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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:

  • Overhead River Habitat (River Scout)
  • American Alligators Habitat (River Scout)

Range / Habitat

  • Common carp occurs in Western Europe, throughout Eurasia to China and Southeast Asia, Siberia and India, as well as in North America.
  • Native to Eurasia, first introduced to North America in 1831. It is now widely distributed in southern Canada and most of the U.S.
  • This species is found in a wide variety of habitats ranging from muddy pools to large rivers. 
  • It thrives in large turbid rivers and generally favors large water bodies with slow flowing or standing water and soft bottom sediments.

Physical Characteristics

  • Common carp has a long retractable mouth with two fleshy barbels on each side of upper jaw at the corner of the mouth.  The rearmost barbel is larger.
  • Coloration is gray to brassy olive above and golden yellow below, with clear to dusky fins. A large adult has red-orange caudal and anal fins. The scales are large.
  • This fish can grow to approximately 5 feet (1.5 m) in length.
  • Genetic mutants are frequently encountered that have only a few very large scales (“mirror carp”), or lack scales entirely (“leather carp”).

Diet / Feeding

  • Common carp is a benthic feeder and an omnivore. Consumes aquatic vascular plants, algae, aquatic insects, insect larvae, small crustaceans, and occasional small fishes.
  • It has three rows of pharyngeal teeth that are adapted for crushing; these are larger teeth that resemble human molars.

Conservation Status

  • “Data Deficient” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Indigenous to Asia, carp were so abundant on the European continent in early times that the species were mentioned by Aristotle as early as 350 B.C.E.
  • In many places it has displaced, entirely or in part, some native species. It now is considered, as are many introduced species, a nuisance and potential pest.
  • Not only a prolific breeder, its habit of rooting in bottom mud increases turbidity, thereby destroying aquatic plants and the habitat of both waterfowl and native game fishes. The presence of the common carp can result in decreased populations of native species.
  • Tolerant of very low oxygen levels, this carp can utilize atmospheric oxygen for considerable periods.
  • It is also tolerant of extreme variations in water temperature: although it is inactive at water temperatures below 38o F (3.3o C), it can withstand temporary freezing. An adult carp can also tolerate temperatures of about 96o F (35.6o C) for a 24-hour period.
  • A 20 lb. (9 kg) female can produce over two million eggs, which hatch in about 4 or 5 days.
  • The life span in a natural habitat is typically 13 to 15 years, while carp in human care have lived to 47 years.

Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition, Volume 4, Fishes 1. pg. 310
Peterson Field Guides - Freshwater Fishes.  Page, L.M. and Burr, B.M., pg. 64
McClane’s Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America. McClane, J.M., 
pgs. 56 - 58.
The Fishes of Tennessee. Etnier, D.A. and Starnes, W.C., pgs. 161-163
Fishes of Alabama. Boschung, H.T. and Myden, R.L., pgs. 176 -178.