13 Types of Carp: A Comprehensive Guide to Carp Species



Types of Carp Species

Carp fishing is a popular sport with many different types of carp species. One of the most popular fish in the carp family is the conventional carp (Cyprinus Carpio), also known as the European or common carp. Other favourites are mirror carp and leather carp. Grass carp, crucian carp, ghost carp, and F1 carp. 

However, there are many lesser-known carp species worth exploring. The Asian carp (Carassius auratus) is often an invasive species in North America due to its destructive impact on many waterways across the ecosystem. While Koi carp, on the other hand, differs from Asian carp in characteristics and cultural significance. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will look at the family of carp, their distinctive features, size, habitat and behaviour. So without further ado, let’s dive in. 

All the Main Types of Carp Species

In this section, I will provide a general overview of the different species of carp commonly fished by specimen carp anglers. I will include the characteristics, habitat, size, and significance of each fish. I will also identify the most common carp caught across the globe.

The Common Carp: Cyprinus Carpio

The common carp (Cyprinus Carpio) is a freshwater fish species belonging to the Cyprinidae family. Found in various habitats, such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. The common carp is widely distributed worldwide due to its adaptability. 

Big Common Carp Caught At Night

Common carp typically range from 40 to 80 cm in length. With an average weight of 15 to 30 lbs. However, some can reach up to 100 lbs, like this fish caught here. Moreover, the body shape of the common carp varies depending on their habitat, with pond-dwelling carp appearing rounder and those in flowing waters having a more streamlined form. 

In addition to being a popular target for carp anglers due to their large size and strong fighting ability, the common carp plays a vital role in aquatic ecosystems. They help control the growth of aquatic vegetation, contributing to the overall balance of these environments.

About the Mirror Carp: Distinctive Features

The mirror carp is a subspecies of the common carp. This fish is known for its distinctive scales that resemble mirrors. Mirror carp can grow up to 40 inches in length and weigh up to 100 pounds, making this species a popular target for big carp anglers.

Huge Mirror Carp At Furzebray Island Lake

One of the most noticeable features of the mirror carp is its irregular scales. Unlike other carp species, mirror carp lack barbels but have a dorsal fin with a long dorsal line and a lateral line that runs down the side of their bodies. This makes them easy to identify.

Anglers often target mirror carp due to their bigger size and weight. The world record stands at 105lb. Which I am sure would have put up an incredible fight, and this is what makes the mirror carp fish an exciting challenge for specimen anglers. In addition to being caught for sport, mirror carp are often consumed in some cultures.

Current World Record Mirror: 112lb, 14oz (see it here)

The Leather Carp: Traits and Behaviour

The leather carp is an intriguing fish species with a unique genetic makeup. It is a crossbreed of common carp and mirror carp, which gives it distinct physical traits and behaviour features. One of the most notable features of leather carp is their skin pattern, which resembles leather, hence the name.

Apart from its skin pattern, the leather carp has a distinct body shape with a broad head and thick tail. These physical attributes make it easy to identify this fish when caught. Moreover, leather carp have the potential to reach lengths of over 1 meter (3 feet) and weigh more than 38 kilograms (85 pounds), making them one of the largest species of carp.

Leather Carp
Image Credit: Carp Feed

Leather carp are omnivorous and opportunistic feeders. Feeding on a variety of food sources, including insects, crustaceans, and plants. They are known to stir up the bottom sediments with their feeding activity.

The Grass Carp: Appearance and Eco Role

Grass carp, also known as Ctenopharyngodon Idella in the scientific world, are highly valued for their ability to control vegetation. Grass carp are primarily herbivorous, feeding mainly on vegetation. They have specialized teeth adapted for grazing, allowing them to consume and control the growth of the plants in the water.

Grass Carp

The grass carps diet consists of grasses, sedges, and other plant materials. And they play an important role in maintaining healthy waters by controlling plant growth. Grass carp are popular among farmers who use them to manage weeds in their ponds and lakes.

Moreover, grass carp have a unique appearance that sets them apart from other carp species of fish in the carp family. With large scales (like the common carp) and elongated bodies. They also have a flattened head. One of the most notable features is their average size of around 35lb. They can also grow up to 4 feet in length and some can weigh over 85 pounds.

