NAS - Nonindigenous Aquatic Species

Cyprinus carpio
(Common Carp)
Fishes
Exotic
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Cyprinus carpio Linnaeus, 1758

Common name: Common Carp

Synonyms and Other Names: German carp, European carp, mirror carp, leather carp, koi

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Wheeler (1978); Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994); Balon (1995). In Eurasia there are two poorly defined subspecies C. c. carpio and C. c. haematopterus; unfortunately, feral common carp, descendants of earlier escapees or introductions, have greatly confused the picture (Balon 1995). Several genetic strains—some bred in aquaculture or used as ornamentals (e.g., leather carp, mirror carp, Israeli carp, koi)—are recognized by some as separate varieties (Robison and Buchanan 1988; Balon 1995).

Size: 122 cm

Native Range: Eurasia (Page and Burr 1991; Balon 1995). Balon (1995) found that Cyprinus carpio evolved in the Caspian Sea, then migrated naturally to the Black and Aral Seas, east to eastern mainland Asia and west as far as the Danube River.

US auto-generated map Legend USGS Logo
Alaska auto-generated map
Alaska
Hawaii auto-generated map
Hawaii
Caribbean auto-generated map
Puerto Rico &
Virgin Islands
Guam auto-generated map
Guam Saipan
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Records of introductions are available for the following states: Alabama (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886, 1893; Spencer et al. 1964; Smith-Vaniz 1968; Dahlberg and Scott 1971a; Swift et al. 1977; Mettee et al. 1987, 1996; Boschung 1992; Rasmussen 1998); Arizona (Rule 1885; Taggart 1885; Evermann and Rutter 1895; Gilbert and Scofield 1898; Miller and Lowe 1967; Minckley 1973; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Tilmant 1999; USFWS 2005; Illinois Natural History Survey Fish Collections); Arkansas (Baird 1887; McDonald 1887, 1893; Courtenay 1970; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Robison and Buchanan 1988; Rasmussen 1998; USFWS 2005; Mississippi Museum of Natural Science 2004; Illinois Natural History Survey Fish Collections); California (Smiley 1886; Smith 1896; Shebley 1917; Lampman 1946; La Rivers 1962; Moyle et al. 1974; Moyle 1976; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Moyle and Daniels 1982; Smith 1982; Tilmant 1999; Sommer et al. 2001; Moyle 2002; USFWS 2005; Matern 2002; Illinois Natural History Survey Fish Collections); Colorado (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886; Ellis 1974; Wiltzius 1981; Woodling 1985; Zuckerman and Behnke 1986; Rasmussen 1998; Tilmant 1999; Illinois Natural History Survey 2004); Connecticut (Smiley 1886; Ravenel 1896; Webster 1941; Lee et al. 1980 et seq; Whitworth 1996); Delaware (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886; Lee et al. 1976; Raasch and Altemus 1991; USFWS 2005); District of Columbia (Tilmant 1999); Florida (Baird 1887; McDonald 1886; Anonymous 1892; Courtenay et al. 1974; Swift et al. 1977; Shafland 1996; Anonymous 2001; Nico 2005); Georgia (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886, 1893; Anonymous 1892; Worth 1895; Ravenel 1896, 1898; Hildebrand 1923; Dahlberg and Scott 1971a, 1971b; Burkhead et al. 1997; Walters 1997); Hawaii (Cobb 1902; Jordan and Evermann 1902, 1905; Brock 1960; Maciolek 1984; Devick 1991; Tilmant 1999; Mundy 2005); Idaho (Smith 1896; Lampman 1946; Linder 1963; Simpson and Wallace 1978; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Idaho Fish and Game 1990; Sigler and Sigler 1996; USFWS 2005; Amercian Fisheries Society 2001); Illinois (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886; Hay 1894; Sweeney 1902; Smith 1979; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Emery 1985; Laird and Page 1996; Rasmussen 1998; Illinois Natural History Survey 2004; USFWS 2005); Indiana (Smiley 1886; Anonymous 1892; Hay 1894; Sweeney 1902; Blatchley 1938; Gerking 1945; Nelson and Gerking 1968; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Emery 1985; Burr and Page 1986; Tilmant 1999; USFWS 2005); Iowa (Cleary 1956; Bailey and Allum 1962; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Burr and Page 1986; Harlan et al. 1987; Young et al. 1997; USFWS 2005; Rasmussen, unpublished data); Kansas (Smiley 1886; Anonymous 1892; Ravenel 1896; Dyche 1914; Breukelman 1946; Call 1961; Cross 1967; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Cross and Collins 1995; Rasmussen 1998; Tilmant 1999); Kentucky (McDonald 1893; Worth 1895; Ravenel 1896; Clay 1975; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Burr and Page 1986; Burr and Warren 1986; Powers and Ceas 2000); Louisiana (Baird 1887; McDonald 1886; Anonymous 1892; Douglas and Davis 1967; Douglas 1974; Lee et al. 1980 et seq; Piler, personal communication.); Maine (Everhart 1976); Maryland (Ferguson 1876; Smiley 1886; McDonald 1886, 1893; Anonymous 1892; Ravenel 