Common carp (Cyprinus carpio): Fish Description + Images

What do carp look like

Common carp is a fish species caught by probably every angler, at least once, during their angling career.

It is also a popular first choice when it comes to beginners ...

There is more than one specie of carp and they are found in numerous lakes, rivers and ponds across the world.

If you are interested in knowing more about carp appearance, here I am going to answer two most common questions about this subject; how do they look like and how to tell them apart, in the following chapters.



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What do a Common Carp Fish Look Like?

Carp is a part of family Cyprinidae, and it is native to Europe and Asia. We can also find carp in Australia, Africa and north America, where it is considered to be invasive.

And what do carp look like?

Carp usually have large bodies and many of them seem “fat”.

The body has an arch leading to the dorsal fin, which can be very long in certain species. The fin edge straight across the whole length, except the front part, which is higher. The fin itself can have more than 20 rays. They also have pelvic, pectoral and anal fin.

The underbody, or the “belly” is usually lighter than the sides, and sometimes it can be very pale.

Two pairs of barbels on the sides of the mouth are characteristic for carp species, and no other freshwater fish has similar ones. That is one of body features that can be use to distinguish them.

Scales are large and the colour can vary from light brown to dark brown. Usually, the outer edge is darker than the middle part on every scale.

Common carp is a large fish. Average size is about 30 inches long and weighing 8-15 pounds or near that, but some specimens can be triple of that!

And they grow almost constantly. Some fish species stop growing when they reach sexual maturity, but carp continues to grow.

Carp have soft and round mouth located on the front end of the head. When closed, the mouth corners are down-turning.

What do a Carp Fish Look Like - Fins-Barbels-Colors

What are the Feeding Habits of Common Carp?

Common carp have prominent lips, which they use to suck up their food. They usually feed on plankton and aquatic plants, as well as small invertebrates like insects, larvae and worms.

Carp will also take advantage of any free-floating particles in the water that contain nutrients, such as bits of vegetation or even animal waste matter.

They are opportunistic eaters who can be aggressive when it comes to feeding time. This means they will often compete with other species for a meal, so they must be well aware of the competition around them while looking for food sources.

Their diet is important to maintain this species' health and vitality. In order to keep carp healthy, owners should provide them with a balanced diet consisting of both plant and animal matter.

To ensure optimal nutrition, it's best to supplement their diet with commercial foods designed specifically for carp fish. With proper care and attention given to their dietary needs, these fish can live long and happy lives.

How the Common Carp Life Cycle Looks Like?

Common carp have a rather impressive life span, reaching up to ten (or more) years old if undisturbed by predators or harsh environmental conditions.

As they mature, males tend to become more colorful than females while developing bumps along their heads known as tubercles. These are used for both mating rituals and territorial disputes between other male carps during spawning season.

Spawning typically occurs in spring when water temperatures increase above 18-24 degrees Celsius and female carps will lay thousands of eggs at once before leaving them behind for protection until hatching begins.

At around three weeks old, young carps begin feeding off plankton and aquatic insects found near vegetation beds where they grow rapidly into adulthood within one year's time.

With such a unique appearance and long lifespan, the carp continues to be an important part of many freshwater ecosystems around the world today.

What do a Carp Fish Look Like - Life Cycle

Who Are the Predators of Common Carp Fish?

Common carp have a streamlined body shape with an light brown to dark brown color. They feature large scales and two barbels on the underside of their mouths.

These features help distinguish them from other types of fish in the water.

When it comes to predators of common carp, they mainly include birds such as herons, cormorants, kingfishers and gulls; mammals like otters and raccoons; and larger fish species including pike and bass. In addition:

  • Carp are frequently hunted by humans for angling sport.
  • Birds may also swoop down and catch smaller carp from the surface of the water.
  • Humans also harvest wild carp populations for food.
  • Some states allow commercial fishing for carp that can be sold fresh at markets or processed into products like salted dried roe.

Overall, these predators pose a threat to carp but their numbers remain healthy due to their ability to reproduce quickly and adapt easily to different habitats.

