The common carp or European carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a widespread freshwater fish.
Common carp are native to Europe but have been widely introduced and are now found worldwide except for the poles and northern Asia.
They live large and small man made and natural reservoirs and pools, and in slow or fast moving rivers. They prefer larger, slower-moving bodies of water with soft sediments but they are tolerant and hardy fish that thrive in a wide variety of aquatic habitats.
Common carp are the third most frequently introduced species worldwide, and their history as a farmed fish dates back to Roman times.
Common carp can live up to 20 years. There is a report of a common carp living an astounding 47 years in captivity.
The average size of the common carp is from 40 to 80 cm (15.75 to 31.5 inches) in length and weight from 2 to 14 kg (4.5 to 31 lb).
The largest recorded carp, caught by an angler, Colin Smith, in 2013 at Etang La Saussaie Fishery, France, weighed 45.59 kilograms (100.5 lb).
Three sub-species with slightly different scale patterns are recognized. C. carpio communis (scale carp) has regular concentric scales, C. carpio specularis (mirror carp) large scales running along the side of the body in several rows with the rest of the body naked, and C. carpio coiaceus (leather carp) with few or no scales on the back and a thick skin.
Wild common carp are typically slimmer than domesticated forms, with body length about four times body height, red flesh, and a forward-protruding mouth.
Common carp are omnivorous. They can eat a herbivorous diet of aquatic plants, but prefer to scavenge the bottom for insects, crustaceans (including zooplankton), crawfish, and benthic worms.
They can typically be found in small schools, although larger carp often lead a solitary existence.
China is by far the largest commercial producer, accounting for about 70% of carp production.
The Romans farmed carp and this pond culture continued through the monasteries of Europe and to this day. In China, Korea and Japan, carp farming took place as early as the Yayoi Period (c. 300 BC – 300 AD).
Common carp were brought to the United States in 1831. In the late 19th century, they were distributed widely throughout the country by the government as a food-fish, but they are now rarely eaten in the United States, where they are generally considered pests.
Koi are a domesticated subspecies of common carp that have been selectively bred for color. 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.
Common carp, breaded and fried, is part of traditional Christmas Eve dinner in Slovakia, Poland and in the Czech Republic.
Hungarian Fisherman’s soup, a specially prepared fish soup of carp alone or mixed with other freshwater fish, is part of the traditional meal for Christmas Eve in Hungary.