Black Carp

Black carp illustration

Black Carp

(Mylopharyngodon piceus)

Physical Description

Black Carp are elongated, laterally compressed and have a pointed head with flattened anterior portion and small toothless mouth. Their body is brown to black in color, and bluish-grey to white on the belly, with a keel from the pelvic fins to the anal fin. The fins are darker brownish-black or black with lighter hues at the base, and large overlapping scales have dark edges giving a cross-hatched appearance.

Preferred Habitat

They prefer habitats in the lower reaches of rivers and lakes with spawning occurring in areas of high turbulence.


Young black carp feed primarily on zooplankton and later on insect larvae and detritus. Adult black carp feed primarily on mollusks, such as mussels and snails, using their pharyngeal (throat) teeth to crush the shells. They also eat freshwater shrimp, crawfish, and insects. At all life stages, black carp will compete for food with native species. In addition to decimating native mussel populations, this species can also negatively impact native fish, turtles, birds, raccoons, otters, and muskrats, through competition for food.


Black carp reach maturity in 4 to 6 years. They can typically grow to more than 3 feet in length and weigh, on average, 33 pounds. The fish can reach up to 6 feet in length and weigh up to 200 pounds.

Quick Facts:

Black Carp ID

Origin: Large rivers and lakes in eastern Asia from southern Russia to southern China and Vietnam.

Diet: Young feed primarily on zooplankton and later on insect larvae and detritus. Adults feed on mollusks.

Life span: 15 years

Size: Maximum of up to 200 pounds and 6 feet in length.

Height compared to 6' person

black carp question mark

Did you know?

The scales on the back and sides are highlighted by pigments, which gives a checkered appearance.


Additional Resources