The bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) is a species of freshwater fish, one of several Asian carps. It is one of the most intensively exploited fishes in aquaculture, with an annual worldwide production of over three million tonnes in 2013, principally from China.
The bighead carp has a large, scaleless head, a large mouth, and eyes located very low on the head. Adults usually have a mottled silver-gray coloration. It is a large fish; a typical length is 60 cm (2 ft), and maximum observed size of 146 cm (4 ft 9 in) and 40 kg (88 lb).
Bighead carp are native to the large rivers and associated floodplain lakes of eastern Asia. Their range extends from southern China north to the Amur River system, which forms the border between China and Russia. They have been introduced widely outside their native range, including the United States, and they are considered invasive, as they out-compete native species (e.g. Bigmouth Buffalo).
The bighead carp has a very fast growth rate, which makes it a lucrative aquaculture fish. Unlike the common carp, bighead carp are primarily filter feeders. They preferentially consume zooplankton, but also phytoplankton and detritus.
The bighead carp are also found in Nile .
The bighead carp is an important species in aquaculture, having the fifth-highest production (7.5%) of all cultured freshwater fish worldwide. Its production grew from just 15,306 tonnes in 1950 to 3,059,555 tonnes in 2013, most of the growth being in China.
Although the bighead carp is enjoyed in many parts of the world, it has not become a popular food fish in North America. Acceptance there has been hindered in part by the name “carp”, thus popular association with the common carp, which is not a generally favored foodfish in North America. The flesh of the bighead carp is white and firm, and not similar to that of the common carp, which is darker and richer. Bighead carp flesh does share one unfortunate similarity with common carp flesh – both have intramuscular bones within the filet. However, bighead carp captured from the wild in the United States tend to be much larger than common carp, so the intramuscular bones are also larger and less problematic. The Louisiana State University Agricultural Research and Extension Center has a series of videos showing how to prepare the fish and deal with these bones.
In Singapore, it is known by the Chinese name 松鱼 (sōng yú). The head of the bighead carp is particularly prized in Singapore, and is usually steamed whole.