Photo courtesy of Kate GardinePhoto courtesy of Kate GardineClose up of a Bighead:  Photo courtesy of Kate Gardiner



Photo courtesy of Kate GardinerBighead carp can be found in many locations all across the globe.  They are commonly found in fresh water areas, especially lakes and rivers.  This species is known to be very hardy and can survive in numerous different freshwater environments, promoting the ability to live in many parts of the globe.  Preferred environmental conditions for Bighead carp are waters with temperatures ranging from 4 to 26 degrees Celsius.  Many Bighead carp are found around rivers and tributaries with low to medium water velocities, but constantly running water is the key.  The velocity of the water becomes extremely important when involving reproduction, but we will discuss that a bit later.  The preferred depths of water can fluctuate depending on the location, but when foraging in shallow water depths will be about .5 to 1.5 meters deep.  The Bighead carp are commonly found in range from surface to middle depths of the water.  To get a better idea of what their habitat looks like see the picture below.  

Photo courtesy of Chris Light at en.wikipedia

Now that you have a better idea of the environment Bighead carp live in we can discuss the geographical distribution of the species next.  The original area that Bighead carp called home is in Asia; particularly China.  The Bighead carp can be found in many countries in other parts of Asia, different countries across Europe, and even areas in the Middle East.   How did these fish wind up in so many locations around the globe though?  In most cases these fish were introduced by people to other parts of the world.  Thanks to means of transportation, the Bighead carp were able to spread to other tolerable habitats in these countries.  Many people introduced the species as a means for food production because carp are a fast growing and fairly large source for food.  In other areas of the world, carp were used to control algal populations in reservoirs and maintain levels of water quality in ponds and fish hatcheries.  Silver carp Jumping - Photo courtesy of USGSBighead carp are hardy fish, able to adapt to a variety of habitats and temperatures.  It is also very probable that as modern boats would travel from country to country, they would reach locks (locks raise levels of water for ships going between lakes, rivers, and channels) and release their ballasts (compartments of the boat that can take in water to control the buoyancy and stability) where potential invasive species such as the Bighead carp could be held.   This enables the species to start a new population in the habitat without predation or other stresses to limit reproduction and growth.  This kind of situation has been found to happen in many places, but one country in particular is the United States.  The Bighead carp, along with other carp species have been Lake Calumet Rapid Response - Photo courtesy of Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committeespreading throughout the country.  They have inhabited many of the rivers, in extreme cases taking over the entire habitat.  In less extreme cases they compete with native fish and other organisms living in the aquatic environments.  It is believed that Bighead were first introduced into the United States in fish ponds and reservoirs to be used as a cheap means to promote higher water quality.  In southern states like Arkansas, Alabama, and Missouri it was not uncommon for these fish to be found their whether for private business uses or research.  Unfortunately, when these areas experienced flooding many of the Bighead carp escaped into the rivers nearby.  Most of the lakes and rivers in the United States were comparable habitats to that of China so the Bighead carp could sustain themselves and thrive in the new location.  Now this fish can be found all across waterways in the United States from rivers like the Missouri River, Illinois River, and many parts of the Mississippi River, to different lakes in many states, including a new pressure of invasion of the Great Lakes and Wisconsin waterways.

Map courtesy of USGS

To see an updated point map click the following link:

Curious to see what makes them so successful in their habitats?  Click here to see the adaptations that help Bighead carp do so well.

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