: Cypriniformes
  •                         Family: Cyprinidae
  •                             Genus: Squalius
  •                                 Species: Squalius cephalus

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Squalius cephalus has long been considered to be widely distributed throughout most of Europe, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Urals, the Caspian Sea basin and central Iran. For a long time, many Squalius populations in the Mediterranean basin have attracted little attention and they have been uncritically identified as S. cephalus or dumped into a “S. cephalus complex” or “S. cephalus species group”.

Several peri-Mediterranean populations are now considered morphologically and genetically distinct enough to be considered valid species or subspecies. Some morphological characters may be difficult to identify in live fish and, in particular, in juveniles: therefore, genetic analysis is recommended for correct identification. The recent description of new species and the previous wide range of S. cephalus makes the identification of introduced populations in Europe difficult.


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The chub (S. cephalus) is a freshwater fish species (Cyprinidae family) that inhabits slow and moderate water flows from a wide range of European waters. It has 3 dorsal spines in total, 7-9 dorsal soft rays, 3 anal spines, 7-10 anal soft rays and 42-48 vertebrae. The mean size is 30.0 cm TL male/unsexed (Muus and Dahlström, 1968) and the maximum length reported is 60.0 cm SL male/unsexed (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). The maximum age reported is 22 years (Wüstemann, 1995). The maximum published weight is 8.0 kg (Spillman, 1961).


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Froese and Pauly (2011) describe the distribution as Eurasia: North, Baltic, northern Black, White, Barents and Caspian Sea basins, Atlantic basins southward to Adour drainages (France), Great Britain north to 56°N. Scandinavia: southern Finland, Sweden north to about Stockholm. Mediterranean basin from Var to Hérault (possibly Aude) (France) drainages. Naturally absent from Italy and the Adriatic basin. 

It is reported as introduced in Italy (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007) and Ireland (Caffrey et al., 2008).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
Continent/Country/Region Distribution Last Reported Origin First Reported Invasive Reference Notes


ArmeniaPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)Recorded from almost all reservoirs in Armenia
AzerbaijanPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
GeorgiaPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
IranPresentNativeBogutskaya (1997)Recorded in Caspian Sea, Lake Urmia, Namak Lake and Tigris River basins. Also found in Qom River, inner drainage from northern Iran
KazakhstanPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
TurkeyPresentNativeBogutskaya (1997)Known from the Gümüldür stream near Izmir. A short-lived species which inhabits water courses in lowland rivers. Is threatened due to habitat destruction and pollution


AlbaniaPresentNativeDhora (2010)
AustriaPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)Status of threat: Least concern
BelarusPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
BelgiumPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
Bosnia and HerzegovinaPresentNativeGerstmeier and Romig (1998)
BulgariaPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
CroatiaPresentNativeGerstmeier and Romig (1998)
CzechiaPresentNativeGerstmeier and Romig (1998)Occurs in Odra and Morava river basins. Status of threat: Least concern
EstoniaPresentNativeCABI (Undated)Rare in the Gulf of Riga and Gulf of Finland; Original citation: Anon (1999)
FinlandPresent, WidespreadNativeKoli (1990)Occurs on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, and up to the River Kokemäenjoki mouth on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, and in many rivers flowing towards South and Southeast coasts
FrancePresentNativeKeith and Allardi (2001)Found in the metropolitan territory. Not reported in Finistère, Corse, Nord and Landes. A different form with a smaller head is encountered in the south of France. Adults occur in creeks and fast flowing rivers, occasionally in lakes
GermanyPresent, Few occurrencesNativeSpratte and Hartmann (1997)Potentially threatened in Schleswig-Holstein in 1990
GreecePresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)Known from Prespa lakes. Also recorded from the Strymonikos Gulf
HungaryPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
IrelandPresent2010IntroducedCaffrey et al. (2008)Introduced to River Inny in the late 1990s early 2000s by anglers. Capture campaign began in 2006.
ItalyPresentIntroducedInvasiveKottelat and Freyhof (2007)Has been stocked in rivers and recorded as invasive. Recorded from Ombrone, Albegna, Fiora and Bruna
LatviaPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
LithuaniaPresent, WidespreadNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
MoldovaPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
NetherlandsPresent, Few occurrencesNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
NorwayPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)
PolandPresent, Few occurrencesNativeMuus and Dahlström (1968)Important food fish in early-mediaeval times
RussiaPresentNativeReshetnikov et al. (1997)Occurs in the basins of the Baltic and White Seas (up to the Northern Dvina), in river basins of the Sea of Azov, Black and Caspian Sea (up to the Ural River in the east)
SerbiaPresentNativeBlanc et al. (1971)In Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
SlovakiaPresentNativeGerstmeier and Romig (1998)
SloveniaPresentNativeGerstmeier and Romig (1998)
SpainPresentNativeElvira (1996)Threatened due to habitat destruction, pollution, and introductions of exotic predators. Status of threat: vulnerable. Species has been subject to commercial fishing
SwedenPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof (2007)Occurrence: Native and regular
SwitzerlandPresentNativeMuus and Dahlström (1968)In Lakes, rivers and creeks, close to the shore. Fairly common
United KingdomPresentNativeMaitland and Campbell (1992)Native to UK but introduced to Loch Lomond

