Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Rutilus rutilus



Rutilus rutilus (roach)


  • Last modified
  • 08 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Natural Enemy
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Rutilus rutilus
  • Preferred Common Name
  • roach
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Actinopterygii
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The main ecological problems associated with Rutilus rutilus invasion are trophic competition, hybridization and alteration of the nutrient cycle. Its spread is favoured by hydrological alterations such as we...

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Rutilus rutilus (roach); adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April, 2011.
CaptionRutilus rutilus (roach); adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April, 2011.
CopyrightReleased into the Public Domain by Karel Jakubec/Prague, Czech Republic
Rutilus rutilus (roach); adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April, 2011.
AdultRutilus rutilus (roach); adult fish on display. Subaqueous Vltava, Prague Czech Republic. April, 2011.Released into the Public Domain by Karel Jakubec/Prague, Czech Republic


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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Rutilus rutilus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Preferred Common Name

  • roach

Other Scientific Names

  • Cyprinus fulvus Vallot, 1837
  • Cyprinus jaculus Jurine, 1825
  • Cyprinus lacustris Pallas, 1814
  • Cyprinus pigus Gronow, 1854
  • Cyprinus rubellio Leske, 1774
  • Cyprinus rutilus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Cyprinus ruttilus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Cyprinus simus Hermann, 1804
  • Cyprinus xanthopterus Vallot, 1837
  • Gardonus pigulus Bonaparte, 1841
  • Gardonus ruboculus Walecki, 1863
  • Leuciscus decipiens Agassiz, 1835
  • Leuciscus heckelii Nordmann, 1840
  • Leuciscus jurinii Dybowski, 1862
  • Leuciscus lividus Heckel, 1843
  • Leuciscus pallens Blanchard, 1866
  • Leuciscus pausingeri Heckel, 1843
  • Leuciscus pigus dojranensis Karaman, 1928
  • Leuciscus prasinus Agassiz, 1835
  • Leuciscus rutiloides Selys-Longchamps, 1842
  • Leuciscus rutilus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Leuciscus rutilus aurata Fatio, 1882
  • Leuciscus rutilus auratus Yakovlev, 1873
  • Leuciscus rutilus bolmensis Malm, 1877
  • Leuciscus rutilus caspicus Yakovlev, 1870
  • Leuciscus rutilus communis Rossikov, 1895
  • Leuciscus rutilus crassa Fatio, 1882
  • Leuciscus rutilus daugawensis Dybowski, 1862
  • Leuciscus rutilus elata Fatio, 1882
  • Leuciscus rutilus elongata Fatio, 1882
  • Leuciscus rutilus erytraea Antipa, 1909
  • Leuciscus rutilus fluviatilis Yakovlev, 1873
  • Leuciscus rutilus terekensis Rossikov, 1895
  • Leuciscus rutilus vobla Dikson, 1909
  • Leuciscus rutilus wobla Grimm, 1896
  • Leuciscus selysii Selys-Longchamps, 1842
  • Leucos cenisophius Bonaparte, 1841
  • Leucos pigulus Bonaparte, 1844
  • Rutilus heckelii (Nordmann, 1840)
  • Rutilus rutilus aralensis Berg, 1916
  • Rutilus rutilus aralensis phragmiteti Berg, 1932
  • Rutilus rutilus bucharensis Nikolsky, 1933
  • Rutilus rutilus carpathorossicus Vladykov, 1930
  • Rutilus rutilus caspicus (Yakovlev, 1870)
  • Rutilus rutilus caspicus geoktshaicus Barach, 1941
  • Rutilus rutilus caspicus knipowitschi Pravdin, 1927
  • Rutilus rutilus caspicus kurensis Berg, 1932
  • Rutilus rutilus caspicus tscharchalensis Berg, 1932
  • Rutilus rutilus frici Misik, 1957
  • Rutilus rutilus goplensis Stangenberg, 1938
  • Rutilus rutilus lacustris Pallas, 1814
  • Rutilus rutilus lacustris menschikowi Kirillov, 1962
  • Rutilus rutilus mariza Drensky, 1926
  • Rutilus rutilus rutilus (Linnaeus, 1758)
  • Rutilus rutilus schelkovnikovi Derjavin, 1926
  • Rutilus rutilus sucharensis Stangenberg, 1938
  • Rutilus rutilus uzboicus Berg, 1932
  • Rutilus rutilus vegariticus Stephanidis, 1950

