Taxonomic name: Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (Richardson, 1845)
Synonyms: Aristichthys nobilis (Richardson, 1845) , Hypophthalmichthys mantschuricus Kner, 1867 , Leuciscus nobilis Richardson, 1845
Common names: amour à grosse tête (France), amour marbré (France), ballgjeri laraman (Albania), belli-gende (India), big head (English), bighead (Russian Fed), bighead carp (English), boon tau ue (Hong Kong), cá mè hoa (Viet Nam), carpa cabeza grande (Ecuador), carpa cabezona (Mexico), carpa dalla testa grande (Italy), carpe à grosse tête (France), carpe chinoise (France), carpe marbrée (France), crap argintiu nobil (Romania), dai tau (Hong Kong), fa lin (Hong Kong), gefleckter silberkarpfen (Germany), grootkopkarper (Netherlands), Hak lin (Hong Kong), kap kepala besar (Malaysia), kapoor-e-sargondeh (Iran), kokuren (Japan), marmarokyprinos (Greece), marmoripaksuotsa (Finland), marmorkarp (Sweden), marmorkarpe (Denmark), marmorkarpfen (Germany), novac (Romania), pastar tolstolob (Bulgaria), pestryi tolstolob (Russian Fed), piestryi tolstolobik (Ukraine), pla song hea (Thailand), pla song heu (Thailand), pla tao teo (Thailand), sung ue (Hong Kong), tolpyga pstra (Poland), tolstolebec pestrý (Czech Rep), tolstolob pestrý (Slovakia), tolstolobec pestrý (Czech Rep), tolstolobik pestrý (Czech Rep), tongsan (Malaysia), tovstolob strokatyi (Ukraine)
Organism type: fish
Hypophthalmichthys nobilis commonly known as bighead carp are native to Asia. They have been introduced around the world for aquaculture purposes. They are also used to control excessive growths of phytoplankton in natural waters. These species have the potential to reduce native diversity by competing for and depleting zooplankton populations thus altering the food web. H. nobilis have also been found to carry and transmit various diseases. H. nobilis is also known by its synonym Aristichthys nobilis.
Hypophthalmichthys nobilis are deep-bodied, laterally compressed fish with big heads, hence the name bighead carp. FIGIS (2005) states that the length of the head is larger than body height and the mouth slants upwards and the lower jaw extends slightly over upper jaw. Their scales are very small. There are approximately 85-100 scales in the lateral line, and 26-28 scale rows above the lateral line. The fins of small specimens lack spines. Large specimens have a heavy, stiff, non-serrate spine at the origin of the dorsal fin and a slightly stiffened spine at the anal fin origin. The dorsal fin has eight (rarely nine) soft rays, the anal fin has thirteen (rarely fourteen) soft rays. The gill rakers are long, comb like and close-set, not fused into a porous plate. The pharyngeal teeth count is 4-4 (The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, 2003).
lakes, water courses
FIGIS (2005) states that, "Aristichthys nobilis is a eurythermic fish (an animal that can tolerate a wide range of temperatures), being able to tolerate water temperatures of 0.5-38°C. It inhabits lakes, rivers and reservoirs. This species normally dwell in the upper layer of the water column and prefers high fertility water with abundant natural food. "Stone et al. (2000) report that, "A. nobilis are native to large rivers and will not spawn in still waters or small streams. Although fish do mature in ponds and can be induced to spawn with hormone injections, they do not spawn naturally in still water."
Burr et al. (1996) state that, "The potential impact of Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and H. nobilis is not adequately known. Markets for these carp apparently have not become well established. Confusion over the correct identity of these species and the legality of taking this fish in commercial harvests has resulted in its consideration as a nuisance by some fishermen we have interviewed. It is believed these species negatively interact with certain natives but further research before conclusions are drawn."
