Learn More: Grass Carp

What does this mean?

grass carp

Photo source: Charlotte County

Grass carp are freshwater fish that feed primarily on aquatic plants. In the 1970s, they were introduced to a number of lakes and ponds in Florida as part of an experimental effort to control aquatic weeds, particularly the exotic plant Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). The goal was to use these herbivorous fish to "graze down" nuisance plants.

Fortunately, the fish had a healthy appetite for Hydrilla and other types of nuisance aquatic plants. There was one drawback however; when over-stocked, grass carp consumed virtually every plant in a lake or water resource. Now, after several years of trial and error, it has been shown that, when stocked in appropriate numbers, grass carp can provide a low-cost, long-term, herbicide-free way of controlling nuisance plants.

IMPORTANT: There are potential problems associated with using grass carp as a form of aquatic plant control in a lake. Be sure to read the "Caveats and Limitations" section below for more information. Also, only triploid grass carp may be released into Florida waters and a permit must ALWAYS be obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) before doing so, even in private waters: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/habitat/invasive-plants/grass-carp/

How are the data collected? (Methods)

For every stocking request received by the FWC and/or FDEP, a permit application must be filled out and a review process must be completed by fisheries and/or aquatic plant biologists from the area. Information recorded on the application (e.g., lake surface area, volume, possible escape routes and aquatic plant abundance, fish stocking rate, etc.) is then saved and compiled into the Triploid Grass Carp Database. The database is maintained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Grass carp permitting applications provide the FWC with a constant source of information regarding the effectiveness of stocking triploid grass carp, and associated problems. For example, they now have a much better idea of how many grass carp should be used, based on the size and volume of the lake and the abundance of aquatic plants.


As a general rule, FWC recommends a stocking rate of two to ten carp per acre. However, a complete assessment of the lake must be done before grass carp stocking will be considered (see "Caveats and Limitations").

Caveats and Limitations

  • Be aware that if too many grass carp are stocked, it can result in the loss of nearly all aquatic plants in a lake or water resorce, which will adversely affect the entire system.
  • It is difficult to accurately estimate the number of grass carp needed to control plants in a lake.
  • Removing large amounts of aquatic plants—whether it be from grass carp, manual removal, or herbicides—can result in decreased water clarity. (After plants are removed, sediments are often re-suspended and cause decreased water clarity.)
  • Once grass carp are stocked in a lake, they are nearly impossible to remove.
  • The effectiveness of grass carp can vary depending on natural changes or fish grazing. For example, Southern naiad, which grass carp readily consume, may be a problem one year, but once consumed, another plant may take its place; in some instances, it may be a plant that grass carp don't eat, such as water hyacinth.
  • Florida's statewide grass carp database is designed so that only four stocking events can be recorded per waterbody. As a result, some information may be grouped together and provide less accurate assessments.
  • All private waterfront property owners must consent to stocking grass carp prior to permitting. This can result in contentious situations among neighbors who disagree about plant control.
  • A waterbody must be thoroughly researched so that any possible escape routes are found before stocking. If escape routes do exist, barriers will have to be installed.

Triploid grass carp are hatchery-raised fish that have been sterilized to eliminate any possibility of them reproducing in Florida waters. Sterilization is an essential measure considering their long life span (more than 10 years) and their ability to out-smart virtually any type of harvest technique (e.g., nets, hook and line, even poison). Sterilization is required so that this exotic fish does not reproduce and become a problem species, as have so many other exotic plants and animals in Florida. To produce sterile individuals, fish breeders subject fertilized roe to high pressure and/or temperature for several minutes.

Information is also now available concerning the effectiveness of grass carp versus the use of herbicides. In some instances, a combination of methods has been found to be most effective.

FWC Grass Carp Species Profile: https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/freshwater/grass-carp/