Giant barb

Giant barb
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae
Genus: Catlocarpio
Boulenger, 1898
Species: C. siamensis
Binomial name
Catlocarpio siamensis
Boulenger, 1898

The giant barb or Siamese giant carp, Catlocarpio siamensis (Thai: กระโห้, rtgs: kraho, pronounced [krā.hôː], or กะมัน, rtgs: kaman, pronounced [kā.mān]; Khmer: ត្រីគល់រាំង, trei kól reăng; Vietnamese: cá Hô), is the largest species of cyprinid in the world. These migratory fish are found only in the Mae Klong, Mekong and Chao Phraya river basins in Indochina. It has declined drastically due to habitat loss and overfishing, and it is now considered Critically Endangered.[1]

Distribution and habitat

They are usually seen in the big pools along the edges of large rivers, but will seasonally enter smaller canals, floodplains and flooded forests. Young barbs are usually found in smaller tributaries and swamps, but can acclimatize to living in ponds, canals and swamps.[2] The fish generally live in pairs.[3]

These are migratory fish, swimming to favorable areas for feeding and breeding in different parts of the year.[2] These slow-moving fish subsist on algae, phytoplankton and fruits of inundated terrestrial plants, rarely (if ever) feeding on active animals. In the lower Mekong basin, young giant barbs have been reported as occurring primarily in October.[2]

Physical characteristics

Barb captured in a fishing boat

The head is rather large for the body. There are no barbels.[2]

The giant barb ranks among the largest freshwater fish in the world, and is probably the largest fish in the family Cyprinidae.[4] It may reach 3 m (9.8 ft) (although this claimed maximum length needs confirmation) and weigh up to 300 kg (660 lb).[2] Among the cyprinids, only the golden mahseer can reach a comparable length, but it is a relatively slender fish that weighs far less.[5] Few large giant barbs are caught today. For example, no individual weighing more than 150 kg (330 lb) has been caught in Cambodia since 1994.[1] Today the maximum length is about 1.8 m (6 ft).

This fish is actually tetraploid, meaning it has four of each chromosome (as opposed to diploid, the normal number in animals).[4]

Conservation status

Today, few barbs live to maturity. The main threats are from habitat loss (e.g., pollution and dams) and overfishing.[1] The sharp population decline is well illustrated by catch data from Cambodia, where 200 tonnes of giant barbs were caught in 1964. By 1980, only about 50 fish were caught and by 2000, only 10.[1] It was formerly an important fish in local catches below the Khone Phapheng Falls, but surveys between 1993 and 1999 only located a single small individual.[1] Consequently, the giant barb is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.[1] It has been entirely extirpated from the Chao Phraya River.[1]

In a 2005 royal decree, the Kingdom of Cambodia designated this fauna as the national fish to bring conservation awareness to this species.[6]

In 2005, the giant barb was successfully domesticated and reproduced for the first time at the Vietnam National Breeding Center for Southern Freshwater Aquaculture.[7]

In 2012, it was successfully reproduced in the Breeding Center of An Giang Province of Vietnam.

In 2010, the Vietnam National Breeding Center released 50,000 young giant barbs into the Tien River in Dong Thap province Vietnam but a survey showed that only few of them survived long enough to reach the weight of over one kilogram.


In recent years, raising giant barb has become common in Vietnam thanks to its high economic value. Two breeding centers in southern Vietnam offer about 1 million breeder giant barbs to farmers per year. When kept in floating cage in rivers, the fish grows fast and gains 7 kg to 9 kg per year. In ponds where the main diet is natural algae, the fish gains 2 kg to 5 kg per year. Usually, giant barbs are harvested after 3 years of cultivation when they weigh 6 kg to 10 kg. But some farmers keep raising their fishes in ponds for more than 7 years to wait for them to reach 50 kg before harvesting.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Hogan, Z. (2011). "Catlocarpio siamensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Catlocarpio siamensis" in FishBase. August 2011 version.
  3. Southeast Asia Rivers Network. "The Return of Fish, River Ecology and Local Livelihoods of the Mun River : A Thai Baan (Villagers') Research" n.p. November 2004. p. 59
  4. 1 2 Nelson, Joseph S. (2006). Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-25031-7
  5. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Tor putitora" in FishBase. January 2012 version.
  6. ROYAL DECREE on Designation of Animals and Plants as National Symbols of the Kingdom of Cambodia
  7. tuoitrenews (2014-11-29). "Cultivating giant carps creates giant profits in Vietnam". Vietnam Breaking News. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
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