Grass Carp Fish Characteristics, Feeding, Breeding

The Grass carp fish is a popular carp fish species which is cultivated throughout the world. It’s largest reported production is over five million tones per year globally.

It is native to eastern Asia, and is a large herbvorous freshwater fish species of the Cyprinidae family. And it is the only species of the genus Ctenopharyngodon. It’s native range is from northern Vietnam to the Amur River on the Siberia-China border.

Grass carp fish is cultivated in China for long time for food. But it was also introduced in the United States and Europe for aquatic weed control.

This fish species is mainly found on turbid rivers and associated floodplain lakes. It is also called White Amur in the United States (which is derived from the Amur River, where this fish is probably native but has never been abundant).

But it is not to be confused with the white Amur bream, which is not a particularly close relative.

The Grass carp fish species has been introduced to many countries and available throughout the world.

Countries and territories in the Northern Hemisphere where this fish is available include India, Bangladesh, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States, the Netherlands, Denmark, Romania, Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Yugoslavia, Italy, West Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland and France.

And in the Southern Hemisphere, they have been introduced to South Africa, Argentina, Fiji, New Zealand, Venezuela and Australia.

Grass carp fish species was first imported in the United States in the year of 1963 from Taiwan and Malaysia to aquaculture facilities in Alabama and Arkansas.

The first release is believed to have been an accidental escape in 1966 from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Farming Experimental Station in Stuttgart, Arkansas, followed by planned introductions beginning in 1969.

The species had been introduced to 40 states by the 1970s, and it is still stocked in many states as an effective biocontrol for undesirable aquatic vegetation. Read some more information about the Grass carp fish below.

Table of Contents

Physical Characteristics of Grass Carp Fish

Body of the Grass carp fish is elongated, chubby and torpedo-shaped. Color of the body is dark olive, shading to brownish-yellow on the sides, with a white belly and large, slightly outlined scales.

The terminal mouth is slightly oblique with non-fleshy, firm lips and no barbels. The complete lateral line of these fishes contains 40 to 42 scales.

They have broad, ridged, pharyngeal teeth which are arranged in a 2, 4-4, 2 formula. Their anal fin is set closer to the tail than most cyprinids, and the dorsal fin has eight to 10 soft rays.

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The Grass carp fish can grow very large in size. Their average body length is between 60 and 100 cm, with a maximum length of around 1.4 meters. And they can grow as much as 40 kg.


The adult Grass carp fish are fed mainly on aquatic plants. They are fed on higher aquatic plants and submerged terrestrial vegetation.

But they may also take detritus, insects and other invertebrates. They eat up to three times their own body weight daily.

And they can thrive in small lakes and backwaters that provide and abundant supply of freshwater vegetation.


Grass carp fish generally enter reproductive condition and spawn at temperatures of 20° to 30° C.

In the wild, they spawn in fast-moving rivers, and their eggs, which are slightly heavier than water, develop while drifting downstream, kept in suspension by turbulence. The eggs are thought to die if they sink to the bottom.


The Grass carp fish is cultivated mainly for food in many countries. And it is used for aquatic weed control in some countries.

Special Notes

The Grass carps grow very fast. Fingerlings stocked in the spring at 20 cm, will generally reach over 45 cm by fall.

According to one study, average lifespan of these fish is between 5 and 9 years (with the oldest recorded surviving for 11 years).

There is a thriving population of Grass carp fish passing the 15 year mark in Silver Lake Washington. In natural condition, these fish require long rivers for the survival of the eggs and very young fish.

This fish may be baked, steamed, broiled and pan-fried for eating. However, review full breed profile of the Grass carp fish in the following chart.

NameGrass Carp
SpeciesC. idella
Binomial NameCtenopharyngodon idella
Other NamesKnown as White Amur in the United States
Breed PurposeFood, aquatic weed control
Special NotesGrow very fast, 5-9 years average lifespan, require long rivers for the survival of the eggs and very young fish in natural conditions, very common throughout the world
Breeding MethodNatural and artificial
WeightCan grow around 40 kg
Water TypeFreshwater
Climate ToleranceAlmost all climates
Body ColorDark olive, shading to brownish-yellow on the sides with a white belly

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