The Crucian Carp: Description, Diet, and Size

Crucian carp, scientifically known as the (Carassius Carassius), is a freshwater fish belonging to the common carp family. The Crucian carp are is easily identifiable by their deep body, rounded fins, and golden-brown scales. Crucian carp are smaller. But they can grow up to 12 inches in length and weigh around 3 to 7 pounds.

crucian carp

One of the most interesting things about crucian carp is its diet. They feed on insects such as beetles, and flies also form a significant part of their diet during the summer months. During winter months, crucian carp feed on plant material such as algae and aquatic vegetation.

Crucian carp’s feeding habits make them an important part of the waters in which they live. They help control insect populations while contributing to nutrient cycling in aquatic environments. In terms of size, crucian carp can vary greatly depending on their environment. Fish living in small ponds or lakes tend to be smaller than those found in larger waters.

Silver Carp: Identification, Impact on Native Fish

Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), also known as Asian carp, are native to China but were introduced to the United States in the 1970s. These fish are known for their jumping ability and can leap 10 feet out of the water, which can hamper boaters. However, their impact on native fish goes beyond being a nuisance on the water.

Silver carp compete with native fish for food and habitat, which can have a negative impact on the ecosystem. In fact, studies have shown that silver carp can consume up to 20% of their body weight in plankton per day, leaving less food available for other species of fish. 

This competition for resources can lead to decreased populations of other fish and even alter the overall balance of ecosystems. With that said Silver carp can grow to significant lengths. On average, they typically reach 60 to 100 centimetres (2 to 3.3 feet) in size. 

In terms of weight, silver carp can also become quite substantial. Typically, adult silver carp weigh between 10 to 30 kilograms (22 to 80 pounds). However, there have been reports of some large silver carp weighing over 40 kilograms (88 pounds).

Big Head carp

The Bighead Carp: Biology and Distribution

Bighead carp, also known as (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), is a freshwater fish native to China. However, these carp has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America. Bighead carp can grow up to 60 inches in length and weigh up to 118 pounds, like the one caught at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

Moreover, the bighead carp is known to consume large amounts of plankton, which can lead to competition with native fish species. This means that the introduction of bighead carp in non-native waters can have negative impacts on waters.

In North America, bighead carp were initially introduced for aquaculture purposes. But escaped into the wild and established populations in many waterways, such as the Mississippi River Basin. Their presence has led to concerns about potential ecological damage.

Despite their negative reputation, bighead carp have some benefits too. For example, they are considered a delicacy in some cultures and provide an important food source.

The Black Carp: Conservation Status

Black carp, also freshwater fish native to Asia, has also become a significant threat to North American aquatic ecosystems. These dark brown or black-coloured fish can grow over 1.5 meters in length and have a voracious appetite for molluscs. Which is why these fish pose a significant risk to other fish populations.

Black Carp

The black carp’s feeding behaviour has led to the decline of several native species in North America, including snails and mussels. As a result, the conservation status of black carp is listed as vulnerable due to overfishing and habitat loss. 

Efforts are being made to control the spread of black carp and protect other fish populations. One approach is through the use of barriers that prevent the black carp from entering new areas. Or introducing natural predators into waters where black carp are present. Such as the introduction of alligator gar in some parts of the United States. 

Despite these efforts, much work has to be done to preserve aquatic biodiversity in North America. The continued spread of invasive species like black carp threatens not only individual species. But entire ecosystems as well.

Koi Carp: History, Varieties, and Cultural Significance

Koi carp are one of the most popular ornamental fish in the world. These beautiful fish have a rich history, cultural significance and come in many colours and patterns.

Here are some interesting facts about koi carp:

  • Koi carp originated from common carp in Japan and were first bred for food. However, over time became more popular as ornamental fish due to their vibrant colours.
  • Koi carp come in many colours and patterns, including ghost koi and goldfish-like variants. The most popular colours include red, black, white, yellow, and blue.
  • While koi carp are popular fish species in aquaculture and fisheries, they are not typically raised for food. Instead, they are prized for their beauty and sold at high prices.
  • Koi carp have cultural significance in Japan and are found in ponds as a decorative feature. In fact, there is even a famous koi pond located at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
  • Selective breeding has played a significant role in creating new variations of koi carp. Breeders select fish with desirable traits like colours or patterns to breed together.