Sea Areas

Atlantic - NortheastPresentNativeFroese and Pauly (2011)
Indian Ocean - EasternPresentNativeFroese and Pauly (2011)
Indian Ocean - WesternPresentNativeFroese and Pauly (2011)
Mediterranean and Black SeaPresentNativeFroese and Pauly (2011)

History of Introduction and Spread

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A few chub were found in the River Inny, Ireland, and are presumed to have been introduced intentionally by anglers in the late 1990s or early 2000s to improve the diversity of coarse angling species available. While relatively few were captured during a survey in 2006 (17 individuals), those examined were healthy and most were in spawning condition (Caffrey et al., 2008) and an eradication campaign was initiated. Bartley (2006) reported the introduction of Leuciscus cephalus [S. cephalus] to Italy but its origin was not determined. Other possible introductions of this fish species have not yet been reported: recent description of new species and previous wide range makes identification of introduced populations difficult (see Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Ireland Around 2000 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause)Caffrey et al. (2008)
Italy   Yes Bartley (2006)

Risk of Introduction

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The chub is not of interest to the aquarium trade, but is considered a valuable food resource in some countries and also has interest as a game or bait fish species. Therefore, recreational fishing and interconnection of waterways represent the main pathways of introduction into new locations.


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S. cephalus inhabits pools and tables from small to large rivers, and there are also populations described in lakes or reservoirs. Lake populations migrate to inflowing streams for spawning that preferably takes place in fast-flowing waters with gravel bottoms, rarely among submerged vegetation (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).

Adults are usually solitary or occur in small swarms, whereas juveniles form large swarms. Adults are usually found in pools, whereas juveniles live in very shallow shoreline habitats (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).

Habitat List

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Irrigation channels Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Lakes Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Reservoirs Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rivers / streams Principal habitat Natural
Ponds Secondary/tolerated habitat Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Some genetic records were listed with the same values in the River Kupa, South Pyrenees, Yugoslavia and other unspecified localities. Haploid/gametic chromosome number (n) is 25, whereas diploid/Zygotic chromosome number (2n) is 50-50 (Al-Sabti, 1986; Klinkhardt et al., 1995; Arkhipchuk, 1999).

Reproductive Biology

Sokolov and Berdicheskii (1989) reported that spawning occurs in fast-flowing water above gravel bottom, rarely among submerged vegetation. Males reach sexual maturity at the age of 2-4 years whereas females reach it at 4-6. Maturity is influenced by environmental factors and some individuals may mature much later. Spawning takes place in May-August, when temperature rises above 14ºC. Multiple spawning is described during each breeding season. Males assemble at spawning sites and follow ripe females, often with much splashing, to shallow riffles. Females then lay sticky eggs into the gravel (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). Pale yellow eggs are found attached to gravel, weed and stones in flowing water (Pinder, 2001). Billard (1997) also reported eggs added to plants.

Fecundity varies seasonally and geographically. The lowest value of fecundity (1158-2050 eggs) was detected in Turkey (Ünver, 1998; Ünlü and Balci, 1993) and the highest values (100,000 eggs) were detected in Europe (Vostradovsky, 1973). Maitland and Campbell. (1992) reported the same maximum values in Western Greece and Peloponnese.

Physiology and Phenology

Tolerant of anthropogenic impacts. Further studies are required.


S. cephalus lives up to 15 years, females longer than males (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). Maximum reported age is 22 years (Wüstemann, 1995)

Activity Patterns

Potamodromous species.

Population Size and Density

Abundant. Unknown population trend.


Feeds on a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial animals and plant material. Large individuals are predominantly piscivorous (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). In the UK is recorded as feeding on worms, molluscs, crustaceans, and various insect larvae (Maitland and Campbell, 1992); large chub eat considerable numbers of small fish, such as chub, eels, dace, roach, gudgeon and minnows; also frogs, crayfish, voles and young water birds. Further information on natural food sources is as follows:


Natural Food Sources

Life stage

Contribution to total food intake (%)

Plants, benthic algae, weeds


42.9% (28.3% algae, 14.6% macrophytes)

Nekton, fish juveniles (Anguilla anguilla, Gobio gobio, Leuciscus leuciscus, Phoxinus phoxinus, Rutilus rutilus)

Adult, broodstock

28.3% (18.3% eel, 2.7% minnow, 1.8% bullhead, 1.3% grayling, 0.1% stickleback, 4.3% unid. fish)

Zoobenthos, insects


11.8% (7% Caddis larvae, 0.4 % blackfly larvae and pupae, 0.2% stonefly larvae, 0.1% mayfly larvae, 0.1% mayfly larvae, 0.1% midge larvae)

Zooplankton (crayfish), plankton, crustaceans



Detritus, debris



Detritus, carcasses


3% (2.5% terrestrial organisms, 0.5% water vole)

Herpetofauna, toads, frogs

Adult, broodstock


Zoobenthos, molluscs



Other benthonic invertebrates

Adult, broodstock


Environmental Requirements

S. cephalus prefers slow-flowing waters. Although it is considered tolerant to anthropogenic perturbations, large animals may be particularly vulnerable to reduced water flow levels due to the pelagic conditions of the species. Detailed studies on environmental preferences to establish lower and upper tolerance values have not been published. A study performed on Iberian populations of S. laietanus (i.e. formerly S. cephalus) considers the species tolerant to poor water quality and physical habitat degradation gradients (Maceda-Veiga and De Sostoa, 2011).

