Carp, Cyprinus carpio Click to enlarge image
A Carp in a lake near Mt Fuji, Honshu, Japan, September 2009. Image: Michael Miller
© Michael Miller

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    carpio
    Genus
    Cyprinus
    Family
    Cyprinidae
    Order
    Cypriniformes
    Class
    Actinopterygii
    Subphylum
    Vertebrata
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    Carp are reported to grow to over one metre in length, and 60 kg in weight. In Australia, this species reaches 10 kg, but 4-5 kg is more usual.

The European Carp is a native of Asia, but extensive introductions have helped to make it the world's most widely distributed freshwater fish. Three strains of European Carp have been introduced to Australia, an ornamental strain near Sydney (1850-60), a Singaporean strain in the Murrumbidgee (1876), and a hybrid "Boolara" strain in Victoria (1961). The latter two strains have interbred and this species is now a major pest in many inland streams in New South Wales.



Identification

The European Carp can be recognised by its small eyes, thick lips with two barbels at each corner of the mouth, large scales and strongly serrated spines in the dorsal and anal fins. The colour is variable, but often olive green to silvery grey dorsally, fading to silvery yellow on the belly. Small European Carp could be confused with Goldfish, Carassius auratus. The latter however has no barbels on the corners of the mouth.

Distribution

The European Carp is a native of Asia, but extensive introductions have helped to make it the world's most widely distributed freshwater fish.

In Australia, Carp occur in the Murray-Darling River system of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. The species also occurs in many freshwater streams in coastal New South Wales and Victoria, as well as the brackish lower reaches of some streams and coastal lakes.

The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Click on the map for detailed information.



Pharangeal teeth of a carp
Pharyngeal teeth of a European Carp. The pharyngeal teeth of a European Carp. The bone was found on the bank of the Barwon River near Brewarrina, New South Wales, September 2012. Image: Michael Lindsay
© Michael Lindsay

Feeding and diet

They are omnivorous feeders, sucking and straining mud from the bottom and sucking insects and plants from the surface. They lack oral teeth, so all the masticating is done by the pharyngeal teeth in the throat. The gut is long (see image). Juvenile European Carp feed mainly on microscopic algae, rotifers and crustaceans.

Economic impacts

Three strains of European Carp have been introduced to Australia, an ornamental strain near Sydney (1850-60), a Singaporean strain in the Murrumbidgee (1876), and a hybrid "Boolara" strain in Victoria (1961). The latter two strains have interbred and this species is now a major pest in many inland streams in New South Wales.

References

  1. Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & M. Allen. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Western Australian Museum. Pp. 394.
  2. Brumley, A.R. in McDowell, R.M. (Ed). 1996. Freshwater Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Reed Books. Pp. 247.
  3. Koehn, J.D. 2004. Carp (Cyprinus carpio) as a powerful invader in Australian waterways. Freshwater Biology. 49: 882-894.
  4. Merrick, J.R. & G.E. Schmida. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes. Biology and Management. John R. Merrick. Pp. 409.
  5. Schiller, C. 1999. Carping on about research. Fisheries NSW magazine. Winter 1999. EPS Press. Pp. 44.