Ctenopharyngodon idella (grass carp)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural Food Sources
- Natural enemies
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Ctenopharyngodon idella (Valenciennes, 1844)
Preferred Common Name
- grass carp
Other Scientific Names
- Ctenopharyngodon idellus (Valenciennes, 1844)
- Ctenopharyngodon laticeps Steindechner, 1866
- Leuciscus idella Valenciennes, 1844
- Leuciscus idellus Valenciennes, 1844
- Leuciscus tschiliensis Basilewsky, 1855
- Pristiodon siemionovii Dybovskii, 1877
- Sarcocheilichthys teretiusculus Kner, 1867
International Common Names
- English: carp, grass; gardd carp; white amur; white amur
- Spanish: carpa forrajera; carpa herbivora
- French: amour blanc; carpe amour; carpe de roseau; carpe herbivore
- Russian: belyi amur
- Chinese: chow hu; huan; huan-yu; hwan yu; ts'ao-ju; waan ue; wuan yu
Local Common Names
- Albania: amuri i bardhe
- Austria: graskarpfen
- Bulgaria: byal amur
- Cambodia: trey srokchen
- Canada: carpe de roseau; grass carp; white amur
- China/Hong Kong: waan ju; waan ue
- Czech Republic: amur bílý; bílý amur
- Denmark: græskarpe; graeskarpe
- Ecuador: carpa forrajera
- Finland: ruohokarppi
- Germany: Amurkarpfen; Graskarpfen
- Greece: chortofagos kyprinos
- Hungary: amur
- India: hulla; hullagende; hullu; hullugende
- Iran: amoor
- Italy: amur; carpa erbivora
- Japan: sôgyo
- Laos: pa kin gnia
- Malaysia: chow hu; kap makan rumput; kap rumput; tongsan
- Mexico: carpa herbivora
- Netherlands: Chinese graskarper; graskarper
- New Zealand: grass carp
- Norway: graskarpe
- Poland: amur bialy; bialy amur; crap-de-iarba
- Portugal: carpa-do-limo
- Romania: cosas; crap alb chinezese; crap de iarba
- Slovakia: amur biely
- South Africa: graskarp
- Sweden: gräskarp
- Thailand: pla chao hea; pla chao heu; pla kin ya; pla van hea; pla van heu
- Ukraine: belyi amur
- USA: grass carp; white amur
- Vietnam: cá châm treng; cha cham
- CTEPID (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
C. idella, the grass carp, is considered as a potential pest. In the USA, it has been recorded in 45 states and is known to have established populations in at least eight states in the Mississippi River Basin (Ramussen, 2000a; Nico and Fuller, 2005; Nico et al., 2010). The rapid spread of the species is attributed to:
- widely scattered research projects
- stockings by different government agencies (federal, state, and local)
- interstate transport and release (legal and illegal) by individuals and private groups
- and more importantly, escapes from farm ponds and aquaculture facilities and escapes from stocked waterbodies to nearby waterbodies.
Although stocking of grass carp as a biological control against nuisance aquatic plants in ponds and lakes continues, the importation, stocking, sale and possession of grass carp are controlled in some US states by state code and permit programme (Ramussen, 2000a, b). Moreover, a vigorous campaign against the spread of non-native, invasive fish species that includes grass carp is being coordinated by the US Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Cypriniformes
- Family: Cyprinidae
- Genus: Ctenopharyngodon
- Species: Ctenopharyngodon idella
DescriptionTop of page
Grass carp is a large elongated fish with almost cylindrical body, round abdomen, and flat head (NACA, 1989). The mouth is sub-terminal to terminal (Anonymous, 1980; Shireman and Smith, 1983). The jaws have simple lips; the upper jaw slightly extends over the lower jaw. The fish has no barbels and the eyes are small. The snout is short and its length is less than or equal to the eye diameter (Fishbase, 2004). The gill membrane is connected to isthmus (Anonymous, 1980) and the gill rakers (15-19) are small, short, and widely set or scattered (NACA, 1989; FAO, 2005). The dorsal and anal fins are relatively short and the origin of the anal fin is behind the posterior edge of the dorsal fin (Shireman and Smith, 1983). The dorsal fin has 3 spines and 7-8 soft rays; the anal fin has 3 spines and 7-11 soft rays (FishBase, 2004). The pectoral fin has 2 spines and14 soft rays; the ventral fin, 1 spine and 8 soft rays (Anonymous, 1980). The caudal fin is deeply forked (Shireman and Smith, 1983) with 18 soft rays (FishBase, 2004). Grass carp has moderate to big scales and those on the back and sides have dark edges. There are 39-45 scales in the lateral line which extends to the caudal peduncle, 6-7 scale rows above the lateral line and 9-11 scale rows below (Anonymous, 1980).
