The black carp is a large invasive fish with large body scales. It looks similar to the common grass carp, but the black carp is darker (though not truly black), and some report that adult black carp have a relatively narrower snout. It also has large pharyngeal teeth (throat teeth) that resemble human molars; these are used to crush the shells of its mollusk prey.
Cyprinidae (minnows) in the order Cypriniformes (carps, minnows, and loaches)
Total length: to 5 feet; weight: to 160 pounds.
Where To Find
This fish has been found in the Mississippi River system, including our own Osage River, where in 1994 about 30 reportedly escaped from a fish farm during a high water event and entered that river.
The black carp is an invasive fish from Asia eats mussels and snails, and it can damage populations of native mollusks, many of which are critically endangered. There is a strong possibility that this fish is becoming established, with breeding populations, on our continent.
Black carp feed on aquatic snails and mussels; unfortunately, many mussels in our state and nationwide are declining (many to the point of being endangered) even without the presence of this predator. Also, as black carp feed on algae-grazing snails, their presence may radically alter the composition of aquatic communities by removing those removers of algae.
Invasive. Because of its detrimental effect on native species, it is illegal to transport live black carp across state lines or to introduce it to any waters in the United States. Unfortunately, young black carp and young grass carp are difficult to distinguish, and introductions of grass carp may inadvertently also include black carp.
Most of the black carp used in aquaculture in our country were introduced to control problematic snail populations in ponds of commercial fisheries, and these individuals are presumably mostly sterile (genetically triploid). Yet fertile (diploid) individuals can be present, too. Given that black carp can live for 15 years, even the sterile individuals can present a serious long-term problem for native mollusk populations.
The black carp is a valued food fish in its native China. In our country, presumably sterile individuals of this species have been used in aquaculture, but fertile specimens have appeared in our native waters, where they can reproduce and jeopardize many critically endangered mollusk species.
There is little to recommend this species on our continent, as it further unbalances aquatic ecosystems and species that are already troubled with pollution, siltation, and habitat loss or alteration (such as damming and channelization).
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About Fishes in Missouri
Missouri has more than 200 kinds of fish, more than are found in most neighboring states. Fishes live in water, breathe with gills, and have fins instead of legs. Most are covered with scales. Most fish in Missouri “look” like fish and could never be confused with anything else. True, lampreys and eels have snakelike bodies — but they also have fins and smooth, slimy skin, which snakes do not.