International Common Names

  • English: common roach
  • Spanish: rutilo
  • French: blanchet; echatout; gardon; gardon blanc; plotze; roche; vengeron
  • Russian: plotva; plotva obyknovennaya; taran

Local Common Names

  • Austria: rotauge
  • Belarus: plot’; plotica; plotka
  • Bulgaria: babushka; tarran
  • Czech Republic: plotica obycajna; plotice obecná
  • Denmark: gråskalle; skalle
  • Finland: särki
  • Germany: Meefischli; Plötze; Roddogen; Rotauge; Rothauge; Weißfisch
  • Greece: tsironi
  • Hungary: bodorka
  • Iran: kolme; kolmeie Gorgon; mahi Cheshm Qermez; talaji
  • Ireland: roiste
  • Italy: rutilo
  • Netherlands: blankvoorn
  • Norway: mort
  • Poland: ploc; ploc aralska
  • Portugal: pardelha-dos-Alpes
  • Romania: babuscä; ocheana; taranca
  • Slovakia: plotica obycajná
  • Slovenia: rdeceoka
  • Sweden: mört
  • Switzerland: rotauge
  • Turkey: kizilgöz baligi
  • UK/England and Wales: rhufell
  • Ukraine: baboshka; bochycja; plitka; plotycja; pot’ka

Summary of Invasiveness

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The main ecological problems associated with Rutilus rutilus invasion are trophic competition, hybridization and alteration of the nutrient cycle. Its spread is favoured by hydrological alterations such as weirs and dams that create large extensions of limnophilous habitat otherwise scarce in some river typologies. R. rutilus is an omnivorous species that is able to adapt its diet to whatever is available, and it has high fecundity (Volta and Jepsen, 2008). It spawns earlier than other native species, so that roach larvae are able to use the seasonal lake production earlier than competitors (Volta and Jepsen, 2008). There is also evidence that roach compete for the same benthic food as tufted duck in Ireland (Winfield et al., 1992).

R. rutilus is naturally absent from the Iberian Peninsula, the Adriatic basin and Italy. It is considered invasive in northeastern Italy (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007) and Ireland (Stokes et al, 2006). In Spain it is distributed locally, in two neighbouring basins (Elvira, 1995). The roach is included in the Global Invasive Species Database.

Taxonomic Tree

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


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Roach is a benthopelagic potadromous fish. The maximum length reported is 50.0 cm SL male/unsexed (Freyhof and Kottelat, 2007), but the average size is 25.0 cm TL male/unsexed (Muus and Dahlstrøm, 1968). Scales on lateral line: 39-48. Scale rows above lateral line: 7-10; scale rows below lateral line: 3-5. Total gill rakers: 9-14; total vertebrae: 37-43. One dorsal fin (no finlets; 3-3 total spines; 8-12 total soft-rays); absent adipose fin; forked caudal fin; 1 anal fin (3-3 total spines; 8-13 total soft-rays); pectoral fins with 1 spine and (13) 14-18 soft-rays; pelvic fins in abdominal position (beneath origin of D1) with 2 spines and 7-8 soft rays (Berg, 1949; Zhukov, 1965; Movchan and Smirnov, 1981; Keith and Allardi, 2001).

Its swimming type consists of movements of body and/or caudal fin and is classified as subcarangiform according to swimming mode (Palomares, 1991).

