Carpiodes carpioRiver carpsucker

Geographic Range

Carpiodes carpio was originally distributed in the Mississippi River basin from Pennsylvania to Montana. In addition, this species lives in Louisiana and the Gulf Slope Drainage from the Calcasieu River to the Rio Grande in Texas and New Mexico (Page and Burr, 1991).

The introduction of Carpiodes carpio into other areas was likely caused by shipments of buffalo fishes (Ictiobus spp.) in Lake Erie and the lower Maumee River, Ohio. These buffalo fishes were deliberately introduced and stocked for sport fishing and aquaculture in Ohio in western Lake Erie between 1920 and 1930. However, the effects of the introduction are not well known and studied (Lee et al. 1980; Trautman 1981; Page and Burr 1991). (Lee, et al., 1980; Page and Burr, 1991; Trautman, 1981)


Carpiodes carpio has a preference for large and deep rivers that have sand or silt bottoms with slower-moving current even though the river carpsucker has high adaptability to various kinds of habitats. In addition, this carpsucker lives in backwaters of smaller creeks. Another habitat recorded is comparatively shallow water having a large biomass of tubificids and little nutrients. (Bestgen and Platania, 1990; Sublette, et al., 1990)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • benthic
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Average elevation
    below about 2,135 m

Physical Description

Carpiodes carpio is somewhat stout and its back is a little bit arched and compressed. The dorsal area is brown-olive and fades to silver then white at its belly. The fins are usually opaque. The fins of older fish are dark yellow. The midpoint of the lower lip is projected like a nipple and has big scales. Small tubercules are observed on the body of males in breeding seasons.

Adult carpsuckers are usually 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) in length and 1 to 3 lbs (453.6 to 1361 g) in weight. Sometimes, fish weighing over 10 lbs (4546 g) are caught. (BISON, 2004; Page and Burr, 1991)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    4546 (high) g
    160.21 (high) oz
  • Average mass
    453.6-1361 g
  • Average length
    30-45 cm


Information about life history and developmental stages is not well known. However, the river carpsucker broadcasts its eggs on the silt or sand in spring (Sublette et al. 1990). The characteristics of the eggs are adhesive and demersal. Also, an egg diameter is about 1.7 to 2.1 mm. After 8 to 15 days, young fry hatch. (Sublette, et al., 1990)


Reproduction of the river carpsucker usually occurs in late spring. In a breeding season, this species gathers in large groups and spawns. Although the spawning peak is not well described, ripening time is quite different for individuals and does not occur synchronously. Some females spawn more than once per year. This carpsucker broadcasts eggs randomly and usually releases over 100,000 eggs. (BISON, 2004)

The river carpsucker can produce eggs at age 2 to 3 but sexual maturity depends on sex. Maturity is age 2 to 3 for males and age 3 to 4 in females (Becker 1983).

The water temperature where the river carpsucker can spawn ranges from 18.3 to 19.1°C. Spawning occurs from the late spring and lasts until the beginning of summer when the water temperature ranges from 24.0 to 27.5°C. (Becker, 1983)

  • Breeding interval
    Usually more than once per a year
  • Breeding season
    From late in the spring to June or July
  • Average number of offspring
    over 100,000 eggs
  • Average time to hatching
    8 to 15 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 4 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 3 years

There is no parental care. The river carpsucker broadcasts its eggs on the sand and leaves them.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning


The river carpsucker usually lives 2 to 4 years. Thus, fish over six years old is not observed easily in nature. However, this species can live for 10 years.

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 4 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 to 4 years


The river carpsucker forms large schools and moves together. Feeding behavior of this species is known as they forage near the bottom which consists of sand or silt. (Sublette, et al., 1990)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The river carpsucker is well known as a bottom feeder and detritivore. This species eats and filters nutrients from silt and detritus. It ingests all kinds of items on the river bottom like algae, protozoans, chironomids, microcrustaceans, various tiny planktonic plants and animals (Becker 1983; Sublette et al. 1990).

Juveniles eat similar items as adults. However, items eaten are smaller. (Becker, 1983; Sublette, et al., 1990)


Carnivorous fishes such as northern pike, muskellunge, walleye, largemouth bass are well known predators (Froese and Pauly, 2002; Baldry, 2004). However, these predators cannot eat adult river carpsuckers. Humans are the biggest fish predators and usually Asian people prefer to eat these kinds of fishes. In addition, some birds like great blue herons may feed on river carp suckers (Baldry, 2004). (Baldry, 2004; Froese and Pauly, 2004)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Commercial fisherman caught the river carpsuckers for food during the 1960s. This species was one of the most plentiful fishes in Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico (Jester 1972). Another place which has a relatively large abundance was in Caballo Reservoir in Texas. However, the river carpsuckers are reduced rapidly by the effect of toxics in the reservoir.

Even though most people in the United States think the river carpsucker is useless and not palatable, these fish are popular food in Asia. Capiodes carpio is also referred to as “cold water buffalo” in some areas of the southern United States (Sublette et al. 1990). (Jester, 1972; Sublette, et al., 1990)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This species has no known negative effects on humans.

Conservation Status

Some reports and proposals were suggested in order to protect native population and habitat in the river from the river carpsucker. Also, the removal of these species was related to management of water uses. (BISON, 2004)

Other Comments

The river carpsucker is not considered a game species. This species is also called carpsucker, white carp, quillback, silvery carp, northern carpsucker.


Renee Sherman Mulcrone (editor).

Kyung Seo Park (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, William Fink (editor, instructor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


an animal that mainly eats decomposed plants and/or animals


particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


photosynthetic or plant constituent of plankton; mainly unicellular algae. (Compare to zooplankton.)


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


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