What Fish Does Caviar Come From? The Source & Origins of Caviar


Caviar comes from the sturgeon, a group of about 25 different species and subspecies of the Acipenseridae family. This incredible fish is found naturally in different parts of the world, however, it is now farmed for its meat, oils, and caviar globally.

Note to readers: This article focuses on the source of real caviar, which are salt-cured, aged eggs from the sturgeon fish family specifically. Fish roe (eggs) from other types of fish is not real caviar – learn more about the differences between caviar and fish roe.

What Kind of Fish Does Caviar Come From?

In short, caviar is the salt-cured fish eggs of 10 or so species, subspecies, and cross-species of the sturgeon fish. About 5 species make up the bulk of the market of these eggs famous for their astronomical prices, taste, and perfectly shaped pearly beads.

Although historically found in the wild in Russia, Europe, Asia, and North America, these endangered species are now farmed in almost every corner of the globe for their delicious and precious eggs.

What Kind of Fish Does Caviar Come From? - CaviarKelp.com

Different caviar from different species

Further, different species produce different colors, textures, sizes, and quality caviar with the most prized being the famous Beluga, Kaluga, Osetra, and Sevruga.

Color, texture, and taste can vary even within the same species depending on a few factors such as its age, size, and habitat.

Moreover, cross-species sturgeon has been gaining popularity for their superior caviar. Some of the most common mixes include the Beluga x Kaluga, Beluga x Sevruga, and Sturdlefish.

Sturgeon SpeciesCaviar NameEgg SizeEgg Color
Beluga (Great)
Huso huso
Beluga, AlmasMedium to LargeLight Grey to Black
Huso dauricus
Kaluga, AmurMedium to LargeLight Grey to Black
Russian (Diamond, Danube)
Acipenser gueldenstaedtii
Osietra, Osetra, AlvertaMedium to LargeGolden Brown to Dark Brown
Siberian (Baikal)
Acipenser baerii
Siberian, BaerioskaSmall to MediumDark Brown to Black
Stellate (Starry, Star)
Acipenser stellatus
SevrugaSmallLight Grey to Charcoal
Lake (Rock)
Acipenser fulvescens
LakeSmall to MediumDark Green to Black
Acipenser transmontanus
White, TraditionMediumDark Green to Dark Brown
Shovelnose (Alabama, Pallid)
Scaphirhynchus platorynchus
Scaphirhynchus suttkusi
Scaphirhynchus albus
HacklebackSmall to MediumCharcoal to Black
Acipenser ruthenus
SterletSmallAmber to Dark Grey
Shortnose (Atlantic, European)
Acipenser brevirostrum
Acipenser oxyrinchus
Acipenser sturio
AcadianMedium to LargeBrown to Black
Acipenser naccarii
DavinciMediumBrown to Black
Acipenser persicus
Asetra, Ossetra, OsietraMedium to LargeGolden Brown to Dark Brown

Caviar from close relatives to the sturgeon

Although not real caviar by technical definition, the fish roe from a variety of close relatives to sturgeon is frequently labeled as caviar. Their eggs are very similar in shape, size, and taste to real caviar. The most popular ones are summarized below.

Fish SpeciesCaviar NameCaviar SizeCaviar Color
American PaddlefishPaddlefishSmallLight Green to Dark Grey
American BowfinChoupiqueMediumAuburn to Dark Brown

The Different Types of Sturgeon

Like most animals, sturgeons have several species. The sturgeon family, known scientifically as the Acipenseridae, comes in 25 or so different species, all of which can produce different and unique eggs that are transformed into caviar.

Interestingly, sturgeons are amongst the oldest living creatures, which first appeared over 163 million years ago, once upon a time co-existing with dinosaurs in the Jurassic era.

Although most species are not farmed for caviar, we’ve put together this awesome infographic and comprehensive list of the different types (species) of sturgeons found around the world.

The different types of sturgeons where caviar comes from - CaviarKelp.com
Common NameScientific NameOriginsAvg. Size (cm)
Adriatic SturgeonAcipenser naccariiEU100
Alabama SturgeonScaphirhynchus suttkusiNA76
Amu Darya SturgeonPseudoscaphirhynchus kaufmanniAS50
Amur SturgeonAcipenser schrenckiiAS109
Atlantic SturgeonAcipenser oxyrinchusNA, EU250
Beluga SturgeonHuso husoEU, AS275
Chinese SturgeonAcipenser sinensisAS250
Danube SturgeonAcipenser gueldenstaedtiiEU, AS145
Dwarf SturgeonPseudoscaphirhynchus hermanniAS20
European Sea SturgeonAcipenser sturioEU125
Fringebarbel SturgeonAcipenser nudiventrisEU, AS132
Green SturgeonAcipenser medirostrisNA180
Kaluga SturgeonHuso dauricusAS180
Lake SturgeonAcipenser fulvescensNA100
Pallid SturgeonScaphirhynchus albusNA82
Persian SturgeonAcipenser persicusEU, AS137
Sakhalin SturgeonAcipenser mikadoiAS100
Shortnose SturgeonAcipenser brevirostrumNA100
Shovelnose SturgeonScaphirhynchus platorynchusNA55
Siberian SturgeonAcipenser baeriiAS96
Starry SturgeonAcipenser stellatusEU, AS125
Sterlet SturgeonAcipenser ruthenusEU, AS43
Syr Darya SturgeonPseudoscaphirhynchus fedtschenkoiAS50
White sturgeonAcipenser transmontanusNA, AS210
Yangtze SturgeonAcipenser dabryanusAS106

Key Takeaways

  • Caviar comes from the sturgeon family of fish
  • Caviar is the fish eggs of sturgeons that are salt-cured and aged
  • The world’s caviar comes from about 10 species and subspecies
  • Many species are critically endangered with a few reported extinct
  • More than 95% of caviar comes from aquaculture (farmed)
  • Wild caviar is mostly illegal or has stringent and low quotas


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