1898; Truitt et al. 1929; Schwartz 1963; Lee et al. 1976, 1980 et seq.; Tilmant 1999, Starnes et al. 2011); Massachusetts (McDonald 1886; Baird 1887; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Hartel 1992; Hartel et al. 1996; Bozeman and Charp 2001; USFWS 2005); Michigan (Smiley 1886; McDonald 1893; Hubbs and Cooper 1936; Hubbs and Lagler 1958; Emery 1985; Tilmant 1999; Cudmore-Vokey and Crossman 2000; University of Michigan Museum of Zoology 2004); Minnesota (Baird 1887; McDonald 1886, 1893; Moore and Bream 1965; Eddy and Underhill 1974; Phillips et al. 1982; Emery 1985; Burr and Page 1986; Rasmussen 1998; Tilmant 1999; Myers 2004; Minnesota Sea Grant 2004; USFWS 2005); Mississippi (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886, 1893; Cook 1959; Ross and Brenneman 1991; Schramm and Basler 2004; Mississippi Museum of Natural Science 2004); Missouri (Smiley 1886; McDonald 1893; Ravenel 1896, 1898; Pflieger 1971, 1975, 1997; Burr and Page 1986; Young et al. 1997; Rasmussen 1998; USFWS 2005; Mississippi Museum of Natural Science 2004); Montana (Brown 1971; Courtenay 1985; Holton 1990; Young  et al. 1997; Tilmant 1999; USFWS 2005); Nebraska (Bailey and Allum 1962; Morris et al. 1974; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2001; Nebraska Parks and Wildlife Commission, personal communication); Nevada (Smith 1896; Miller and Alcorn 1946; Miller 1952; Lampman 1946; La Rivers 1962; Bradley and Deacon 1967; Deacon and Williams 1984; Scoppettone et al. 1998; Tilmant 1999; Insider Viewpoint 2001; USFWS 2005; Vinyard 2001); New Hampshire (Scarola 1973); New Jersey (Smiley 1886; Nelson 1890; Ravenel 1898; Fowler 1906, 1952; Stiles 1978; USFWS 2005); New Mexico (McDonald 1886; Baird 1887; Koster 1957; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Sublette et al. 1990; Platania 1991; New Mexico Game and Fish 2000); New York (Smiley 1886; McDonald 1893; Bean 1903; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Werner 1980; Emery 1985; Smith 1985); North Carolina (Anonymous 1892; Worth 1895; Ravenel 1896; Cahoon 1953; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Menhinick 1991; USFWS 2005); North Dakota (Owen et al. 1981; Young et al. 1997; Power and Ryckman 1998; USFWS 2005); Ohio (Jordan 1882; Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886, 1893; Anonymous 1892; Trautman 1981; Emery 1985; Burr and Page 1986; Tilmant 1999; USFWS 2005); Oklahoma (McDonald 1893; Bean 1896; Hall 1956; Miller and Robison 1973; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Rasmussen 1998); Oregon (Smith 1896; Lampman 1946; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Bond 1994; Logan et al. 1996; USFWS 2005); Pennsylvania (Smiley 1886; McDonald 1893; Hendricks et al. 1979; Cooper 1983; Pearson and Krumholz 1984; Tilmant 1999; Anonymous 2000; USFWS 2005); Rhode Island (Lapin, personal communication; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); South Carolina (Baird 1887; McDonald 1886, 1893; Ravenel 1898; Hildebrand 1923; Dahlberg and Scott 1971a, 1971b; Loyacano 1975; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Fretwell 2004); South Dakota (Anonymous 1892; Worth 1895; Cleary 1956; Shields 1958a, 1958b; Moyle and Clothier 1959; Underhill 1959; Bailey and Allum 1962; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Young et al. 1997; USFWS 2005); Tennessee (McDonald 1886; Baird 1887; Anonymous 1892; Bean 1896; Ravenel 1896; Kuhne 1939; Ryon and Loar 1988; Etnier and Starnes 1993; Tilmant 1999; USFWS; Mississippi Museum of Natural Science 2004); Texas (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887; McDonald 1886, 1893; Bean 1896; Baughman 1950; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Conner and Suttkus 1986; Howells 1992; Texas System of Natural Laboratories, Inc. and USGS 1994; Texas System of Natural Laboratories, Inc 1996; Red River Authority of Texas 2001; Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 1993, 1994, 2001; USFWS 2005; Anonymous 1994); Utah (Tanner 1936; Sigler and Miller 1963; Vanicek et al. 1970; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Sigler and Sigler 1996; Tilmant 1999); Vermont (Countryman 1975; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); Virginia (Smiley 1886; Baird 1887, 1889; McDonald 1886, 1893; Anonymous 1892; Worth 1895; Bean 1896; Ravenel 1896, 1898; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994; Tilmant 1999); Washington (Smith 1896; Chapman 1942; Lampman 1946; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Beecher and Fernau 1982; Wydoski and Whitney 2003; USFWS 2005; Four Seasons Campground and Resort 2003); West Virginia (Clay 1962; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Stauffer et al. 1995; USFWS 2005); Wisconsin (Johnson and Becker 1980; Becker 1983; Emery 1985; Burr and Page 1986; Fago 1992; Tilmant 1999; Jansen 2003; USFWS 2005); and Wyoming (Baxter and Simon 1970; Stone 1995).

