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Common carp, Cyprinus carpio

Carp are various species of oily[1] freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae, a very large group of fish native to Europe and Asia.


  • Biology 1
  • Species 2
  • Recreational fishing 3
  • Aquaculture 4
  • Breeding 5
  • As food 6
  • As ornamental fish 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The cypriniformes (family Cyprinidae) are traditionally grouped with the Characiformes, Siluriformes, and Gymnotiformes to create the superorder Ostariophysi, since these groups have certain common features, such as being found predominantly in fresh water and that they possess Weberian ossicles (an anatomical structure originally made up of small pieces of bone formed from four or five of the first vertebrae); the most anterior bony pair is in contact with the extension of the labyrinth and the posterior with the swimbladder. The function is poorly understood, but this structure is presumed to take part in the transmission of vibrations from the swim bladder to the labyrinth and in the perception of sound, which would explain why the Ostariophysi have such a great capacity for hearing.[2]

Most cypriniformes have scales and teeth on the inferior pharyngeal bones which may be modified in relation to the diet. Tribolodon is the only cyprinid genus which tolerates salt water, although several species move into brackish water, but return to fresh water to spawn. All of the other cypriniformes live in continental waters and have a wide geographical range.[2] Some consider all cyprinid fishes carp, and the family Cyprinidae itself is often known as the carp family. In colloquial use, carp usually refers only to several larger cyprinid species such as Cyprinus carpio (common carp), Carassius carassius (Crucian carp), Ctenopharyngodon idella (grass carp), Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (silver carp), and Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (bighead carp). Carp have long been an important food fish to humans, as well as popular ornamental fishes such as the various goldfish breeds and the domesticated common carp variety known as koi. As a result, carp have been introduced to various locations, though with mixed results. Several species of carp are listed as invasive species by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,[3] and worldwide large sums of money are spent on carp control.


This article is
one of a series on
Commercial fish
Large pelagic
billfish, bonito
mackerel, salmon
shark, tuna

anchovy, herring
menhaden, sardine
shad, sprat

cod, eel, flatfish
pollock, ray
carp, tilapia
Some prominent carp in the family Cyprinidae
Common name Scientific name Max
length (cm)
length (cm)
weight (kg)
age (yr)
Silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (Valenciennes, 1844) 105 18 50 2.0 [4] [5] [6] NT IUCN 3 1.svg Near threatened[7]
Common carp Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus, 1758 110 31 40.1 38 3.0 [8] [9] [10] VU IUCN 3 1.svg Vulnerable[11]
Grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella (Valenciennes, 1844) 150 10.7 45.0 21 2.0 [12] [13] Not assessed
Bighead carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (Richardson, 1845) 146 60 40.0 20 2.3 [14] [15] DD IUCN 3 1.svgData deficient[16]
Crucian carp Carassius carassius (Linnaeus, 1758) 64 15 3.0 10 3.1 [17] [18] LC IUCN 3 1.svg Least concern[19]
Catla carp (Indian carp) Cyprinus catla (Hamilton, 1822) 182 38.6 2.8 [20] [21] Not assessed
Mrigal carp Cirrhinus cirrhosus (Bloch, 1795) 100 40 12.7 2.5 [22] [23] VU IUCN 3 1.svg Vulnerable[24]
Black carp Mylopharyngodon piceus (Richardson, 1846) 122 12.2 35 13 3.2 [25] [26] Not assessed
Mud Carp Cirrhinus molitorella (Valenciennes, 1844) 55.0 15.2 0.50 2.0 [27] [28] VU IUCN 3 1.svg Vulnerable[11]

Recreational fishing

An angler with 17 kg mirror carp (Cyprinus carpio)

In 1653 Izaak Walton wrote in The Compleat Angler, "The Carp is the queen of rivers; a stately, a good, and a very subtle fish; that was not at first bred, nor hath been long in England, but is now naturalised."

Carp are variable in terms of angling value.

  • In Europe, even when not fished for food, they are eagerly sought by anglers, being considered highly prized coarse fish that are difficult to hook.[29] The UK has a thriving carp angling market. It is the fastest growing angling market in the UK, and has spawned a number of specialised carp angling publications such as Carpology,[30] Advanced carp fishing, Carpworld and Total Carp, and informative carp angling web sites, such as Carpfishing UK.[31]
  • In the United States, carp are also classified as a rough fish, as well as damaging to naturalized exotic species, but with sporting qualities. Many states' departments of natural resources are beginning to view the carp as an angling fish instead of a maligned pest. Groups such as CarpPro,[32] Wild Carp Companies,[33] American Carp Society[34] and the Carp Anglers Group[35] promote the sport and work with fisheries departments to organize events to introduce and expose others to the unique opportunity the carp offers freshwater anglers.


