Common Carp

Scientific Name: Cyprinus carpio

Leonard L. Lovshin Copyright Info

Identification: The common carp varies in form and color, but its scales are always large and thick. Wild common carp tend to have elongated bodies that are brownish-green to golden yellow with darker fins. Their mouths are pointed downward with thick lips and they have whisker-like sensory organs near their mouths. German carp, European carp, mirror carp, leather carp, and koi are all specially bred varieties of common carp.

Size: The common carp can generally reaches about 48 inches (122 cm) in length, and its body length is usually about four times greater than its height.

Native Range: This species is native to Eastern Europe and much of Asia.

Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Cyprinus carpio are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Illinois189420183Lake Michigan; Little Calumet-Galien; Pike-Root
Indiana194120003Little Calumet-Galien; St. Joseph; St. Joseph
Michigan1880201746Au Gres-Rifle; Au Sable; Betsie-Platte; Birch-Willow; Black-Macatawa; Boardman-Charlevoix; Brevoort-Millecoquins; Cass; Cheboygan; Clinton; Detroit; Fishdam-Sturgeon; Flint; Great Lakes Region; Huron; Kalamazoo; Kawkawlin-Pine; Keweenaw Peninsula; Lake Erie; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake St. Clair; Lone Lake-Ocqueoc; Lower Grand; Manistee; Maple; Menominee; Muskegon; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pigeon-Wiscoggin; Pine; Raisin; Saginaw; Shiawassee; St. Clair; St. Joseph; St. Joseph; St. Marys; Sturgeon; Tacoosh-Whitefish; Thornapple; Thunder Bay; Tiffin; Tittabawassee; Upper Grand
Minnesota196520152Lake Superior; St. Louis
New York1905201527Black; Buffalo-Eighteenmile; Chateaugay-English; Chaumont-Perch; Eastern Lake Erie; Grass; Headwaters St. Lawrence River; Indian; Irondequoit-Ninemile; Lake Champlain; Lake Erie; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Mettawee River; Niagara; Oak Orchard-Twelvemile; Oneida; Oswegatchie; Oswego; Raisin River-St. Lawrence River; Raquette; Salmon; Salmon-Sandy; Seneca; Southwestern Lake Ontario; St. Regis; Upper Genesee
Ohio1942201813Ashtabula-Chagrin; Auglaize; Blanchard; Cedar-Portage; Chautauqua-Conneaut; Cuyahoga; Lake Erie; Lower Maumee; Sandusky; Southern Lake Erie; St. Joseph; Upper Maumee; Western Lake Erie
Pennsylvania198220142Chautauqua-Conneaut; Lake Erie
Vermont198019842Missiquoi River; Richelieu River
Wisconsin1902201618Beartrap-Nemadji; Black-Presque Isle; Brule; Door-Kewaunee; Duck-Pensaukee; Lake Michigan; Lake Superior; Lake Winnebago; Lower Fox; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Menominee; Milwaukee; Oconto; Peshtigo; Pike-Root; St. Louis; Upper Fox; Wolf

Table last updated 12/6/2019

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for areas where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Means of Introduction: It is unclear when and where common carp was first introduced into the United States. It was imported and raised in many commercial fish facilities during the 1800s. For many years, common carp was stocked and distributed by federal and state agencies throughout the U.S. for use as a food fish.

Records from the early 1880s indicate that common carp stocked in farm ponds frequently escaped into open waters due to dam breaks or floods. More recent introductions were the result of juveniles being used as bait fish. Colorful common carp varieties are kept as pets in garden ponds, and a small number have been introduced to ponds and public water bodies. Once introduced, common carp can spread further through population growth and dispersal.

Status: This fish has been sighted in every state except Alaska. Of the states with sightings, it is believed to be established in all except Maine. It is widely distributed in the Great Lakes basin.

Remarks: Once established, common carp is difficult and expensive to eliminate. Although this species was popular in the early 1870s as a food fish, common carp soon fell into wide disfavor. It is now considered a nuisance fish because of its abundance and detrimental effects on aquatic habitats.

Author: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Contributing Agencies:
NOAA Sea Grant GLRI Logo

Revision Date: 9/25/2012

Citation for this information:
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, 2019, Common Carp: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI,, Revision Date: 9/25/2012, Access Date: 12/9/2019

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.