Common carp has also been collected the Cidra, Guajataca, and Loiza reservoirs and the Lajas Irrigation Canal in Puerto Rico (Felix Grana, personal communication).

Ecology: The species generally inhabits lakes, ponds, and the lower sections of rivers (usually with moderately flowing or standing water), but is also known from brackish-water estuaries, backwaters, and bays (Barus et al. 2001). In its native range, the species occurs in coastal areas of the Caspian and Aral Seas (Berg 1964; Barus et al., 2001) as well as the estuaries of large Ukrainian and Russian rivers. Crivelli (1981) reported that the common carp occurred in brackish-water marshes with salinities up to 14 ppt in southern France. In North America, the common carp inhabits brackish and saline coastal waters of several states bordering the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Gulf of Mexico (Schwartz 1964; Moyle 2002) as well as the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of Canada (McCrimmon 1968). It has been captured in U.S. waters with salinities as high as 17.6 ppt (Schwartz 1964). In the U.S., the common carp is more abundant in manmade impoundments, lakes, and turbid sluggish streams receiving sewage or agricultural runoff, and less abundant in clear waters or streams with a high gradient (Pflieger 1975; Trautman 1981; Ross 2001; Boschung and Mayden 2004). Pflieger (1975) noted that the common carp tends to concentrate in large numbers where cannery or slaughter-house wastes are emptied into streams.

Larval common carp feeds primarily on zooplankton. In its native range, juveniles and adults feed on benthic organisms (e.g., chironomids, gastropods and other larval insects), vegetation, detritus and plankton (e.g., cladocerans, copepods, amphipods, mysids). Feeding habits are similar in the U.S., where the diet is composed of organic detritus (primarily of plant origin), chironomids, small crustaceans, and gastropods (Summerfelt et al. 1971; Eder and Carlson 1977; Panek 1987). The common carp is very active when feeding and its movements often disturb sediments and increase turbidity, causing serious problems in some regions especially where the species is abundant. The species also retards the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation by feeding on and uprooting plants (King and Hunt 1967). Silt resuspension and uprooting of aquatic plants caused by feeding activities can disturb spawning and nursery areas of native fishes (Ross 2001) as well as disrupt feeding of sight-oriented predators, such as bass and sunfish (Panek 1987).