Aquaculture production of cyprinids by species in million tonnes, 1950–2010, as reported by the FAO.[36]

Various species of carp have been domesticated and reared as food fish across Europe and Asia for thousands of years. These various species appear to have been domesticated independently, as the various domesticated carp species are native to different parts of Eurasia. Aquaculture has been pursued in China for at least 2,400 years. A tract by Fan Li in the fifth century BC details many of the ways carp were raised in ponds.[37] The common carp, Cyprinus carpio, is originally from Central Europe.[38] Several carp species (collectively known as Asian carp) were domesticated in East Asia. Carp that are originally from South Asia, for example catla (Gibelion catla), rohu (Labeo rohita) and mrigal (Cirrhinus cirrhosus), are known as Indian carp. Their hardiness and adaptability have allowed domesticated species to be propagated all around the world.

Although the carp was an important aquatic food item, as more fish species have become readily available for the table, the importance of carp culture in Western Europe has become less important. Demand has declined, partly due to the appearance of more desirable table fish such as trout and salmon through intensive farming, and environmental constraints. However, fish production in ponds is still a major form of aquaculture in Central and Eastern Europe, including the Russian Federation, where most of the production comes from low or intermediate-intensity ponds. In Asia, the farming of carp continues to surpass the total amount of farmed fish volume of intensively sea-farmed species, such as salmon and tuna.[39]

The major traditional aquaculture carp of China


Selective breeding programs for the common carp include improvement in growth, shape, and resistance to disease. Experiments carried out in the USSR used crossings of broodstocks to increase genetic diversity, and then selected the species for traits such as growth rate, exterior traits and viability, and/or adaptation to environmental conditions such as variations in temperature.[40][41] selected carp for fast growth and tolerance to cold, the Ropsha carp. The results showed a 30 to 77.4% improvement of cold tolerance, but did not provide any data for growth rate. An increase in growth rate was observed in the second generation in Vietnam,[42] Moav and Wohlfarth (1976) showed positive results when selecting for slower growth for three generations compared to selecting for faster growth.[43] Schaperclaus (1962) showed resistance to the dropsy disease wherein selected lines suffered low mortality (11.5%) compared to unselected (57%).[44]

The major carp species used traditionally in Chinese aquaculture are the black, grass, silver and bighead carp. In the 1950s, the Pearl River Fishery Research Institute in China made a technological breakthrough in the induced breeding of these carps, which has resulted in a rapid expansion of freshwater aquaculture in China.[45] In the late 1990s, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences developed a new variant of the common carp called the Jian carp. This fish grows rapidly and has a high feed conversion rate. Over 50% of the total aquaculture production of carp in China has now converted to Jian carp.[45][46]

As food

Packaged grass carp fillets for sale
  • Bighead carp is enjoyed in many parts of the world, but it has not become a popular foodfish in North America. Acceptance there has been hindered in part by the name "carp", and its association with the common carp which is not a generally favored foodfish in North America. The flesh of the bighead carp is white and firm, different from that of the common carp, which is darker and richer. Bighead carp flesh does share one unfortunate similarity with common carp flesh - both have intramuscular bones within the filet. However, bighead carp captured from the wild in the United States tend to be much larger than common carp, so the intramuscular bones are also larger and less problematic.
  • Crucian carp is considered the best-tasting pan fish in Poland. It is known as karaś, and is served traditionally with sour cream (karasie w śmietanie).[47] In Russia, this particular species is called Золотой карась meaning "golden crucian", and is one of the fish used in a borscht recipe called borshch s karasej[48] (Russian: Борщ с карасе́й)or borshch s karasyami Russian: Борщ с карася́ми).
  • Mud carp, due to the low cost of production, is mainly consumed by the poor, locally; it is mostly sold alive for eating, but can be dried and salted.[49] The fish is sometimes canned or processed as fish cakes, fish balls, [50] or dumplings. They can be found for retail sale within China.[51]

As ornamental fish

Goldfish and other carp from Fish Swimming Amid Falling Flowers, a Song dynasty painting by Liu Cai (c.1080–1120)
An unusual goldfish breed: An oranda-type variegated pearlscale.

Carp, along with many of their cyprinid relatives, are popular ornamental aquarium and pond fish. The two most notable ornamental carps are goldfish and koi. Goldfish and koi have advantages over most other ornamental fishes, in that they are tolerant of cold (they can survive in water temperatures as low as 4°C), can survive at low oxygen levels, and can tolerate low water quality.

Six different colored koi and a small koi

Goldfish (Carassius auratus) were originally domesticated from the Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio), a dark greyish-brown carp native to Asia. They were first bred for color in China over a thousand years ago. Due to selective breeding, goldfish have been developed into many distinct breeds, and are found in various colors, color patterns, forms and sizes far different from those of the original carp. Goldfish were kept as ornamental fish in Japan for hundreds of years before being introduced to China in the 15th century, and to Europe in the late 17th century.

Koi are a domesticated subspecies of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) that have been selectively bred for color. The common carp was introduced from China to Japan, where selective breeding of the common carp in the 1820s in the Niigata region resulted in koi.[52] In Japanese culture, koi are treated with affection, and seen as good luck. They are popular in other parts of the world as outdoor pond fish.

