Identification key end: Fish: Cyprinus carpio

You have a Cyprinus carpio (Common carpe)


Species names: Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus, 1758

Family: Cyprinidae

Synonyms: Cyprinus carpio var. gibbosus Kessler, 1856

Common names: kapr obecný (CZ), Karpe (DK), karpkala (EE), karppi (FI), Europinis sazanas (LT), Karper (NL), Karp (PL, SE), сазан амурский (RU), common carp (UK)


The body is greyish to bronze in colour. Dorsal spines (total): 3 - 4; Dorsal soft rays (total): 17-23; Anal spines: 2-3; Anal soft rays: 5 - 6; Vertebrae: 36 – 37 (Fishbase).

Cyprinus carpio can be recognised by its small eyes, thick lips, two fleshy barbels project downwards at either side of the mouth (Cihar 1991), large scales, and strongly serrated spines in the dorsal and anal fins (NSW Department of Primary Industries 2005) The number of scales varies greatly, with some individuals (known as leather carp) (Cihar 1991).

Photo: Cyprinus carpio

Similar Species: Carassius auratus & Ctenopharyngodon idella

For further information:


Native distribution: Common carp originated in Europe in rivers around the Black Sea and the Aegean basin (Kottelat, M. and J. Freyhof, 2007).

Introduced distribution: Widely introduced across the world.

Vector: During the 1940s–1960s, various sturgeon stocks were released into the Gulf of Riga for the enhancement of commercial fish stocks (HELCOM, 2006 Assessment of Coastal Fish in the Baltic Sea Balt. Sea Environ. Proc. No. 103 A)


The Cyprinus carpio prefere warm, deep, slow-flowing and still waters, such as lowland rivers and large, well vegetated lakes. Introduced in all types of water bodies. The species is very tolerant of low oxygen concentrations (Freyhof & Kottelat, 2008).

This species is omnivore, feeding on aquatic crustaceans, insects, worms, aquatic plants, algae and seeds. Its feeding technique, of grubbing around in the sediment and straining food from the mud, has caused problems in areas where the carp has been introduced. As well as uprooting submerged vegetation, it also increases the cloudiness of the water, which can have detrimental effects on native wildlife (Cole 1905; Cahoon 1953; Bellrichard 1996; Laird and Page 1996).


Cyprinus carpio can lives up to 50 years and usually spawns every year. In temperate waters spawning take place during the summer in patches of weeds. Males reproduce for the first time at 3-5 years, females at 4-6 (Freyhof & Kottelat, 2008). Age of maturity is related to latitude and altitude.

The species spawns in May-June at temperatures above 18°C (Freyhof & Kottelat, 2008) and the eggs hatch in 4 days (Pethiyagoda 1991). Adults often make considerable spawning migrations to suitable backwaters and flooded meadows. Individual females spawn with a few males in dense vegetation (Kottelat, M. and J. Freyhof, 2007).

The sticky eggs are attached to water plants or other submerged objects (Kottelat and Freyhof 2007). Larvae and juveniles inhabit warm and shallow flooded river margins or backwaters, feeding mostly on very small zooplankton (rotifers). Reproductive success is restricted to years when the water level starts rising in May and when high temperatures and flooding of terrestrial vegetation last for a long period during May and June (Kottelat andFreyhof 2007). The sticky yellowish coloured eggs attach to vegetation, and are not guarded by the parents. A typical female can lay over a million eggs in one breeding season (Pethiyagoda 1991).


Cyprinus carpio is regarded as a pest fish because of its widespread abundance and because of its tendency to destroy vegetation. It also has the ability to increase water turbidity by dislodging plants and rooting around in the substrate, causing a deterioration of habitat for species requiring vegetation and clean water (Cole 1905; Cahoon 1953; Bellrichard 1996; Laird and Page 1996). There is also evidence that Cyprinus carpio prey on the eggs of other fish species (Moyle 1976;

Literature on Cyprinus carpio

Cihar, J. (1991) A field guide in colour to freshwater fish. Silverdale Books, Leicester.

Kottelat, M. and J. Freyhof, 2007. Handbook of European freshwater fishes. Publications Kottelat, Cornol and Freyhof, Berlin, 646 pp.

HELCOM, 2006 Assessment of Coastal Fish in the Baltic Sea Balt. Sea Environ. Proc. No. 103 A.

Pethiyagoda, R., 1991. Freshwater fishes of Sri Lanka. The Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka, Colombo. 362 p.

Cole, L.J. 1905. The German carp in the United States. Pages 523-641 in Report of the Bureau of Fisheries for 1904. U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

Cahoon, W.G. 1953. Commercial carp removal at Lake Mattamuskeet, North Carolina. Journal of Wildlife Management 17(3):312-317.

Bellrichard, S.J. 1996. Effects of common carp (Cyprinus carpio) on submerged macrophytes and water quality in a backwater lake on the upper Mississippi River. Master's thesis, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Reprinted by the National Biological Service, Environmental Management Technical Center, Onalaska, Wisconsin. LTRMP 96-R008. 44 pp.

Laird, C.A., and L.M. Page. 1996. Non-native fishes inhabiting the streams and lakes of Illinois. Illinois Natural History Survey Bulletin 35(1):1-51.

Moyle, P.B. 1976. Inland Fishes of California. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M. 2008. Cyprinus carpio. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>. Downloaded on March 26, 2015.