Fun Chinese Sturgeon Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Nov 14, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Nov 15, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Chinese sturgeon facts will blow your mind!

Sturgeons are a group of predatory fish that have been in existence for more than 200 million years, making them part of the timescale when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

There are over 20 species of sturgeons, all belonging to the order Acipenseriformes, a group that also includes the paddlefishes.

Growing up to several feet in length, the sturgeons inhabit a range of waters, from subarctic to subtropical, and are found throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Unfortunately, these magnificent beasts that have hung around since the era of dinosaurs millions of years ago are now severely endangered and on the brink of extinction.

Overfishing and interference with their natural habitat due to the construction of dams have endangered the sturgeon's global population.

One of the most interesting sturgeon fish is the Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis), an endemic flagship species of the Yangtze river treasured by the people of China.

According to scientific studies, China's sturgeons have been in existence for over 140 million years and are often rightly referred to as living fossils. With a shark-like form, a rounded snout, and large pectoral fins, the Chinese sturgeons grow several feet long and are one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world.

Even though this mighty species has a remarkable ability to acclimatize to changing environments, its resilience has been severely tested over the years with the drastic manipulation of its wild habitat.

Read on to know more about what makes the sturgeons of China's Yangtze River so fascinating!

You can also read about related sturgeon species such as the white sturgeon and shortnose sturgeon.

Chinese Sturgeon Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Chinese sturgeon?

The Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) is a freshwater fish of the family Acipenseridae.

What class of animal does a Chinese sturgeon belong to?

The Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) belongs to the class of ray-finned fishes.

How many Chinese sturgeons are there in the world?

The wild population of the Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) has been on a severe decline for decades.

However, efforts by The Chinese Sturgeon Research Institute of Three Gorges Corp to restore the endangered species' wild numbers have led to several releases over the last seven years. As part of a massive breeding program, a record-breaking 10,000 Chinese sturgeons were released into the Yangtze River on April 22, 2020.

As per reports by the World Wildlife Fund, a total of around 5,030,000 Chinese sturgeons have been released in China since 1984.

Where does a Chinese sturgeon live?

Historically, Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) had a distribution range that included the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the Yangtze, Yellow, Pearl, Qingtang, and Mingjiang rivers in China. However, overfishing and dam construction over rivers have significantly narrowed down the species' range.

Currently, the species is only found below the Gezhouba Dam on the Yangtze River and East China and Yellow Seas.

What is a Chinese sturgeon's habitat?

Even though the Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) is a large freshwater fish, it spends a considerable part of its lifecycle in seawater.

Besides, this sturgeon species undertake upstream migration from the sea to its spawning grounds in the river. They are known for migrating a distance of some 2,000 mi (3,220 m) from the East China Sea, upstream to their spawning sites in the Yangtze River.

The construction of the Gezhouba Dam on the Yangtze River has severely interfered with this migration which, perhaps, has been a trend for several million years.

Who do Chinese sturgeon live with?

Most sturgeon species lead a solitary life, except when they come together for spawning.

How long does a Chinese sturgeon live?

The Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis) is known to have a lifespan of at least 35 years in the wild.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season of the Chinese sturgeon occurs around June-July during which, the fish species migrate upstream to spawning areas in the Yangtze River. Adults spend about 18 months in the river, a period during which their reproductive organs mature.

Hence, the fish begin spawning the following year, in around October or November. The fish breeds about three or four times in its entire lifetime. At a time, a female sturgeon releases over a million eggs in the water, but not all are fertilized.

Fertilization is external. Once spawning is over, the adult sturgeons return to the sea, and the fish larvae drift down the river and towards the estuary.

What is their conservation status?

The Chinese sturgeon is categorized as a Critically Endangered species in the IUCN Red List. Besides, the Endangered Species Act lists the Chinese sturgeon as Endangered throughout its range. The fish is also listed in Appendix II of CITES.

Chinese Sturgeon Fun Facts

What does a Chinese sturgeon look like?

Even though the Chinese sturgeon looks a lot like sharks, the two are not related. However, like sharks, the Chinese sturgeon has a cartilaginous skeleton. Growing several feet in length, members of the species are quite large and have ganoid scales covering their body, which imparts a smooth texture to the skin.

The back is gray-black, and the belly region is white. The sides are gray or reddish-brown.

In addition, the caudal fins of the species are heterocercal, that is, the upper lobes are larger than the lower ones. The toothless mouth looks like an extendible tube and has four barbels. Single spiracle respiratory openings are present on the side of the head.

*We've been unable to source an image of a Chinese sturgeon and have used an image of a Gulf sturgeon instead. If you are able to provide us with a royalty-free image of a Chinese sturgeon, we would be happy to credit you. Please contact us at

How cute are they?

The round and pointy snout makes the Chinese sturgeon look cute to some extent.

How do they communicate?

The barbels or sensory whiskers present near the mouth of the sturgeon help the fish to detect and locate prey even in low visibility conditions underwater. No other special mode of communication is known in the species. However, some scientific studies have hinted towards the surfacing behavior of sturgeons as a means of communication or refilling their air bladder.

How big is a Chinese sturgeon?

The total body length of a Chinese sturgeon can range between 6.6-16.4 ft (2-5 m), a few feet less than the beluga sturgeon. The white sturgeon may be of a similar size or slightly larger than the Chinese sturgeon.

How fast can a Chinese sturgeon swim?

The exact swimming speed of the Chinese sturgeon is not available. An average sturgeon fish is known to swim at about 0.9-1.4 mph (1.4-2.2 kph).

How much does a Chinese sturgeon weigh?

On average, an adult Chinese sturgeon weighs between 440-1,100 lb (200-500 kg). In comparison to paddlefish, they weigh significantly higher.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female sturgeons do not have distinct names. They are simply referred to as male or female.

What would you call a baby Chinese sturgeon?

Baby sturgeons have not been given any special name.

What do they eat?

The Chinese sturgeon is a bottom feeder and mostly preys on crustaceans, annelids, fishes, mollusks, and aquatic insects.

Are they dangerous?

Unlike sharks, sturgeons are not naturally aggressive. Accidental collisions with ship propellers are common.

Would they make a good pet?

The Chinese sturgeon is a fish suited to wild waters and is not ideal as a pet. Besides, it is an endangered species, and it is illegal to fish, smuggle, or catch them for recreational purposes.

Did you know...

The Chinese sturgeon is raised for its valuable caviar, which is considered a delicacy worldwide. Moreover, sturgeon meat has been part of Chinese cuisine since the time of ancient royals such as the Qing Dynasty.

What is the rarest sturgeon?

The Chinese sturgeon, Russian sturgeon, beluga sturgeon, and many other species of sturgeons are Critically Endangered due to large-scale habitat loss, overfishing, climate change, and pollution. Thus, most of them make it to the list of rare sturgeons.

Are sturgeon related to sharks?

Sturgeons are not related to sharks. To begin with, sturgeons belong to class Actinopterygii and sharks to class Chondrichthyes. However, like sharks, sturgeons have an internal skeleton made of cartilage, with bony structures limited to the plates around the head, the scutes lining the body, and pectoral fin spines.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these emperor angelfish facts and black grouper facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Intricate Fish coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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