Fish eggs are fixed on plants or stones. Colour of eggs: yellow, orange, amber (Pinder, 2001). Egg diameter is about 1–1.5 mm (Zhukov, 1965). In Lake Gardno the average egg diameter was 1.295 mm and in Lake Lebsko 1.374 mm (Hornatkiewicz-Zbik, 2003). Immediately after hatching, the larvae, by means of their adhesive glands, adhere to vegetation and remain fairly immobile because the fins are still not well developed (Billard, 1997). Yolk is absorbed at 6.5-7.0 mm. Pigmentation: Pigment present on the dorsal and lateral lines. Yolk-sac larvae development is placed in close association with substrate. It has not got oil globules, and melanophores are placed on the trunk (Pinder, 2001).


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There are some discrepancies in reports on the native range of the species between publication sources. In Ireland and Kazakhstan, following the assessment of Freyhof and Kottelat (2007), the roach is considered to be native by the IUCN, although in other references included in the Distribution Table it is cited as exotic.

In Great Britain, the species is naturally absent north of 56ºN. In Scandinavia it is naturally absent north of 69ºN (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).

It is present in the following regions: Europe north of Pyrenees and Alps, eastward to Ural and Eya drainages (Caspian basin). Aegean basin, in Pinios, Vardar, Vegoritis, Kastoria, Struma and Maritza drainages. Asia: Marmara basin and lower Sakarya in Anatolia, Aral basin and Siberia from Ob eastward to Lena drainages (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).  

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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Sea Areas

Atlantic, NortheastPresentNativeFroese and Pauly, 2004


AfghanistanPresentNativeCoad, 1981; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Occurs in Amu Darya up to Pitnak and Khanabad.
ArmeniaPresentNativeGabrielyan, 2001; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Found in Sevdgur river basin
AzerbaijanPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
ChinaPresentNativeWalker Yang, 1999; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Occurs in Erqishi, Ulungur, Tarim and Yili rivers. Liu et al, 1989 reports that it has been introduced to other provinces of China, though it is not specified which.
-XinjiangPresentNativeWalker Yang, 1999
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
IranPresentNativeCoad, 1995; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Caspian Sea basin. Freshwater and brackish waters.
KazakhstanPresentNativeMitrofanov and Petr, 1999; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
KyrgyzstanPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
MongoliaPresentNativeDulmaa, 1999; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat, 2006; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Status needs further confirmation as this species might be native to Europe only.
TajikistanPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
TurkeyPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Bogutskaya, 1997; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
UzbekistanPresentNativeFroese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007


MadagascarAbsent, formerly presentIntroduced1925 Not invasive Welcomme, 1988Introduced from France for fisheries in 1925.
MoroccoPresentIntroduced1934Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004


AlbaniaPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007; Dhora, 2010
AndorraPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
AustriaPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
BelarusPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
BelgiumPresentNativeMiller and Loates, 1997; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
Bosnia-HercegovinaPresentNativeGerstmeier and Romig, 1998; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
BulgariaPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
CroatiaPresentNativeGerstmeier and Romig, 1998; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
CyprusPresentIntroduced1972Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004Introduced in 1972 from UK for angling, although not very popular.
Czech RepublicPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Hanel, 2003; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Occurs in Morava river basin. Status of threat: Least concern.
DenmarkWidespreadNativeMuus and Dahlström, 1990; Froese and Pauly, 2004Occurs throughout the country, also in the Baltic. Freshwater and brackish waters. Used in bait and gamefish.
EstoniaPresentNativeAnon, 1999; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
FinlandWidespreadNativeKoli, 1990; Winkler et al., 2000; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Occurs through the country except northern Lapland. Freshwater and brackish waters. Important for subsistence fisheries and used in bait and gamefish.
FranceWidespreadNativeAllardi and Keith, 1991; Keith and Allardi, 2001; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Widely distributed in metropolitan France. Can be considered as ubiquitous in France. Introduced in some regions of France
GermanyPresentNativeWinkler et al., 2000; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
GreecePresentNativeEconomidis, 1991; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
HungaryPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
IrelandWidespreadIntroduced1889 Invasive Went, 1957; Fitzmaurice, 1981; Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007It was introduced in 1889 from the UK as an accidental release following use as a bait fish. It has spread widely throughout Ireland since the 1960s, regarded as a nuisance.
ItalyPresentIntroduced Invasive Gandolfi et al., 1991; Bianco and Ketmaier, 2001; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Introduced and invasive in NE Italy
LatviaPresentNativeWinkler et al., 2000; Plikss, 2002; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
LiechtensteinPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
LithuaniaPresentNativeWinkler et al., 2000; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
LuxembourgPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
MacedoniaPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
MoldovaPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
MontenegroPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
NetherlandsPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Nijssen and Groot, 1974; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
NorwayPresentNativeAppleby, 1999; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
PolandPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Winkler et al., 2000; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
PortugalPresentIntroducedAzevedo et al., 2004
-AzoresPresentIntroducedAzevedo et al., 2004Recorded from the São Miguel Lake. Utilized in sport fishing
RomaniaPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
Russian FederationPresentNativeWinkler et al., 2000; Bogutskaya and Naseka, 2002; Froese and Pauly, 2004Translocated to areas within the country for stocking in open waters, dispersed and now has locally established self-sustaining populations. Also Robins et al (1991) and Bogutskaya (2005) unpublished data.
SerbiaPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007In Serbia and Kosovo.
SlovakiaPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
SloveniaPresentNativeKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
SpainPresentIntroduced Not invasive Elvira, 1995; FAO, 1997; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
SwedenPresentNativeBlanc et al., 1971; Kullander, 1999; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
SwitzerlandPresentNativeHartmann, 1827; Blanc et al., 1971; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007
UKPresentNativeTreasurer, 1990; Maitland and Campbell, 1992; Wheeler, 1992; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007Also found in Northern Ireland.
UkrainePresentNativeMovchan and Smirnov, 1981; Froese and Pauly, 2004; Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007


AustraliaPresentIntroduced1860Welcomme, 1988; Froese and Pauly, 2004Introduced in the 1900s from the UK as a forage fish. Isolated populations persist in Victoria and its range is extending possibly because of its use as a bait fish.
-New South WalesPresentIntroducedHoese et al., 2006; Rowe et al., 2008Reported from the Murray-Darling basin.
-South AustraliaPresentIntroducedHoese et al., 2006Known from the Murray-Darling basin.
-TasmaniaPresentIntroducedHoese et al., 2006
-VictoriaPresentIntroducedCadwallader and Backhouse, 1983; Allen et al., 2002; Hoese et al., 2006Only in rivers close to Melbourne.

History of Introduction and Spread

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Roach were introduced into Ireland, along with dace, in 1889, when specimens brought from England as bait for pike accidentally escaped into the Co. Cork Blackwater (Went, 1950). By 1940 the entire River Blackwater system was colonised by both roach and dace. In 1905, the Baronscourt lakes on the Foyle system were stocked with roach, to provide food for pike (Hale 1958). These fish are thought to have been transferred from the original introduction site in the Cork Blackwater.

The roach subsequently disappeared from the Baronscourt lakes, but some must have moved downstream to the River Strule, giving rise to populations in the Rivers Strule and Fairywater. The Cork Blackwater and Foyle system Strule/Fairywater populations remained isolated for some time, until in 1931 roach were deliberately transferred into Galbally Lake, on the Erne system. In 1960 dredging of the outflow of this lake allowed fish to escape to the River Erne.

The first roach in the Erne river system were noted in coarse fishing competitions in 1963, and by 1966 roach were a common feature of anglers’ catches (Mercer, 1968; Kennedy and Fitzmaurice, 1973). By 1973 they had colonised the entire upper Erne system, and rapidly became the dominant fish by biomass in the whole system (Cragg- Hine, 1973; Rosell, 1994). From the Upper Erne system roach passed, possibly via the (then semi-derelict) Ballyconnell canal to the Shannon system, then spreading throughout the 1970s to a wide range of sites, assisted by transport as anglers live bait for pike. By the early 1980s they were widespread throughout Ireland, including the Foyle, Shannon, L. Neagh/River Bann, Boyne, Shannon, Corrib and Lee systems (Fitzmaurice, 1981).

