Common carp

Common carp

Common carp ©John Bridges

Common carp

Scientific name: Cyprinus carpio
The common carp is a very large fish that is popular with anglers due to its size and fighting spirit. It frequents ponds, gravel pits and lakes, but is not native to the UK, being introduced in the Middle Ages.

Species information


Length: 25-80cm
Weight: up to 30kg
Average Lifespan: 25-50 years

Conservation status

Introduced species. The wild common carp is Listed as Vulnerable on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

When to see

January to December


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 to the UK, 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

The common carp is a large fish, with a rounded body. It is greyish-bronze in colour and has a single pair of 'barbels' (sensory, whisker-like organs) at its mouth.


Widespread in lowland England, but rarer in Wales and Scotland.

Did you know?

The common carp is eaten as part of Christmas Dinner in parts of Europe, including the Czech Republic, Germany and Austria.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work with researchers, scientists and other conservationists to monitor changes in our wildlife to determine the effects of environmental change, such as the introduction of a new species or climate change. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.