Grass carp are heterosexual but external dimorphism is evident only at the onset of gonad maturity. The male grass carp has thick and long pectoral fins, extending freely like sharp knives whereas the female grass carp has thin and short pectoral fins that spread out like fans (NACA, 1989). Mature male fish develop pearl organs on the pectoral fins, head and opercula during spawning season but the females do not.
Live grass carp appear grey on the dorsal surface, greenish yellow on the sides, and yellowish white on the abdomen (NACA, 1989). The maximum recorded weight is 45 kg and the maximum reported age is 21 years (FishBase, 2004).
DistributionTop of page
Grass carp have been introduced in about 80 countries worldwide and many are secondary or tertiary introductions from countries other than China (FishBase, 2004). The introductions were made mainly for aquaculture and/or aquatic weed control in both developing and advanced countries. In western Europe and USA, for example, the main interest in grass carp has been in using it as a biological weed control agent for which it has been introduced. In India, grass carp is one of the species used in the so-called composite culture of Indian major carp and Chinese carp (Pillay, 1990). In some other countries, grass carp were used primarily for research, but because of their fast growth and efficiency as a weed control agent they eventually became an important aquaculture species. In Hungary and several other European countries, grass carp has become a valuable species for sport fisheries (FishBase, 2004). The grass carp is a highly adaptable and tolerant species, which may explain its widespread and successful introductions.
Apart from its native range, the grass carp have been reported to become established in large rivers in Japan (e.g., Tone River), the European and central Asian areas of USSR, some countries in Europe (e.g., Danube River and tributaries), Mexico (e.g., Rio Balsas system), and the USA (e.g., Mississippi and Missouri Rivers) (Shireman and Smith, 1983). In most countries, the introduced grass carp fail to reproduce and establish in confined bodies of water due to their strict requirements for reproduction.
Distribution TableTop of page
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|
|United Arab Emirates||Present||Introduced|
|Estonia||Present||Introduced||Rare, potentially invasive; Not established|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present||Introduced|
|Union of Soviet Socialist Republics||Present||Introduced|
IntroductionsTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Freshwater||Lakes||Present, no further details|
|Freshwater||Rivers / streams||Present, no further details|
|Freshwater||Ponds||Present, no further details|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The diploid chromosome number (2n) of grass carp as well as bighead carp and silver carp is 48 (Marian and Krasznai, 1979). Grass carp (and bighead carp) have 10 pairs of metacentric, 8 pairs of submetacentric and 6 pairs of telocentric chromosomes.
Natural Food SourcesTop of page
|Food Source||Food Source Datasheet||Life Stage||Contribution to Total Food Intake (%)||Details|
|Azolla (water fern)||Adult|
|Brachionus||Fry; Larval||up to 100|
|Carex hudsonii, C. nigra, C. pseudocyperus||Adult|
|Ceratophyllum demersum (coontail)||Adult|
|Chara sp. (stonewort, muskgrass)||Adult|
|cladocerans (e.g. Moina)||Fry; Larval||up to 100|
|Egeria densa (Brazilian elodea)||Adult|
|Eichhornia crassipes (water hyacinth)||Adult|
|Elodea canadensis (Canada waterweed)||Adult|
|filamentous algae (e.g. Cladophora)||Adult|
|Hydrilla sp., H. verticillata||Adult; Fry|
|Juncus articulatus, J. effusus, J. filiformis||Adult|
|Lemna sp., L. minor (duckweed)||Adult; Fry|
|Myriophyllum sp., M. spicatum (Eurasian watermilfoil)||Adult|
|Najas foveolata, N. guadalupensis (southern naiad)||Adult|
|Nasturtium officinale (watercress)||Adult|
|nauplii of copepods||Fry; Larval||up to 100|
|Nuphar sp. (spatterdock), N. luteum||Adult|
|Nymphaea sp. (fragrant waterlily)||Adult|
|Nymphaea spp. (water-lillies)||Adult|
|Panicum repens (torpedo grass)||Adult|
|Pistia stratiotes (water lettuce)||Adult|
|Polygonum amphibium (water smartweed); P. natans (floating leaved pondweed; P. amplifolius (big leaf pondweed)||Adult|
|Potamogeton crispus (curly leaf pondweed); P. filiformes, P. natans, P. obtusifolius, P. pectinatus (sago pondweed); P. perfoliatus, P. zosteriformes (flat-stemmed pondweed); P. praelongus (white-stemmed pondweed); P. illinoensis, P. lucens||Adult|
|Scirpus sp., S. silvaticus||Adult|