During the late 1980s and 1990s spread continued and by 2000 the roach had reached every major river catchment in Ireland, probably being absent only from a few montane or small coastal systems without recreational pike fisheries. The latest new site is Lough Melvin, Co Leitrim, where Roach/rudd hybrids were noted in 2002 (Delanty and O’Grady, 2002)

In north and central Italy, roach was introduced for game fishing (Gandolfi et al, 1991). It has recently been introduced in Tuscany (in the 1990s) and in the Padano-Veneto area; but is probably not established (Amori et al, 1993).

In France, roach has a minor commercial importance (FAO, 1992), and is used in aquaculture (FAO, 1997; Garibaldi, 1996). It is the most popular fish caught in freshwater by anglers and is the centre of attraction during angling competitions. Roach are caught with animal bait during cold seasons, and with plant bait in summer. The flesh is bony but is highly esteemed. Commonly grown in ponds for restocking (Billard, 1997). Introduced in Brittany and in the south-west of France.

In Germany, it was common in the Neckar in 1850 (Günther, 1853) and is found in the Elbe estuary (Thiel et al, 2003). Muus and Dahlström (1968) also report its distribution in Germany. Found in freshwater and brackish waters.

In the United Kingdom, it may have been introduced (Bartley, 2006). It is used for commercial angling (Maitland, 1974).


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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Australia UK 1860-1880 Forage (pathway cause) Yes Welcomme (1988)
Azores Unknown Yes Elvira and Almodóvar (2001) Probably some socioeconomic beneficial effects
Cyprus UK 1972 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes Welcomme (1988) Species is not popular with anglers
Ireland England and Wales 1889 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes Griffiths (1997); Welcomme (1988) Introduced into the River Blackwater, Co. by an angler using it as live bait, has subsequently spread throughout the country and has become common wherever it occurs. Accidentally released from aquaria and since the 1960s has spread widely throughout Irel
Italy 1989 Yes Delmastro and Balma (1991)
Kazakhstan 1965 Forage (pathway cause) Yes Different sized fish (120,000) were introduced into Lake Balkhash from Lake Biilikol and in 1970 reported 1st commercial fishing of the species.
Madagascar France 1925 Fisheries (pathway cause) No Welcomme (1988) Disappeared
Morocco France 1934 Yes Welcomme (1988) Species stocked into Lakes Isfrah and Iffer may have hybridized with S. erythrophthalmus.
Portugal Yes
Spain 1910-1913 Stocking (pathway cause)UnknownElvira and Almodóvar (2001) Probably established
UK 1990-2000 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes Bartley (2006)

Risk of Introduction

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This species has historically been introduced into new countries for sport fishing/angling and in some countries roach is highly appreciated and considered one of the most popular fishing species. Once introduced, deliberate translocations between basins in the same country have sometimes been reported.


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The roach lives in a wide variety of habitats, mainly in lowland areas. Most abundant in nutrient rich lakes and large to medium sized rivers and backwaters. Its spread is favored by hydrological alterations such as weirs and dams that create large extensions of limnophilous habitat otherwise scarce in some river typologies. In fast-flowing rivers, it is restricted to stretches with low current velocity. Larvae and juveniles inhabit a wide variety of littoral habitats (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).

Habitat List

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Biology and Ecology

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Chromosome number: in most studies the roach has 25 haploid/gametic (n) chromosomes and 50 – 50 diploid/zygotic (2n) chromosomes. In other records: 50 haploid and 80-80 diploid; 51-51 diploid; 26 haploid and 52-52 diploid (Klinkhardt et al, 1995; Arkhipchuk, 1999).