Means of Introduction: There is some question as to when and where common carp was first introduced into the United States. DeKay (1842) reported that the species was first brought into the United States from France by Henry Robinson of Orange County, New York in 1831 and 1832. In a letter to DeKay, Robinson detailed that he kept the fish in ponds and for several years released one to two dozen carp during the spring in the Hudson River near his residence, thereby creating a commercial fishery for the species. S. F. Baird of the U.S. Fish Commission examined fish taken from the Hudson River, as well as area fish then being sold on the New York markets, and reported that they were goldfish or goldfish hybrids and not true common carp (Redding 1884; Cole 1905). Whitworth (1996) cited early literature indicating common carp had been introduced into Connecticut as early as the 1840s; however, we question the positive identity of the species. Smith (1896) reported that common carp first appeared in the United States in 1872 when J. A. Poppe of Sonoma, California, imported five specimens from Germany and propagated them in private ponds for commercial purposes, mainly distributing them to applicants as a food fish (Smith 1896; Lampman 1946). In 1877, the U.S. Fish Commission imported common carp from Germany and for the next two decades the agency began stocking and distributing the species as food fish throughout much of the United States and its territories (Smiley 1886; Smith 1896; Cole 1905). State fish commissions also were commonly involved in distributing the species (e.g., Johnson and Becker 1980). Records from the early 1880s indicate that common carp stocked in farm ponds frequently escaped into open waters as a result of dam breaks or flood events (Smiley 1886). By 1885, the U.S. Fish Commission was actively stocking lakes and rivers throughout the country, often the fish were released from railroad tank cars at bridge crossing directly into streams (e.g., McDonald 1886). As a result of subsequent population growth and dispersal, common carp spread even further. More recently introductions of common carp have resulted because of the use of juvenile carp as bait fish (e.g., Swift et al. 1977). Various unusual genetic strains of common carp have been introduced into open waters the United States. In addition to the normal scaled carp, the U.S. Fish Commission distributed both mirror carp and leather carp varieties in the late 1800s (Smiley 1886; Cole 1905). Colorful varieties of common carp (i.e., nishikigoi or koi) are kept as pets in garden ponds and some have been introduced to ponds and public water bodies (Balon 1995). However, only a small percentage of common carp records in U.S. open waters are based on koi. Another cultured variety occasionally found in open waters is the Israeli carp (Robison and Buchanan 1988). Their presence in South Florida is believed to be the result of released bait with this species as a contaminant.

Status: Recorded from all states except Alaska. In their summary table, Bailey and Smith (1981) indicated that Cyprinus carpio is widely distributed in the Great Lakes basin.

Carp is only established in the Florida panhandle.  It does not appear to be established in South Florida.

Impact of Introduction: The common carp is regarded as a pest fish because of its widespread abundance and because of its tendency to destroy vegetation and increase water turbidity by dislodging plants and rooting around in the substrate, causing a deterioration of habitat for species requiring vegetation and clean water (Cole 1905; Cahoon 1953; Bellrichard 1996; Laird and Page 1996). Available literature indicates common carp may destroy aquatic macrophytes directly by uprooting or consuming the plants, or indirectly by increasing turbidity and thereby reducing light for photosynthesis. Bellrichard (1996) found that alterations in macrophyte biomass are due more to direct effects of common carp. In their review of the literature, Richardson et al. (1995) concluded that common carp has had noted adverse effects on biological systems including destruction of vegetated breeding habitats used by both fish and birds, and an increase in turbidity. It stirs up the bottom during feeding, resulting in increased siltation and turbidity (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.). This feeding behavior also destroys rooted aquatic plants that provide habitat for native fish species and food for waterfowl (Dentler 1993). Bonneau and Scarnecchia (2015) found that carp eradication and exclusion from reservoir tributaries allowed for increased benthic invertebrate community diversity and abundance, and the return of submerged aquatic vegetation.