|Spirodela polyrrhiza (duckweed)||Adult|
|Stratiotes aloides (water-aloe)||Adult|
|tender aquatic plants (e.g. Wolffia arrhiza)||Adult; Broodstock; Fry|
|tender land plants||Adult|
|Typha augustifolia, T. latifolia, T. angustata (Typha spp., cat-tail)||Adult|
|Typha sp. (pond cattails, young); Typha angustifolia, sedges and rushes||Adult|
|Utricularia vulgaris (bladderwort)||Adult|
|Vallisneria (eel grass)||Adult|
|Vallisneria spiralis, V. americana (water celery)||Adult|
|young white water buttercup||Adult|
ClimateTop of page
|A - Tropical/Megathermal climate||Tolerated||Average temp. of coolest month > 18°C, > 1500mm precipitation annually|
|C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate||Preferred||Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C|
|D - Continental/Microthermal climate||Tolerated||Continental/Microthermal climate (Average temp. of coldest month < 0°C, mean warmest month > 10°C)|
Natural enemiesTop of page
Pathway CausesTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||Positive|
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
Grass carp were introduced to many countries mainly as a biological control for aquatic weeds (in ponds, reservoirs and other public waters) and for aquaculture and fisheries. The effects of grass carp in a body of water are complex; they are influenced by factors such as stocking density and size/age at stocking, abundance and type of macrophyte or aquatic vegetation, and the community structure of the ecosystem (Shireman and Smith, 1983).
Overstocking of grass carp cause a large influx of nutrients derived from the carp faeces and a fast or substantial decrease of macrophytes in lakes and ponds. Adverse effects of overstocking of grass carp in various countries as reviewed by Shireman and Smith (1983) include:
- phytoplankton blooms (USSR, Yugoslavia, Romania, India)
- a decrease in the invertebrate numbers and diversity (USSR and USA)
- disruption of macroinvertebrate food base and consequent reduction in centrarchid biomass in a reservoir (USA)
- reduction in the spawning sites for other fishes such as the largemouth bass and bluegill, Lepomis macrochirus (USA)
- and prevention of spawning by pike, Esox lucius, and perch, Lucioperca fluviatilis, in small Russian lakes.
Changes in water quality in lakes as a result of drastic reduction of macrophytes by the grass carp include a decrease in dissolved oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide levels in a lake in Yugoslavia, and increase in Kjeldahl nitrogen and significant decrease in pH in a lake in Florida (USA) (Shireman and Smith, 1983). On the other hand, the presence of grass carp improved oxygen levels in a reservoir (USSR) since grass carp drastically reduced the macrophytes that normally cause low dissolved oxygen during seasonal die-offs and decomposition.
A more exhaustive study on the environmental impact of grass carp as a weed control agent in nutrient enriched waters was done in New Zealand. After 15 years of research, the conclusions were:
- the grass carp were environmentally safe
- damage to native and introduced fisheries would be minimal
- the likelihood of breeding was low
- harmful effect of weed removal by fish would be much less than by herbicide or mechanical means (FAO, 1997; Fishbase, 2004).
However, only sterile fish are released for weed control (De Zylva, 1996).
Impact on Biodiversity
Contradictory results have been reported concerning grass carp interaction with other species since many factors influence the effects of grass carp introduction in a body of water. In his review, Petr (2000) reported that removal of aquatic vegetation (Hydrilla verticillata, Myriophyllum spicatum and Ceratophyllum demersum) by grass carp in a lake system (Lake Conroe) result in the decline of some fish species (e.g., small phytophilic, Lepomis spp., bluegill, Lepomis machrochirus, and crappie, Pomoxis spp.) and a nearly fivefold increase in the density of threadfin shad, Dorosoma petenense. The sportfish community changed from the original largemouth bass-crappie-hybrid striped bass (Morone chrysops x M. saxatilis) fishery to a channel catfish-white bass-hybrid striped bass-largemouth bass-black crappie, after vegetation removal. The littoral fish community also shifted from a sunfish and shad community to one that included large numbers of cyprinids, inland silversides, Menidia beryllina, and channel catfish. In many other lakes, there was no consistent trend on the effect of aquatic macrophyte removal in that some grass carp lakes supported excellent fish populations and some did not.
