The common carp is a medium-sized fish that is native to the Danube River in Europe. These animals are commercially important and have therefore been selectively bred. There are two main differences between domesticated carp and wild carp. First of all domestic carp grow much faster than their wild counterparts. Secondly, wild carp have longer bodies than the ones that are domesticated. These fish are bronze or gray in color depending on lighting and on the individual. As you can see in the picture, each of the fishes has a fleshy “mustache” on its lip. They actually have one on each side, but you can’t see the ones on the opposite side of the fish. These projections are called barbels. There are three main “breeds” of the common carp species, and their differences are based on their scales. The king carp is the usual form, the leather carp has no scales, and the mirror carp has one row of large scales.
Range and habitat
Although the common carp is native to the Danube River, it currently inhabits all continents except Antarctica! This animal is native to Europe, but sightings have been reported all over North America, in eastern Asia and Australia and in southern Africa and South America. They are found in all fifty U.S. states except Alaska and Hawaii!
This fish is able to tolerate a wide range of conditions. They survive best, however, in large bodies of fresh water that is still or slow-moving. Some of the severe conditions they can tolerate include little oxygen, large temperature changes, and even temporary freezing.
The common carp can get pretty large for a fresh-water fish, reaching up to four feet (1.2 m) in length. These fish also weigh a lot and can be up to eighty-two pounds (37 kg)! Their average weight is a lot less at just 40 pounds (18 kg), and their average length is around two feet (60 cm).
Common carp are omnivores meaning they eat plants and animals. Most of their diet comes from organisms living at the bottom of the body of water they inhabit. Carp babies eat algae and zooplankton. As the individuals get older, they eat larger invertebrates such as snails and crustaceans. The adults are known to eat a wide variety of foods including insects, crustaceans, worms, fish eggs, carrion, roots, and seeds. They feed by sucking up the mud at the bottom of the water and then spitting out all that is not edible while keeping and then swallowing food.
Status and threats
Domestic carp are very common and are not threatened. Wild carp, however, are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red list. Although there is nothing that really threatens the common carp enough to worry about, there are some small threats to these animals. First of all, common carp are common animals to fish for, but this is not a real threat in places that the common carp is an invasive species. Young common carp have some natural predators including pike, large-mouth bass, and herons. Bacteria and fungi can also cause problems for their eggs. The only predator of the adults is humans.
Common carp are considered pests in most of the areas in which they have been introduced. They threaten native algae, plant, and animal species by eating them, and the mud they stir up while eating makes the water not as habitable for native species. This leads to a decrease in waterfowl and commercially caught fish. Also efforts to erradicate these animals are very costly.
Mating and eggs
In temperate waters, spawning takes place during the summer. Each female is chased by several males in a race to fertilize the eggs as the female releases them. The yellow-colored eggs are sticky and attach on to plants. The eggs are also very tiny, being only 0.4 inches (1 cm) across! Neither of the parents guard the eggs, and this makes them susceptible to predators. In order for the population to survive egg predation, each female can lay over one million eggs each breeding season! These eggs can take from three to sixteen days to hatch, but four days is the normal length.
When they hatch, the young are about 0.4 inches (1 cm) long, or about the same size as their eggs are wide. Their first meals consist mainly of plankton. These animals have been reported living up to 39 years.
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- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
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