USGS-NAS (2005) reports that, "Because bighead carp are planktivorous and attain a large size, Laird and Page (1996) suggested these carp have the potential to deplete zooplankton populations. A decline in the availability of plankton can lead to reductions in populations of native species that rely on plankton for food, including all larval fishes, some adult fishes, and native mussels." H. nobilis is also a carrier of several different fish diseases that can be spread through its escape and introduction (FIGIS, 2005).
Stone et al. (2000) state that, "In worldwide aquaculture, Aristichthys nobilis ranks fourth in production (2.8 billion pounds in 1995)". Elvira (2001) reports that, "A. nobilis have been widely introduced specifically to control excessive growths of phytoplankton in natural waters."
When directly quoting, the species name/synonym used in literature has been maintained.
Recent research has shown that certain cultural practices are also confounding carp management. Higbee et al. (2004) state that, "It has been discovered that an increasing population within the Great Lakes region uses live invasive fish for religious and cultural purposes. Asian carp, such as H. nobilis , have been discovered in public ponds and lagoons in the Great Lakes region, and media stories indicate that these fish are being intentionally released as part of a religious ceremony. The hojo-e ceremony of releasing living beings into the wild is a ritual performed in a number of Buddhist countries, particularly in Eastern Asia. The ritual, developed in Japan, is based on the principle of compassionate action toward animals to accrue merit for the afterlife. Followers of this tradition believe that performing good deeds such as releasing captive animals will lengthen their own life span. Although this practice occurs in the United States (where it is common to release goldfish, turtles, and birds), this ritual is usually performed in a pond at a Buddhist temple under the guidance of a monk. In the Czech Republic, it is tradition to keep a live carp in the bathtub for a few days before a Christmas feast. It has been found that some people buy two; one to eat, and one to release into a river".
Native range: China and Russia (Nguyen and Nakorn, 2004; and Elvira, 2001).
Known introduced range: Africa, Asia, Australasia-Pacific, North America, and South America (FishBase, 2005; Elvira, 2001; USGS-NAS, 2005; and Stone et al. 2000).
Introduction pathways to new locations
Live food trade: It is suspected that the live food fish industry could be a potential pathway for introducing Hypophthalmichthys nobilis into Great Lakes waters (Higbee et al. 2004).
Local dispersal methods
Intentional release: Higbee et al. (2004) state that, "It has been discovered that an increasing population within the Great Lakes region uses live invasive fish for religious and cultural purposes. Asian carp have been discovered in public ponds and lagoons in the Great Lakes region, and media stories indicate that these fish are being intentionally released as part of a religious ceremony."
Stone et al. (2000) state that, "The natural food of the bighead carp is zooplankton, along with larger phytoplankton. H. nobilis are filter feeders and use their fine, comb-like gill rakers to strain tiny animals and large algae from the water. If zooplankton are scarce, H. nobilis may feed on detritus (organic matter and associated bacteria that accumulate on the pond bottom). Pond bottom organisms are not a normal food item; in one study, H. nobilis were not found to have a significant impact on the benthic (pond bottom) community."
FIGIS (2005) states that, "Aristichthys nobilis is a synchronous and gonochoristic species that spawns annually for dozens of years during its life span. There is just one spawning season in a year, which takes place in early summer. A. nobilis is a semi-migratory fish. Broodstock migrate from lakes and the lower reaches of rivers to the spawning ground in the upper reaches of the major rivers in its native range. Flowing water and changes in water level are essential environmental stimuli for natural spawning. Semi-buoyant eggs are laid that suspend in the water column when there is a current. Individuals can reach sexual maturation in captivity but cannot spawn naturally under these conditions. Hormone injection and environmental stimuli such as flowing water are essential for induced spawning."
Reviewed by: Dr. Robert J. Radke Fish Ecologist Germany
Principal sources: Higbee et al. 2004. The Live Food Fish Industry: New Challenges in Preventing the Introduction and Spread of Aquatic Invasive Species.
Compiled by: National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Friday, 8 July 2005