See also


  1. ^ "What's an oily fish?".  
  2. ^ a b Billard R. (Ed.) (1995). Carp – Biology and Culture. Springer-Praxis Series in Aquaculture and Fisheries, Chichester, UK.
  3. ^ National Invasive Species Information Center (2010-07-21). "Invasive Species: Aquatic Species - Asian Carp". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Hypophthalmichthys molitrix in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  5. ^ (Valenciennes, 1844)Hypophthalmichthys molitrix FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved May 2012.
  6. ^ "Hypophthalmichthys molitrix".  
  7. ^ Zhao H (2011). "Hypophthalmichthys molitrix".  
  8. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Cyprinus carpio in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  9. ^ (Linnaeus, 1758)Cyprinus carpio FAO, Species Fact Sheet. Retrieved May 2012.
  10. ^ "Cyprinus carpio".  
  11. ^ a b Freyhof J and Kottelat M (2008). "Cyprinus carpio".  
  12. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Ctenopharyngodon idella in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  13. ^ "Ctenopharyngodon idella".  
  14. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Hypophthalmichthys nobilis in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  15. ^ "Hypophthalmichthys nobilis".  
  16. ^ Freyhof J and Kottelat M (2008). "Carassius carassius downloaded=May 2012".  
  17. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Carassius carassius in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  18. ^ "Carassius carassius".  
  19. ^ Freyhof J and Kottelat M (2008). "Carassius carassius".  
  20. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Cyprinus catla in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  21. ^ "Cyprinus catla".  
  22. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Cirrhinus cirrhosus in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  23. ^ "Cirrhinus cirrhosus".  
  24. ^ Rema Devi KR and Ali A (2011). "Cirrhinus cirrhosus".  
  25. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Mylopharyngodon piceus in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  26. ^ "Mylopharyngodon piceus".  
  27. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2012). "Cirrhinus molitorella in FishBase. May 2012 version.
  28. ^ "Cirrhinus molitorella".  
  29. ^ A. F. Magri MacMahon (1946). Fishlore, pp 149-152. Pelican Books.
  30. ^ Carpology
  31. ^ Carpfishing UK
  32. ^ CarpPro
  33. ^ Wild Carp Companies
  34. ^ American Carp Society
  35. ^ Carp Anglers Group
  36. ^ Based on data sourced from the FishStat database
  37. ^ National Aquaculture Sector Overview: China FAO, Rome. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  38. ^ SpringerLink - Journal Article, 
  39. ^ Váradi, L. (2001). Review of trends in the development of European inland aquaculture linkages with fisheries. Fisheries Management and Ecology, 8: 453-462.
  40. ^ Kirpichnikov, V.S., IIYAsov, J.I., Shart, L.A., Vikhman, A.A., Ganchenko, M.V., Ostashevsky, A.L., Simonov, V.M., Tikhonov, G.F & Tjurin, V.V. 1993. Selection of Krasnodar common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) for resistance to dropsy: principal results and prospects. Aquaculture, 111:7–20.
  41. ^ Babouchkine, Y.P., 1987. La sélection d’une carpe résistant à l’hiver. In: Tiews, K. (Ed.), Proceedings ofWorld Symposium on Selection,Hybridization, and Genetic Engineering in Aquaculture, Bordeaux 27–30 May 1986, vol. 1. HeenemannVerlagsgesellschaft mbH, Berlin, pp. 447–454.
  42. ^ Tran, M.T., Nguyen, C.T. 1993. Selection of common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.) in Vietnam. Aquaculture 111: 301–302.
  43. ^ Moav, R.,Wohlfarth, G.W., 1976. Two-way selection for growth rate in the common carp (Cyprinus carpio L.). Genetics 82, 83–101.
  44. ^ Schäperclaus,W. 1962. Traité de pisciculture en étang. Vigot Frères, Paris
  45. ^ a b CAFS research achievement CAFS. Accessed 26 July 2011.
  46. ^ Jian, Zhu; Jianxin, Wang; Yongsheng, Gong and Jiaxin, Chen (2005) "Carp Genetic Resources of China" pp. 26–38. In: David J Penman, Modadugu V Gupta and Madan M Dey (Eds.) Carp genetic resources for aquaculture in Asia, WorldFish Center, Technical report: 65(1727). ISBN 978-983-2346-35-7.
  47. ^ Strybel & Strybel 2005,p.384
  48. ^ Molokhovet︠s︡ 1998
  49. ^ "Cultured Aquatic Species - Mud Carp". 
  50. ^
  51. ^ Cultured Aquatic Species - Mud Carp
  52. ^ "Midwest Pond and Koi Society - Koi History: Myths & Mysteries, by Ray Jordan". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 

External links

  • Chistiakov D, Voronova N (2009). "Genetic evolution and diversity of common carp Cyprinus carpio L.". Cent. Eur. J. Biol. 4 (3): 304–312.  
  • Langridge, John, Aphrodite's Carp, The Medlar Press, 2006
  • Secrets of Carp Fishing - Winter Carp Fishing Tips
  • How to catch carp - 90 essential tips from the experts
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