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.
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 Species||Caviar Name||Egg Size||Egg Color|
|Beluga, Almas||Medium to Large||Light Grey to Black|
|Kaluga, Amur||Medium to Large||Light Grey to Black|
|Russian (Diamond, Danube)|
|Osietra, Osetra, Alverta||Medium to Large||Golden Brown to Dark Brown|
|Siberian, Baerioska||Small to Medium||Dark Brown to Black|
|Stellate (Starry, Star)|
|Sevruga||Small||Light Grey to Charcoal|
|Lake||Small to Medium||Dark Green to Black|
|White, Tradition||Medium||Dark Green to Dark Brown|
|Shovelnose (Alabama, Pallid)|
|Hackleback||Small to Medium||Charcoal to Black|
|Sterlet||Small||Amber to Dark Grey|
|Shortnose (Atlantic, European)|
|Acadian||Medium to Large||Brown to Black|
|Davinci||Medium||Brown to Black|
|Asetra, Ossetra, Osietra||Medium to Large||Golden 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 Species||Caviar Name||Caviar Size||Caviar Color|
|American Paddlefish||Paddlefish||Small||Light Green to Dark Grey|
|American Bowfin||Choupique||Medium||Auburn 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.
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Origins||Avg. Size (cm)|
|Adriatic Sturgeon||Acipenser naccarii||EU||100|
|Alabama Sturgeon||Scaphirhynchus suttkusi||NA||76|
|Amu Darya Sturgeon||Pseudoscaphirhynchus kaufmanni||AS||50|
|Amur Sturgeon||Acipenser schrenckii||AS||109|
|Atlantic Sturgeon||Acipenser oxyrinchus||NA, EU||250|
|Beluga Sturgeon||Huso huso||EU, AS||275|
|Chinese Sturgeon||Acipenser sinensis||AS||250|
|Danube Sturgeon||Acipenser gueldenstaedtii||EU, AS||145|
|Dwarf Sturgeon||Pseudoscaphirhynchus hermanni||AS||20|
|European Sea Sturgeon||Acipenser sturio||EU||125|
|Fringebarbel Sturgeon||Acipenser nudiventris||EU, AS||132|
|Green Sturgeon||Acipenser medirostris||NA||180|
|Kaluga Sturgeon||Huso dauricus||AS||180|
|Lake Sturgeon||Acipenser fulvescens||NA||100|
|Pallid Sturgeon||Scaphirhynchus albus||NA||82|
|Persian Sturgeon||Acipenser persicus||EU, AS||137|
|Sakhalin Sturgeon||Acipenser mikadoi||AS||100|
|Shortnose Sturgeon||Acipenser brevirostrum||NA||100|
|Shovelnose Sturgeon||Scaphirhynchus platorynchus||NA||55|
|Siberian Sturgeon||Acipenser baerii||AS||96|
|Starry Sturgeon||Acipenser stellatus||EU, AS||125|
|Sterlet Sturgeon||Acipenser ruthenus||EU, AS||43|
|Syr Darya Sturgeon||Pseudoscaphirhynchus fedtschenkoi||AS||50|
|White sturgeon||Acipenser transmontanus||NA, AS||210|
|Yangtze Sturgeon||Acipenser dabryanus||AS||106|
- 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