Cyprinus carpio


The common carp is a large, heavy, deep-bodied fish that grows up to a metre in length. Carp are omnivorous, feeding on plants, algae, invertebrates and other fish; one favourite food is freshwater mussels which they will eat whole with their shells still on. They live in weedy ponds, flooded gravel pits and lakes but are not native fish, having been introduced in the Middle Ages for food. A commercially important fish, selective breeding has led to many forms; the leather carp and mirror carp are commonly found in the UK and show different scale patterns.

How to identify

Carp are (sometimes very) large fish, greyish-bronze in colour with a single pair of 'barbels' at the mouth.

Where to find it

Found throughout the lowlands, widespread in England but rarer in Wales and Scotland.

When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

An introduced species, the common carp is economically important and popular with anglers. However, its habit of searching for food amongst the sediment at the bottom of waterbodies, making the water cloudy and uprooting vegetation in the process, has caused problems for native wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts work with researchers, scientists and other conservationists to monitor changes in our native wildlife to determine the effects of environmental change, such as the introduction of new species or climate change. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife happenings, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and be helping local wildlife along the way.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Cyprinus carpio
Freshwater fish
Length: 25-80cm Weight: 2.7-6.8kg Average Lifespan: up to 45 years
Conservation status
Introduced species.