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Carp Cyprinus carpio ; Linnaeus, 1758. Family: Cyprinidae
Photo by S. Zienert


The carp (Cyprinus carpio) is a large thickset fish, with rubbery lips and a short and a long pair of barbels. The carp is native to Asia, and is believed to have been first domesticated in China as a food fish about 6,000 years ago. It was probably introduced to Great Britain in the 14th or 15th centuries. Selective breeding has given rise to various forms, including the Common carp with an even spread of large scales, the Mirror carp with some large plate like scales, the scaleless Leather carp, and the ornamental Koi carp.

Life History

The carp spawns in shallow areas in early summer. The sticky eggs are deposited on submerged vegetation or other surfaces. It is very long-lived (up to over 50 years old) and can potentially reach a very large size (over 20 kg). However the presence of large carp in a water is often the result of stocking with large specimens.

Diet and Behaviour

Carp feed mainly on plant material and larger invertebrates. They commonly root about in muddy bottoms, which may make ponds turbid. It is often found in small shoals.

Distribution in Scotland

Carp has been stocked in various ponds and other still waters in Scotland, mainly in the central and southern parts of the country. It is tolerant of low oxygen levels and a wide range of temperature. However, a water temperature requirement of at least 18°C for successful spawning means that in most Scottish waters, the carp does not successfully spawn and only stocked fish are present.

Carp as a Sport Fish

The carp has a growing following in Scotland among anglers who specialise in its capture. Although an excellent food fish, carp are invariably returned live to the water in Scotland and other parts of the UK.