There is also evidence that common carp prey on the eggs of other fish species (Moyle 1976; Taylor et al. 1984; Miller and Beckman 1996). For this reason, it may be responsible for the decline of the razorback sucker Xyrauchen texanus in the Colorado River basin (Taylor et al. 1984). In another case, Miller and Beckman (1996) documented white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus eggs in the stomachs of common carp in the Columbia River. In California, carp have been implicated in the decrease in water clarity in Clear Lake, Lake County, and in the gradual disappearance of native fishes (Moyle 1976). McCarraher and Gregory (1970) wrote that in 1894 there was documentation that Sacramento perch Archoplites interruptus were becoming more scarce because carp was destroying their spawning grounds. Laird and Page (1996) stated that common carp may compete with ecologically similar species such as carpsuckers and buffalos. Because this species has been present in many areas since the first surveys, its impacts on many of the native fishes are difficult to determine. Once established in a water body, common carp is difficult and expensive to eliminate (e.g., Cahoon 1953).

Remarks: Balon (1995) reviewed the origin and history of domestication of common carp in Europe and elsewhere. Several agents of the U.S. Fish Commission documented the early years of common carp propagation and stocking in the United States (e.g., Smiley 1886; Smith 1896; Cole 1905). Although this species was popular in the early 1870s as a food fish, common carp fell into wide disfavor soon after and is now considered a nuisance fish because of its abundance and detrimental effects on aquatic habitats. Trautman (1981) found common carp most abundant in streams enriched with sewage or with substantial runoff from agricultural land, but he reported it to be rare or absent in clear, cold waters, and streams of high gradient. Pflieger (1997) reported that the total weight and value of common carp taken by commercial fishermen in Missouri exceeded that of any other fish. Hartel et al. (1996) noted that more than 20,000 common carp were killed by a bacterial disease over a short period of time in the Merrimack River in the late 1970s. Because common carp have a higher salinity tolerance than most freshwater fishes, Swift et al. (1977) hypothesized that it may be spreading from one coastal stream to another through fresh or nearly fresh coastal waters in the Gulf area during periods of heavy rainfall and run-off, periods when salinities are greatly reduced.

DeVaney et al. (2009) performed ecological niche modeling to examine the invasion potential for common carp and three other invasive cyprinids (grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella, black carp Mylopharyngodon piceus, and tench Tinca tinca). The majority of the areas where common carp have been collected, stocked, or have become established had a high predicted ecological suitability for this species.

Voucher specimens: Alabama (UMMZ 103508, 115003, TU 48856, 51966, 130781), Arizona (TU 74792, 78489, 79742), Arkansas (TU 2194, 2204, 44759), Colorado (TU 47337), Florida (TU 22858, 22879, 23654, 34833), Georgia (UGAMNH), Illinois (TU 9944, 125802, 125825), Indiana (TU 19372, 101143), Kansas (TU 42664, 42681), Kentucky (TU 66289), Louisiana (TU 6281, 9202, 15805, 16781), Michigan (TU 15007), Mississippi (TU 32974, 57121, 69483, 85130), Missouri (TU 53843, 54574, 74298), Nevada (TU 47257, 47266), New Jersey (TU 36738), New Mexico (TCWC 0059.01, TU 35686, 38871, 42637, 42656), New York (TCWC 0077.01, TU 36674), North Carolina (TU 29401), North Dakota (UMMZ 94756, 94757), Ohio (TU 3299), Oklahoma (TU 12021, 13790, 141667, 141686), Oregon (TU 121816), South Carolina (TU 145144), South Dakota (TU 58222), Tennessee (TU 33470), Texas (TCWC 1074.01, 07780.03, TU 15777, 21969, 21995, 35583, 35634), Utah (TU 43659, 99064, 99122, 99150), Wisconsin (TU 15748, 173824), many others.

References: (click for full references)

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FishBase Fact Sheet

Author: Nico, L., E. Maynard, P.J. Schofield, M. Cannister, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, and M. Neilson

Revision Date: 7/15/2015

Citation Information:
Nico, L., E. Maynard, P.J. Schofield, M. Cannister, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, and M. Neilson. 2016. Cyprinus carpio. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=4 Revision Date: 7/15/2015


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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2016]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/29/2016].

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