Chinese Emperor

Name: Chinese Emperor. aka Chinese Sucker. aka Wimple Carp. aka Siamese Shark
Scientific name: Myxocyprinus asiaticus
Range: China. Middle/Upper Yangtze river
Habitat: Freshwater streams
Status: Endangered species
Diet in the wild: benthic invertebrates and algae from rocks and logs (omnivore).
Diet in the zoo: flake, vegetable matter supplemented with live/frozen foods such as bloodworm or brine shrimp.
Location in the Zoo:  James R. Record Aquarium
Physical description: 

  • Tip of dorsal fin can reach to over 2' in height
  • Body length up to 3' in nature and can weigh approx. 80 lbs!. 
  • Relatively slow grower - about 2 inches per year. (a 7'' fish is about 5 years old) life span can include 25 years
  • When fish become adults they loose the characteristic vertical stripes and dark colors. As adults, M. asiaticus, are a peachy flesh color with faint horizontal stripes.
  • Chinese Sucker fish courtesy of Fish Capsule
    General information: 

    Chinese sucker fish are community fish. They travel in groups and migrate up the Yangtze river to spawn. The females lay an enormous amount of eggs (50,000+) which are then guarded by the males. 
    Placid in nature these fish exhibit an almost 'clownish' manner, swimming along the edges and contours of the aquarium, occasionally swimming along plants or up the sides of the tank until they are inverted and drift back down to the bottom. 
    The Chinese sucker (only sucker unique to China) searches for food by sifting the river bottom sand and 'sucking' food from in  between rocks and debris. 
    M. asiatics prefer temperatures between 65 and 82 degrees F (in aquariums the pH between 6 and 7.5). 
    These fish also operate during the day, and almost immediately stop and rest when all lights have been turned off (in the aquarium). 
    The Chinese sucker was once a popular food in China. After the completion of the Yangtze river dam, catches declined dramatically; reestablishing populations have not been successful. The Myxocyprinus asiaticus has now become a protected animal. 

    Special anatomical, physiological 
    or behavioral adaptations:

    Suckers get their names from the presence of a "toothless mouth and a comb like row of teeth on the pharyngeal bones of the throat" (Nichols, p.58). M. asiatics are considered one of the most primitive species in its family. 
    These fish have frequently been known to change color during different times of the day - from light to dark and vice versa. 

    Chinese Sucker courtesy of
    Comments about the Chinese Sucker of the Fort Worth Zoo:

    Tim Huebner. Senior Advisor of Aquarium. (for 8.5 years) 

    Fish first entered the U.S. pet trade in 1976, when Nixon opened borders to trade with China. The Chinese Sucker spends most of its time sifting through gravel (mainly for food), uprooting plants and rocks. The M. asiaticus shares its tank with fish such as the Long-nose Elephant (Gnathonemus petersi) from Africa and the peaceful Spanner fish (Barbodes lateristriga); however their relatives, the Tiger Barbs, inhabit a seperate space due to their habit of nipping at the fins of other fish. The Fort Worth zoo feeds their Chinese Sucker a combination of lean horse heart, shrimp/bone/oat meal, and children's vitamins held together by a gelatin base.

    Personal Observations: 

    Going to the zoo was fun! Haven't been in years. Anyways, :), after finally locating the Chinese Emperor I was suprised to see how big they can get. One was about 30-40 lbs! Two more where in the same aquarium but a lot smaller. After observing them for about ten minutes I concluded that they spent the majority of their time looking for food- swallowing pebbles to extract the food from around it, then spitting out the pebbles from slits behind their head. They were relatively active - swimming constantly and upheaving rocks and such to find food. Keeping to themselves and their own interests, they did not often interact with the smaller fish that occupied the same tank. 

    Source Materials and Related Links:

    Nichols, J. T. 1943. Natural History of Central Asia Vol. IX American Museum of Natural History. New York 1943:58-61 

    Fish Capsule Report for Biology of Fishes. Kristal R. Aliyas (link available above) 
    Senior, School of Natural Resources and Environment. 

    Not Catfish. Steve Cuthbertson. Edinburgh, Scotland. 1999-2000 (link available above) 

    Mills, Dick. Aquarium Fish. (Eyewitness Handbooks) NY: Dorling, Kendersly, 1993. p.230. 

    Related sources and links: 

  • James S. Skoga. Chinese High Finned Banded Shark. California State University at Pomona.
  • Featured Fish of the Month:  (Originally from
  • Rivers of Life. California Academy of Science.
    Page author: {short description of image}Anonymous Student

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