More Helpful Reading: We compared the key differences between, Carp Vs Koi carp species. See the differences between these beautiful fish.

The Illusive Ghost Carp Characteristics, Size

Ghost carp are a fascinating species of carp. They have captured the attention of serious anglers across the UK. Ghost carp get their name from their unique appearance due to their translucent scales that reflect light and makes them appear ghost-like.

Ghost Carp
Image Credit:

Ghost carp can vary quite a bit. The average size of these fish ranges from 10-15 pounds, but they can grow much bigger. In fact, some ghost carp have been known to reach to over 30 pounds. One of my largest carp was a ghost carp, at 28lb.

Despite their beauty, ghost carp can be incredibly difficult to catch. They are not as common as the common carp or mirror carp. These fish are notoriously skittish and tend to be very cautious, so many consider landing a ghost carp to be test of skill and luck.

For carp anglers who land one of these elusive fish, they will agree that the reward is worth the effort. Ghost carp are prized by many carp anglers for their beauty and challenge, making them a highly sought-after species in the world of carp fishing.

The F1 Carp, Size, and Characteristics

F1 carp is a hybrid of the common carp and crucian carp. They are known for their fast growth rate and high resistance to diseases, making them a popular choice among anglers. F1 carp can reach up to 10 pounds in weight and several inches in length.

The F1 carp species have become increasingly popular among course fishing anglers due to their fighting ability and size characteristics. F1 carp are strong fighters for their size, and mainly why these fish are an exciting catch for carp fishing beginners, and pros alike.

F1 carp can also grow at an impressive rate. This means they can reach trophy size within a few years, providing a great challenge for anglers looking to catch larger fish.

What does F1 Carp mean?

F1 Carp refers to the first generation of carp resulting from crossbreeding two different varieties. The common carp (Cyprinus Carpio) and crucian carp (Carassius Carassius). This process is highly valued for combining desirable traits from both parent strains, such as growth rate and colouration. The term F1 is used to denote the initial crossbreeding, with subsequent generations labelled F2, F3. 

The Amur Carp, Characteristics and Size

The Amur Carp, scientifically known as Cyprinus rubrofuscus, is a freshwater fish species that belongs to the carp family. This species is native to the Amur River basin in eastern Asia. Amur Carp share some similarities with the Crucian Carp. In terms of their physical characteristics, but they exhibit distinct differences.

Amur Carp

The Amur Carp is characterized by its deep body shape, rounded fins, and metallic golden scales. And known for its impressive size and can grow much larger than the Crucian Carp.

On average, Amur Carp can reach lengths of 70 to 120 centimetres (2.3 to 3.9 feet) and weigh between 10 to 30 kilograms (22 to 66 pounds). Amur Carp are opportunistic feeders. They have a diverse diet, including aquatic plants, insects, and small crustaceans. 

The Amur Carp’s impressive size and adaptability make it a highly valued species among anglers. While also playing an important role in the functioning of freshwater ecosystems.

The MUD Carp, Characteristics and Size

The Mud Carp, also known as the Chinese mud carp, is a freshwater fish species primarily found in rivers, lakes, and ponds in many parts of East Asia. This carp species can be identified by its elongated body shape. Brownish-Grey scale pattern and colouration, which helps it blend into its habitat.

MUD Carp

In terms of size, Mud Carp can reach 60 centimetres (24 inches), while some have exceeded 80 centimetres (31 inches). They typically weigh from 1 to 3 kilograms (2.2 to 6.6 pounds), although larger specimens can weigh up to 5 kilograms (11 pounds) or more.

Mud Carp have adapted to their habitat by developing specialized feeding habits. They are bottom-feeders, using their downturned mouth and sensitive barbels to detect and consume a variety of food sources, including detritus, small invertebrates, and plant matter. This feeding behaviour allows them to efficiently extract nutrients from the muddy substrates they inhabit.

