Based upon morphological characters, Silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and bighead carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (or Aristichthys nobilis) have been classified into either the same genus or two distinct genera. Consequently, the taxonomic relationship of the two species at the generic level remains equivocal. This issue is addressed by sequencing complete mitochondrial genomes of H. molitrix and H. nobilis, comparing their mitogenome organization, structure and sequence similarity, and conducting a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of cyprinid species. As with other cyprinid fishes, the mitogenomes of the two species were structurally conserved, containing 37 genes including 13 protein-coding genes, two ribosomal RNA genes, 22 transfer RNA (tRNAs) genes and a putative control region (D-loop). Sequence similarity between the two mitogenomes varied in different genes or regions, being highest in the tRNA genes (98·8%), lowest in the control region (89·4%) and intermediate in the protein-coding genes (94·2%). Analyses of the sequence comparison and phylogeny using concatenated protein sequences support the view that the two species belong to the genus Hypophthalmichthys. Further studies using nuclear markers and involving more closely related species, and the systematic combination of traditional biology and molecular biology are needed in order to confirm this conclusion.