The black carp is a very large fish in the minnow family (Cyprinidae) that can weigh 150 pounds and grow to five feet. They are brown to black in color with blue-grey to white bellies.
Body shape and fins
Their body is torpedo shaped, and they have a pointed head with a small toothless mouth. Their fins are darker brownish-black or black, with lighter hues at the base. Their scales have dark edges giving a cross-hatched appearance. They appear similar to common carp, but do not have barbels or fleshy projections near the mouth and have a shorter dorsal fin.
Young black carp feed primarily on zooplankton and insect larvae. Adults feed primarily on mollusks using their pharyngeal (throat) teeth to crush the shells. Black carp become sexually mature between four and seven years old. They spawn when water temperatures are between 62.5°F and 79°F, and require flowing water for reproduction.
Origin and spread
Black carp are native to eastern Asia. They were unintentionally introduced to the United States in a grass carp shipment from Asia in the 1970s. They are used to manage yellow grub and snails in aquaculture ponds. Large flood events allowed the species to escape into the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, where they reproduced and established wild populations. They continue to spread through flood events and through migration within connected river systems.
Wild populations exist in the Mississippi River in the southern United States. Recent sightings in the Illinois and Ohio rivers suggests the population is expanding. No black carp have been caught in Minnesota. Refer to EDDMaps for current distribution.
Don't be fooled by these look-alikes
- Grass carp (invasive)
- Bigmouth buffalo (native)
- Smallmouth buffalo (native)
- Emerald shiner (native)
- Common carp (naturalized)
The black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) is a prohibited invasive species in Minnesota, which means it is unlawful (a misdemeanor) to possess, import, purchase, transport, or introduce this species except under a permit for disposal, control, research, or education.
Threat to Minnesota Waters
Black carp cause recreational, economic and ecological damage—changing how residents and visitors use and enjoy Minnesota waters.
- Compete with native fishes for similar food sources.
- The feeding pressure on mollusks could be detrimental to Minnesota’s mussel population. Twenty-five of the 48 mussel species in Minnesota are already listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern.
What you should do
People spread black carp primarily through the improper use and disposal of live bait. If introduced, they can spread on their own through connected waterways.
Whether or not a lake is listed as infested, Minnesota law requires water recreationists to:
- Clean watercraft of all aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species.
- Drain all water by removing drain plugs and keeping them out during transport.
- Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.
- Dry docks, lifts, swim rafts and other equipment for at least 21 days before placing equipment into another water body.
Report any occurrences of black carp to the DNR immediately by taking a photo and making arrangements with the DNR to transport the carp to the nearest fisheries office. Keep the carcass cool but do not freeze if possible.
- Call 651-587-2781
- Email: [email protected]
To keep invasive carp for personal use, download the Special Permit to Possess Prohibited Invasive Species of Carp.
The DNR has a monitoring and removal crew that conducts standardized and random sampling to detect, monitor, and remove invasive carp from Minnesota waters, including larval stages to adults. Survey efforts and capture events can be found in the MN DNR annual invasive carp report.
The invasive carp action plan guides the DNR’s efforts in controlling invasive carp. The plan lays out actions to assess population expansion of invasive carp and describes efforts to prevent and/or minimize their impact in Minnesota.
To learn more about our recent efforts and about other invasive carp visit the Invasive Carp homepage.
- U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database
- Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center AIS Identification Guide
- Identifying Juvenile Invasive Carp
- Minnesota Infested Waters List
- Black carp sightings map
- Aid to identifying black carp vs. grass carp
- What to do if you catch a black carp.