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Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Common Carp

Photo credit: Duane Raver, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,

(Cyprinus carpio)

Report this Species!

If you believe you have found this species anywhere in Pennsylvania, please report your findings to iMapInvasives by submitting an observation record.

Species at a Glance

The common carp is a voracious, omnivorous fish and one of the largest members of the minnow family Cyprinidae. It is long-lived with a lifespan of up to 50 years. Varieties of common carp include mirror carp, leather carp, and koi, which is popular in small ponds and water gardens.


The body is heavy and stout, bronze, brassy, or yellow in color, and has large scales usually outlined in black. Spine-like rays are present at the front of the dorsal and anal fins. The head is short with a rounded snout, a toothless sucker-like mouth, and two pairs of barbels on each side of the upper jaw. Its average length is 25-55 cm (10-22 in) and it typically weighs 0.5-4.5 kg (1-10 lbs), although some can reach up to 122 cm (48 in) long and weigh up to 36 kg (80 lbs).

Similar Species

The common carp resembles the smallmouth buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus), bigmouth buffalo (I. cyprinellus), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), and other species of carp. The best way to identify the common carp is by the two barbels on each side of the mouth and the long dorsal fin.


This species generally inhabits lakes, ponds, and the lower sections of rivers, usually with moderately flowing or standing water. It is also found in brackish-water estuaries, backwaters, bays, and in shallow water during spring spawning.


Once introduced, the common carp can migrate through natural waterway connections to other bodies of water. It can also be spread by anglers using juvenile carp as bait.


Native to Europe and Asia, the common carp was intentionally introduced into the United States in the 1880s as a food and game fish. It is now prevalent throughout the entire United States and is found in every state in the Mid-Atlantic.


Note: Distribution data for this species may have changed since the publication of the Mid-Atlantic Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (2016), the source of information for this description.

Environmental Impacts

The common carp’s foraging behavior causes it to dislodge and destroy vegetation, increase water turbidity, impact native species’ spawning sites, and decrease water quality. It also releases phosphorus that increases algae abundance and production.


Information for this species profile comes from the Mid-Atlantic Field Guide to Aquatic Invasive Species (2016).

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