Grass carp affects other fish species by interfering with their reproduction, broadening or narrowing their food base, and decreasing their refugia (Shireman and Smith, 1983). Overfeeding of grass carp on aquatic vegetation affects habitats for migrating and wintering waterfowl because the native aquatic plants preferred by grass carp are also important food for the waterfowl and habitat for invertebrate food items (Welcomme, 1988; Petr, 2000). Grass carp has also been reported to compete for plant food with crayfish, Procambarus clarkii, in small ponds leading to a decrease in crayfish production.
Accidental introduction of the intestinal parasite, Bothriocephalus acheilognathi (=gowkongensis), is associated with the introduction of grass carp (FishBase, 2004) from the Far East and has caused extensive losses in common carp culture in Europe (Shireman and Smith, 1983). In the USA, various tests have shown that the golden shiner virus that causes mortalities in golden shiners, Notemigonus crysoleucas, is the same as the grass carp reovirus which must have been imported into the country along with the introduction of grass carp (McEntire et al., 2003).
Vegetation removal by grass carp has been reported to improve growth of rainbow trout due to increases in phytoplankton and zooplankton production (a secondary effect of the presence of grass carp), but it also led to higher predation on rainbow trout by cormorants, Phalacrocorax auritus,due to lack of cover, and changes in diet, densities, and growth of native fishes (Nico and Fuller, 2005).
Social ImpactTop of page
The introduction of grass carp in many countries has generally resulted in a positive economic impact due to increase in aquaculture production and fisheries production in inland waters. Chinese carp, including grass carp, introduced in Malaysia have no negative impact on human lifestyles, customs or economy (Ang et al., 1989). Instead, the introductions have resulted in positive contribution to human nutrition and economy. In Poland, grass carp in polyculture has contributed about 30% increase in production in ponds (FishBase, 2004). In the Czech Republic, the socioeconomic effect of grass carp is beneficial due to the aquaculture production of the species in country. In India, grass carp has proven to be a boom for aquaculturists particularly in the submountainous regions of the country where Indian major carp could not thrive well (FishBase, 2004). In Vietnam, the introduction of grass carp has contributed significantly to the diversification of cultured fish species as well as the fish community structure. Being a fast-growing species feeding mainly on aquatic vegetation and grass, the grass carp has been found suitable for culture in ponds, cages and lakes particularly at the mid-land and high-land regions of the country (FAO, 1997; FishBase, 2004). In India, grass carp has increased fish production and proven to be a good table fish as well as an efficient biological control submerged weeds. (Shetty et al., 1989).
Grass carp is not a popular food fish in Japan but it is an important species in commercial fisheries (Chiba et al., 1989) especially among anglers due to its size and peculiar feeding habits. Grass carp is also valued as a game fish for anglers in other countries such as Poland and Czech Republic (Lever, 1996; FishBase, 2004). In Singapore, the common carp and Chinese carp formed the basis for an important aquaculture after 1945 when cost of marine fish increased considerably (Chou and Lam, 1989). However, the increasing land demand and land values in the country resulted in the reclamation of ponds and the consequent decline of carp culture.
Prior to 1963, Taiwan had to import fry of Chinese carp yearly from mainland China through Hong Kong but after the successful development of techniques for induced spawning of the carp, which include grass carp, Taiwan exports substantial volumes of carp fry (Liao and Liu, 1989). The culture of Chinese carp in Malaysia is dependent on imported fry from Taiwan or Hong Kong (Ang et al., 1989).
In China and other countries, grass carp fetch a higher price than bighead carp or silver carp and provide added income for fish farmers (Stone et al., 2000; Salehi, 2004; FAO, 2005). Wholesale price of grass carp in 2003 was US $1.60 in Iran (Salehi, 2004). Retail prices of grass carp in China are usually US $0.70-1.00/kg (FAO, 2005).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of nutrient regime
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Live feed
- Aquaria fish
Human food and beverage
- Canned meat
- Cured meat
- Eggs (roe)
- Fish meal
- Fresh meat
- Frozen meat
- Live product for human consumption
ReferencesTop of page
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