The Black Carp: A Misguided Missile


The “good news” and the “bad news” regarding the Black Carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) is that it eats snails, lots of snails. At 4-years of age, this large, Chinese fish, also called the Snail Carp, eats 3 to 4 lbs. of the mollusks per day. For 15-20 years, fish farmers in the southeastern U.S. have depended on this large Cyprinid to control the intermediate, snail hosts of trematode parasites in commercial fish ponds. For instance, only five to ten Black Carp per acre will eliminate the snails that cause the “yellow grub” fish disease produced by the common, digenetic trematode, Clinostomum marginatum. To the delight of fish farmers, there are even reports of complete eradication of snails from ponds using Black Carp.

Introducing a fish species with a high efficiency in snail predation might sound good to a commercial fish farmer, but that same eating efficiency raises alarms for those charged with protecting the often imperiled, native snails and mussels of the South. In 2007, USFWS added this 70 lb, snail-eating machine to its list of “injurious fish” and prohibits its further importation into the U.S. and interstate transport under the Lacey Act. To find out whether the Black Carp holds promise for invasive apple snail control in natural systems or is itself an exotic menace to the environment, I contacted the man who literally wrote the book on the subject (see below), Dr. Leo Nico, Research Fisheries Biologist at the Florida Integrated Science Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Dr. Nico did not mince words, stating, “I consider use of Black Carp in the wild for snail control to be very misguided.  There is much potential for harm to non-targeted native mussels and snails.  Although triploid Black Carp are considered non-viable, these fish have a life span of 12 to 18 years, maybe more. So, even the sterile fish have the potential to cause harm over a relatively long period of time. Black carp also grow to a large size — commonly over 1 meter. Individuals over 2 meters long have been taken in rivers in China and Japan.”  Now, that is a large fish!

Dr. Nico had other concerns, “Will there be problems with the certification of triplody? Will ponds containing the reproductive, diploid Black Carp be flooded allowing escape, as has occurred in the past? The food selectivity of the Black carp is largely unknown. Will they prefer native snails over the exotic apple snails? Will they consume other invertebrates, such as crawfish? They are very similar in appearance to the herbivorous Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). Will Black Carp be misidentified as Grass Carp and unintentionally introduced into the wild?” Until those and other questions are answered, it is clear that the use of the Black Carp to control exotic apple snails in the wild is a bad idea – – a misguided missile. Posted by Jess Van Dyke    

For more information, contact:

Leo G. Nico, Ph.D.
Research Fishery Biologist/Ichthyologist ,
U.S. Geological Survey

Black Carp (USFWS):



















This book is available at:


3 Responses to “The Black Carp: A Misguided Missile”

  1. 1 eric July 8, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    not that it matters much, but the picture is of a common carp.

  2. 2 snailbusters1 July 8, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    You are probably right, Eric. It was such a great shot that I chose to believe the barbel was merely a ripple on the water surface. In fact, the common carp have barbels and black carp do not. Jess

  3. 3 Coined November 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Well I have some Black carp or Koi (still can’t figure it out yet)in my pond.
    I have about 8 or them and they do have the whiskers like the Koi.
    They are all pretty much jet black a few have a little yellow.
    Growing fast

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About Snail Busters

The Snail Busters Blog was created to facilitate communication between aquatic resource managers who are fighting the spread of invasive, South American apple snails, specifically Pomacea maculata (formerly P. insularum) and P. canaliculata, in the U.S.

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