What do carp look like - Predators

Common Diseases and Parasites in Common Carp

Parasites can be difficult for inexperienced anglers to diagnose since they present similar symptoms. Therefore, it's important to observe your carp closely for any signs of illness or distress.

Pay special attention to changes in behavior like swimming erratically or staying away from other fish. If you notice anything out of the ordinary with carp, consult an experienced veterinarian as soon as possible.

With prompt treatment, many potential problems can be avoided. Quick action is essential when dealing with these health issues.

Disease/Parasite Description
Ulcers Red spots or sores on the fish body.
Fungal Infections White patches on glimmering scales.
Mouth Rot Swelling around the eyes and mouth region.
Bacterial Gill Discoloration in the gills.
White Spot Tiny white dots all over the skin.

The Impact of Common Carp as an Invasive Species to Environment

Common carp is not native to many areas around the world, and have been introduced through human activities such as aquaculture.

In some cases, this introduction has had a negative effect on local environments. Carp can outcompete other fish species for food sources, reducing their populations and leading to decreases in biodiversity. This makes him as invasive species.

They also disrupt aquatic ecosystems by stirring up sediment from the bottom of lakes or rivers which may damage plant life that is important for other waterlife species.

In addition to impacting natural habitats, carp can be destructive when used as baitfish. When certain fishing techniques use these fish, they often escape into open waters where they reproduce quickly and cause further damage to their new environment. This can lead to overpopulation in some areas with no natural predators or control measures available.

Carp negatively affect water quality too; they produce large amounts of waste which increases nutrient levels resulting in algae blooms and decreased oxygen levels in the water column.

These conditions create an unfavorable habitat for other aquatic animals while providing ideal living conditions for carp themselves. As a result, carp become more dominant in affected waterways making it harder for other aquatic species to survive there.

What do a Carp Fish Look Like - Common

Other Species of Carp [With Images]

Identifying different carp species (carp fish types) is important for every angler ...

You must always know how to distinguish numerous fish species, not just the carp, to be able to obey the fishing rules and regulations too.

So, let’s see what do carp fish (with images) look like:

Leather Carp

This specie has tiny scales, so small that they may seem absent. Leather carp is smaller in size and large specimens are quite rare.

The name describes its appearance well, as they look like they are made of leather ...

Grass Carp or Amur Carp

This larger species has no whiskers. They can grow quite long. Their dorsal fin is shorter and higher than on common Carp.

And if you want to learn how to catch grass carp check the article here!

What do a Carp Fish Look Like - Grass

Black Carp

They have long, sleek, bodies, and have no barbels. Along the dorsal region the colour varies from dark brown to black. They got their name because of the unusually dark colour.

Mirror Carp

This is also a large species that differs in colour. Their scales have spots and they are not all the same size. Their body shape is rounder than body shape of a common carp.

What do a Carp Fish Look Like - Mirror

Big Head Carp

As the name suggest, this specie has the larger head than the previously mentioned Silver Carp. The eyes are in a similar position too and the head scales are missing. Big Head Carp also has dark blotches across the dorsal part.

Asian Carp (Koi)

Asian carp, also known as koi carp, are a type of ornamental fish that have been bred from the common carp. They are often valued for their striking color patterns and can be found in ponds and water gardens. Koi are also closely related to goldfish and are known for their ability to grow quickly and thrive in a wide range of environments.

What do a Carp Fish Look Like - Koi Asian


Carp is such a recognizable species, that you should have no problem recognizing each and every one of them. And don’t worry, one lake will almost never have more than two or three species of Carp (carp fish types).

Now when you know what do carp look like, you can go out to the nearest water and try out your carp fishing techniques (with our tips)! And when you catch one, you can study those barbels, large scales and dorsal fins that were mentioned.

About Me

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I am Siniša Pintar (friends call me Sina), the guy behind and eBook writer. This site is base camp for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world. I love fishing and want to share all my stories, knowledge and my experience with any and all potential anglers. Read more ...

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