There are about 62 different natural hybrids between species of European Cyprinidae. In particular, the fertile hybrid Abramis brama x Rutilus rutilus is recorded from almost every water body in which the parental species occur. Male A. brama x R. rutilus hybrids are known to produce three types of spermatozoids: haploid gametes of R. rutilus, haploid gametes of A. brama and diploid gametes with the unreduced chromosome complement of the hybrid. This results in F2 progeny comprising only of diploid and triploid F1 hybrids and pure parental species (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).

Reproductive Biology

R. rutilus is a dioecious species and fertilizes externally. Reproductive guild: non-guarders, open water/substratum egg scatterers. It spawns in shoals among dense submerged vegetation in backwaters or lakes, flooded meadows or in shallow, fast-flowing river habitats on plant or gravel bottom (Holcík et al, 1989). Males reproduce for the first time at 2-3 years, females 1 year later, usually at about 100 mm SL. Undertakes short spawning migrations, sometimes starting as early as September, usually with a peak at temperatures above 9ºC in spring. Spawns in April-May, when temperature rises above 12ºC. Usually, a whole population spawns within a period of 5-10 days. The roach fecundity range is 700–77000 eggs (Zhukov, 1965).

Eggs are sticky and hatch in about 12 days (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). Pale yellow eggs are attached to vegetation and tree roots (Pinder, 2001). In the United Kingdom the presence of larvae is recorded from May until July (Pinder, 2001).

Physiology and Phenology

Facultative schooling fish (Schiemer and Wieser, 1992). Large fish are solitary or congregate in small groups of up to 8 fish (Haberlehner, 1988). Specimens ranging from 1.1 - 3.59 cm start exogenous feeding on pollen grains and vegetal cells (Reyes-Marchant et al, 1992). Populations predominantly feeding on detritus are often stunted. Stunted populations may also be associated with strong year classes (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).

When growing, there is an energetic need to switch from zooplankton to benthic food (chironomids, molluscs). Individuals able to feed on Dreissena mussels increase their growth rate but do not exploit this food source until they have reached about 120 mm SL, at which size they are able to crush the mussels. In some areas (Volga reservoirs), pelagic and benthic roach can be distinguished by life-history traits (spawning time, spawning sites) (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).  


R. rutilus lives up to 13 years (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007), although a maximum age of 14 years was reported by Wüstemann and Kammerad (1995) and 20 years by Holcík and Hensel (1972).

Activity Patterns

Roach may shift from littoral to pelagic habitats and between benthic food and zooplankton when abundance of a specific food item is high, or in order to avoid predation and/or competition. The decision whether to stay in open water or among littoral vegetation is often described as a trade-off between food uptake and predator avoidance. It overwinters in backwaters or in deep parts of lakes (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007).


Roach feed mainly on benthic invertebrates, zooplankton, plant material and detritus. The species is considered one of the most efficient molluscivores among European cyprinids (Winfield and Winfield, 1992). See also the following table:

Natural Food Sources

Life stage


Contribution to total food intake (%)

Insects (adults)





0.3 – 3.5




Insects (larvae)


0.7 – 31.8



0.1 – 8.1






5.2 – 62.1

Insects (pupae)


1.7 – 30

Insects (nymphs)





1.5 – 9.2

Aerial insecta


0.8 – 4.8

Benthic algae/weeds


0.9 – 73



21.3 – 49.3




Terrestrial plants





24.3 – 49.3



1 – 14.8



1.1 – 41.8



2.3 – 41.8




Non-annelid worms (Tubificidae)


1.3 - 8







Other annelids


0.4 – 1.3

Cnidarians (other polyps)


0.7 – 3.5

Planktonic copepods (adult)


0.9 – 2.1



7 – 69.4

Planktonic copepods (larvae)



Planktonic invertebrates (rotifera)


1.4 – 11.6



5.8 – 48

Planktonic invertebrates (other)



Planktonic crustaceans (other)








8.5 – 36.3

Benthonic crustaceans (other)


