Caspian Shemaya

The Caspian Shemaya (Alburnus chalcoides) is a common and widespread freshwater cyprinid fish. It is also called the Danube Bleak.

The Caspian Shemaya is an elongated fish with no scales at its posterior end near its tail. It has 18-31 gills. Its long, thin teeth are curved inwards. It is metallic silver with a contrasting olive-green back. Its eyes are bright silver. The dorsal and caudal fins are greyish and its other fins are colourless to whitish.

Caspian Shemaya

Caspian Shemaya


It measures 15-30 centimetres (6-12 inches) in length. The female is slightly larger than the male.

The Caspian Shemaya is native to the rivers of central Europe, in Iran, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It prefers slow-moving, muddy rivers, such as the Danube and the Kura, that flow into the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the Aral Sea basin.

It feeds on crabs, shrimp, worms, molluscs, dragonfly larvae, and small fish. It sometimes eats aquatic plants.

It is a migratory fish, moving from freshwater to estuaries near the sea where the water is brackish (slightly salty). It migrates to faster flowing rivers to breed, which is called spawning.

The female lays about 20,000 eggs which stick to stones and gravel. The eggs hatch after 2-3 days and the larvae stay among the gravel for another 10 days before moving to shallow waters where they feed on plankton, insect larvae, and algae. The juvenile fish migrate months later to inland rivers.

Its average life span is 5 years.

Caspian Shemaya

Caspian Shemaya



Photographer: Martina Nicolls



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