The Mud Carp’s moderate size and adaptability make it a popular target for commercial and recreational fishing. Its resilience and ability to thrive in various water conditions have led to its successful introduction in many countries.

As an omnivorous species, the Mud Carp plays a crucial role in nutrient cycling and maintaining the ecological balance of freshwater ecosystems.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Different Types of Carp Are There?

There are several distinct types of carp, including Common Carp, Mirror Carp, Ghost Carp, Leather Carp, Grass Carp, F1 Carp, Bighead and Silver Carp. These variations exhibit different characteristics, such as scale patterns, size, and colouration, contributing to the diversity within the carp species.

How Do You Tell How Old A Carp Is?

Determining the age of a carp can be done by examining the fish’s scales. By analysing the growth rings on the scales, known as annuli, you can estimate the age. Each annulus typically represents one year of the carp’s life. Other methods, such as examining the fish’s size, weight, and behaviour, can also provide clues to estimate the fish’s age.

How Do You Identify A Ghost Carp?

Ghost Carp have several features that can be observed. Ghost Carp lack scales, giving them a smooth and scale-free appearance. Ghost Carp are typically pale or almost white in colouration and have a similar body shape and structure as the Mirror Carp, but without the large mirror like scales. 

What Is The Most Common Carp Species?

The most common carp species include the Common Carp and Mirror Carp. Followed by the Leather Carp, Linear Carp, and Ghost Carp. You will also find Grass Carp, Crucian Carp, and Silver Carp in most waters, but these species of carp are not as common as the others.

What Is The Biggest Carp Species?

The biggest recorded carp species is the Giant Barb, also known as the Siamese Carp. It holds the title for being the largest carp species ever caught. Other notable large carp species include the Common Carp, Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Grass Carp, and Asian Carp. These species exhibit significant size (over 100 lb in weight) and are renowned among carp enthusiasts and anglers around the globe for their size and fight.

Whats The Difference Between A Mirror Carp and a Leather Carp?

While the mirror carp shares many similarities with the leather carp, the main differences between Mirror carp and Leather carp are their scales. Mirror carp have scales that look like mirrors, and why they are called mirror carp. Leather carp, on the other hand, look very similar but have fewer scales. They may only have 3 to 5 scales, usually near the tail and along the back of the fish. The skin on a leather carp has a leather-like effect, hence the name, leather carp.

What’s The Difference Between A Common Carp and an F1 Carp?

The F1 carp and the common carp differ in their characteristics. The common carp is the most common type of carp. While the F1 carp is less so. Common carp are also known for having four barbules. While the F1 carp species exhibits a notable absence of barbules due to its crossbreeding with the crucian carp. The F1 carp has only two barbules, which are considerably smaller than the common carp species.

Mirror Carp vs Grass Carp, Whats the Difference?

When comparing Mirror Carp and Grass Carp, there are several noticeable differences. While Grass Carp have scale patterns similar to Common carp, there are distinct features that set them apart. For instance, Grass Carp have smaller and shorter dorsal fins compared to those on a Mirror carp, making them easily identifiable. Also, Grass Carp have low, flat heads and noticeably smaller mouths when compared to Mirrors.

Ghost Carp Vs Common Carp, Whats the Difference?

When comparing Ghost Carp and Common Carp, several distinctions become apparent. Firstly, Ghost Carp are typically smaller in size compared to Common Carp. However, the most noticeable difference lies in their appearance. While Ghost Carp share similarities with Mirror Carp, they have more scales and lack the distinct mirror effect. Additionally, Ghost Carps possess a smoother skin texture, and they usually exhibit a pale, almost white colouration, resembling Common Carps in their overall body shape and structure.


Exploring the diverse world of carp species reveals a fascinating array of fish with many unique characteristics. From the commonly encountered Common Carp and Mirror Carp to the intriguing Ghost Carp and Leather Carp. 

While Common Carp and Mirror Carp dominate the fishing landscape, other species like Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Grass Carp, and Asian Carp also make their mark. All adding excitement to any carp fishing experience.

Hope you enjoyed this guide? If So, check out my Best Carp Fishing Tips, including how to catch more carp, all species. What bait you should use, and the best terminal tackle tips.

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