Found in a wide variety of habitats, mainly in lowland areas. Most abundant in nutrient-rich lakes and large to medium sized rivers and backwaters. Also recorded from small lowland streams and from brackish coastal lagoons. In fast-flowing rivers, confined to stretches where backwaters or shelters allow for overwintering. Larvae and juveniles live in wide variety of littoral habitats. Preys predominantly on benthic (seafloor level) invertebrates, zooplankton, plant material and detritus. May shift from littoral to pelagic habitats and between benthic (seafloor level) food and zooplankton when abundance of a specific food item is high or for avoidance of predation and/or competition. Breeds among dense submerged vegetation in backwaters or lakes, flooded meadows or in shallow, fast-flowing river habitats on plant or gravel bottom.
Europe: north to Pyrenees and Alps, eastward to Ural and Eya drainages (Caspian basin); Aegean basin in Pinios, Vardar, Vegoritis, Kastoria, Struma and Maritza drainages. Asia: Marmara basin and lower Sakarya in Anatolia, Aral basin, and Siberia from Ob eastward to Lena drainages. Naturally absent from Iberian Peninsula, Adriatic basin, Italy, Great Britain north of 56 N, Scandinavia north of 69° N.