1.4 – 31.3

Benthonic crustaceans (amphipodes)






Benthonic copepods



Molluscs (bivalves)


43.7 – 80.7




Molluscs (gastropods)


2 – 5.5




Molluscs (other)


5 – 75.7

Fish eggs



Bony fish


0.5 – 0.6





Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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

Water Tolerances

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ParameterMinimum ValueMaximum ValueTypical ValueStatusLife StageNotes
Hardness (mg/l of Calcium Carbonate) 178 267 Optimum
Water pH (pH) 7.0 7.5 Optimum

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aeromonas salmonicida Pathogen not specific
Alosa macedonica Predator Adult/Juvenile
Anguilla anguilla Predator Adult/Juvenile
Channa argus warpachowskii Predator Adult/Juvenile
Diplostomum spathaceum Parasite
Esox lucius Predator Adult/Juvenile
Ligula intestinalis Parasite not specific
Lota lota Predator Adult/Juvenile
Posthodiplostomum cuticula Parasite
Salmo trutta Predator Adult/Juvenile
Sander lucioperca Predator Adult/Juvenile
Silurus glanis Predator Adult/Juvenile
Squalius cephalus Predator Adult/Juvenile

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Roach predators are mainly other bony fish species belonging to the families Anguillidae (Kangur et al, 1999), Clupeidae (Economidis and Sinis, 1991), Channidae (Guseva, 1990), Cyprinidae and Esocidae (Maitland and Campbell, 1992), Lotidae (Pulliainen and Korhonen, 1990), Percidae and Siluridae (Stolyarov, 1985) and Salmonidae (Vehanen et al, 1998), which prey on all developmental stages. The reported predators’ stages are juveniles and adults, except for Alosa macedonica and Squalius cephalus, species where only adults prey on roach.

Some non-specific parasitic infestations have been reported as attacking roach. Mokhayer (2000) described worm cataracts (also called diplostomatosis or metacercariosis) caused by Diplostomum spathaceum (Trematoda), which causes haemorrhages and eyes covered with small white dots. The black spot disease (also called diplostomiasis) affects roaches too, recognizable by trapezoid black blotches 0.85 to 3.8 mm in length on skin, fins, gills and muscles (Ondrackova et al, 2002). The tapeworm Ligula intestinalis (Cestoda: Pseudophyllidea) is known to be a parasite as well (Kennedy et al, 2001). The pathogenic bacterium Aeromonas salmonicida causes furunculosis in a few fish species (Wiklund and Dalsgaard, 1998).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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The main reason for introduction of roach in most countries has been for angling (sport fishing) and the transport has been reported to be international (see History of Introductions table). It has also been used as forage for other fish and used as a live bait. After a probable accidental release it may spread afterwards throughout the adjacent waterways. However the main reason for expanding its distribution once introduced is deliberate releases and further translocations in other basins in the country.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Acclimatization societiesDeliberate. Introduced to make wildlife more familiar to European colonizers in Australia. Yes Arthington and McKenzie, 1997
Fisheries Yes Welcomme, 1988
Forage Yes Yes Welcomme, 1988
Hunting, angling, sport or racingDeliberate or accidentally Yes Delmastro and Balma, 1991; Griffiths, 1997; Welcomme, 1988
Interconnected waterwaysAccidental, probably in water diverted during a flood event, or dredging the outflow of lakes. Yes Stokes et al., 2006; Volta and Jepsen, 2008
Self-propelled Yes Stokes et al., 2006

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Bait Yes Yes Griffiths, 1997; Welcomme, 1988
Water Yes Stokes et al., 2006

Economic Impact

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In England and Wales, roach is one of the preferred target species amongst coarse (non-salmonid) anglers (39% in 1969/70, 28% in 1994) (Hickley and Tompkins, 1998). In Poland, it also predominates along with carp (Cyprinus carpio) and bream (Abramis brama) (Wolos et al, 1998). In the Azores islands its introduction might also have caused some socio-economic benefits (Azevedo et al, 2004).