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)

Notes on Natural Enemies

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All piscivorous species are the chub’s natural enemies (e.g. birds, mammals, introduced and native piscivorous fish species).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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S. cephalus is a potamodromous species. Migrations take place during the breeding season. It can cover more than 100 km (Riede, 2004). The latitude and longitude migration movements range from 10°W to 60°E and 64°N to 35°N, respectively.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Spread to Italy by unknown causes. Established through natural reproduction Yes Bartley, 2006
Acclimatization societies Yes
Fisheries Yes
Intentional release Yes
Interbasin transfers Yes
Interconnected waterways Yes
Stocking Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Bait Yes
Land vehicles Yes
Livestock Yes

Impact Summary

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Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Environmental Impact

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The introduction of exotic species may cause hybridization with native species, predation, resource competition and agonistic behaviour with native species and/or the introduction of diseases. Chub does not represent a risk for humans but it may cause changes to ecosystems (i.e. altering food web structures) and it may predate on native species. The risk of hybridization is particularly important with closely related fish species, in particular with other members of the Squalius genus. Fertile hybrids with Alburnus alburnus have also been reported (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). Studies on the effects of chub on native fish species are lacking.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult to identify/detect in the field
  • Difficult/costly to control


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The chub is of no interest to the aquarium trade, but is considered a valuable food resource in some countries despite poor quality of the flesh. It also has interest as a game or bait fish species in recreational fishing.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Bait/attractant


  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)


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The similar morphological traits between species of the Squalius genus require the aid of specialists to distinguish between them. The combination of morphological and genetic traits may also be necessary to ensure proper identification (particularly in juvenile specimens) and this procedure may also allow detection of hybrids.

Detection and Inspection

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The existence of stowaway species mixed with valuable species in ornamental or any other live fish stocks is not uncommon. The live fish trade therefore requires careful inspection by specialists in order to detect undesirable organisms which are often not labeled. In addition, the regular monitoring of current waters allows managers to detect new fish introductions and to know the spread patterns of exotic species once introduced. This information helps resource managers to identify areas at high risk of invasion and to plan local eradication programs when possible. Electrofishing is a widely recognized method to catch fish without damaging the ecosystem. Nets are a complementary sampling tool for surveys performed in lakes or reservoirs.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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Differs from its congeners in France, North, Baltic, Arctic, Black and Caspian Sea basins by possession of the following characteristics: dorsal profile with a well-marked discontinuity between head and trunk; a row of black pigments along free margin of each flank scale, forming a regular reticulate pattern, with no or very few pigments on central part of scales; anal and pelvic fins orange to red; dorsal fin with 8½ branched rays; anal fin with 8½ branched rays (rarely 9½); scales on lateral line 40-45 + 2-3; mouth terminal, with well-marked chin; lower jaw tip not included in the upper lip; interorbital distance 37-42% HL; postorbital distance 47-51% HL; eye diameter 17-22% HL, 1.5-2.3 times in snout length; body depth 22-27% SL; lower jaw long, length greater than depth of operculum; iris whitish; pharyngeal teeth 2,5-5,2; in stretched anal fin of individuals larger than about 15 cm SL, distance between tips of first and last branched rays usually greater than caudal peduncle depth. Size up to at least 600 mm SL (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). Caudal fin with 19 rays (Spillman, 1961).


Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.


Education programmes can be used to raise public awareness about the threats of introduced species to ecosystems. Regular monitoring of waters by trained specialists can be used to detect new invaders and newly invaded areas.


Once established, complete eradication is almost impossible, particularly in large areas. Local extirpation of introduced fish species may be performed in areas of high conservation value, particularly in small streams where the probability of success increases. In the River Inny, Ireland, a netting and electrofishing campaign has been running since 2006 to control a small number of introduced chub (Caffrey et al., 2008) with the result that none have been detected since 2010 (J Caffrey, Inland Fisheries Ireland, personal communication, 2012).


Physical barriers and rotenone are commonly used to control small fish. Regular removal of specimens in small streams may mitigate the effect of exotic species.

Monitoring and Surveillance

Regular electrofishing surveys.


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Distribution References

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Links to Websites

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Barcode of Life Data System (BOLD)
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.


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Italy: FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome,


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04/01/12 Original text by: 

Mònica Utjés Mascó, Department of Animal Biology & Research Institute of Biodiversity (IrBio), Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, Avda Diagonal, 643. E-08028 Barcelona, Spain

Alberto Maceda Veiga, Department of Animal Biology & Research Institute of Biodiversity (IrBio), Faculty of Biology, University of Barcelona, Avda Diagonal, 643. E-08028 Barcelona, Spain

The names of reviewers are available from CABI on request.

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