Goldfish, Grass Carp and Green Sunfish
Aquatic Invasive Species: Identification Booklet of Freshwater Invasive Species in Quebec (PDF 4.6 MB)
Table of contents:
- Aquatic invaders
- Pathways of invasion
- Threats to the environment, the economy and society
- Focus on an invader
- What you can do
Aquatic invasive species in Quebec
- between 13 cm and 25 cm, up to 50 cm
- small mouth, no barbels
- caudal fin (tail) forked
- long dorsal fin (2/3 of the body)
- colour may vary from gold to olive green in wild populations
The Goldfish is native to central and eastern Asia. This fish arrived in Quebec at the end of the 19th century for the aquarium trade and the ornamentation of water gardens. It ended up in the waterways following the accidental or intentional release of aquarium fish.
In the wild, the Goldfish is found in ponds, rivers, and lakes where the current is weak, and there is plenty of aquatic vegetation. It tolerates turbid waters (containing suspended matter), with low oxygen concentrations. It has adapted to harsh climates and cold waters by hiding in the mud and reducing its energy consumption to survive Canadian winters.
The Goldfish resembles more particularly the Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio). However, Common Carp have a pair of barbels on each side of their mouth and can be from 45 cm to 100 cm. Goldfish can also look like Koi Fish, an ornamental variety of carp with different colours and patterns (gold, orange, silver, white and black). However, Koi Fish have a pair of barbels at the corner of their mouth, their body is more elongated than the Goldfish or the Common Carp and they range in size from 30 cm to 120 cm.
- between 50 cm and 90 cm, can be up to 130 cm
- short head, no barbels
- dorsal fin short and rounded
- long and slender body, covered with large scales with dark edges, making a crosshatched appearance
- dark grey back, white to yellow sides with a slightly golden shine, blending to white towards the belly
The Grass Carp is native to rivers stretching from southern Russia to northern Vietnam. It is 1 of 4 invasive carp species introduced to North America in the 1960s and 1970s. Their escape from aquaculture centres, intentional releases, as well as live fish markets have resulted in them being found in the rivers of Northeastern United States. In Canada, the Grass Carp was first captured in Lake Erie in 1985. In Quebec, it was first found in the St. Lawrence River in 2017.
The Grass Carp prefers large bodies of water where currents are weak and where the bottom is covered with grass beds, which are food for adults. It can typically be found near shorelines in depths of 3 m or less. It tolerates a wide range of water temperatures (0°C to 38°C) as well as low oxygen concentrations.
The Grass Carp resembles several species found in Canadian waters, including the Fallfish (Semotilus corpolaris), the Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) and a species at risk, the Copper Redhorse (Moxostoma hubbsi). Fallfish differ in size with Grass Carp, ranging from 15 cm to 30 cm. Common Carp have a pair of barbels near the mouth and a long dorsal fin. Copper Redhorse have a sucker-shaped mouth with fleshy lips, a trait unique to redhorses and suckers, a group of fish often misidentified as carp.
Photo credit: Marc Bourret
Photo credit: N. Vachon Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec
- between 12 cm and 20 cm
- large mouth that extends to the middle of the eye
- iridescent blue lines on cheeks and blue speckles arranged in rows on the body
- black operculum (covering the gills), sometimes surrounded by a white or orange border
- dorsal and anal fins often marked with black spots at their junction with the body
The Green Sunfish is a freshwater fish native to the central and northeastern United States. It has been introduced into many countries (Asia, Africa, Europe) through various means such as aquaculture, aquarium trade, and live bait. In Canada, the Green Sunfish is native to Ontario (Great Lakes-Hudson Bay basins) and is considered non-indigenous everywhere else in the country. It was found for the first time in Quebec in 2007 in the Yamaska River.
The Green Sunfish lives in calm or still waters, such as ponds and shallow lakes. It can be found in clear waters as well as in murky waters, often being the only species of sunfish caught in muddy waters.
The Green Sunfish can be confused with other species of sunfish, including the Pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), which is very widespread in Quebec. It is also similar to the Bluegill (L. macrochirus) and the Northern Sunfish (L. peltastes), which are both less common in Quebec but present in southern Ontario. The Northern Sunfish is also a species at risk in the Great Lakes and Upper St. Lawrence. All these sunfish species are similar in appearance, but their opercula differ in colour.
Northern Sunfish, a species at risk
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