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

Roach can have severe ecological consequences, particularly when lakes become enriched from mesotrophic to eutrophic conditions. Their ability to reach a large biomass and heavily graze zooplankton can exacerbate the algal blooms associated with nutrient enrichment in lakes. They can apparently accelerate the switch from clear water mesotrophy to a turbid water eutrophic state, effectively altering their environment to their own requirements. Biomanipulation experiments in Finland have shown significant water quality benefits following large-scale roach removal (Horppila, 1994). It is probable that the high biomass reached by roach in Irish lakes has contributed to the effects of eutrophication (Rosell and Gibson, 2000).

Impact on Biodiversity

Roach frequently produces hybrids with other Cyprinidae such as rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) and bream (Abramis brama) in Ireland to the detriment of both species (Fitzmaurice, 1981). It may also compete with other species such as native fauna occupying the same ecological niche, causing a deleterious effect on them.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Abramis brama (carp bream)LC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)HybridizationKottelat and Freyhof, 2007
Aythya fuligulaLC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)IrelandCompetition - monopolizing resourcesWinfield et al., 1992
Rutilus pigus (Danube roach)LC (IUCN red list: Least concern) LC (IUCN red list: Least concern)HybridizationVolta and Jepsen, 2008
Scardinius erythrophthalmus (rudd)No DetailsIrelandHybridizationGriffiths, 1997

Social Impact

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Fishing as tourism is a particularly important component of the recreational fisheries economy in some countries. It can be a specific species, rather than fishing in a particular region or country, that provides anglers with the motivation for fishing away from home. Freshwater angling tourists visit Ireland seeking high quality roach (Hickley and Tompkins, 1998).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Altered trophic level
  • Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
  • Modification of natural benthic communities
Impact mechanisms
  • Hybridization
  • Rapid growth
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Bait/attractant


  • Sport fish


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The combination of morphological and genetic traits may be necessary to ensure proper identification (particularly in juvenile specimens) and this procedure may also enable detection of hybridization.

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 in current waters. Nets are a complementary sampling tool for surveys performed in lakes or reservoirs.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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R. rutilus is the only species of its genus in the Atlantic basin north of the Pyrenees. It can be distinguished from its congeners in Black and Caspian Sea basins and Apennine Peninsula by the combination of the following characters: 39-48 scales along lateral line; dorsal and anal fins with 10½ branched rays; body laterally compressed, depth 25-35% SL; mouth terminal; snout pointed; iris from yellow in juveniles to deep red in adults; pectoral, pelvic and anal fins orange to red; and no midlateral stripe. It differs from its congeners in the Balkan Peninsula by uniquely possessing 10½ branched anal rays (Kottelat and Freyhof, 2007). Caudal fin with 18-19 rays (Spillman, 1961).

Prevention and Control

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Complete eradication is almost impossible when an exotic species is introduced and established. Therefore, prevention is the best management option to avoid future invasions. The careful examination of live fish stocks may avoid the introduction of this and other undesirable species. These inspections are not performed nowadays by properly trained people.

Biological invasions are also a social problem, and it is therefore necessary to carry out educational programmes to inform people about the threats of the introduced species to ecosystems. In addition, the exploitation of exotic resources may be forbidden because it enhances the introduction of further exotic species and the maintenance of existing populations of introduced species. Local extirpation of introduced fish species may be performed in areas of high conservation value areas and, in particular, in small streams where the probability of success increases.  


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


Complete eradication is almost impossible, particularly in large areas. Nevertheless, regular removal of specimens in small streams may mitigate the effect of exotic species, and it may sometimes also be possible to eradicate introduced species in these areas.


Physical barriers and rotenone are commonly used to control small fish.

Monitoring and Surveillance

Regular electrofishing surveys.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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Further studies on the ecological processes derived from the introduction of R. rutilus in the aquatic ecosystem are required.


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25/01/12 Original text by: 

Oriol Cano Rocabayera, 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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