The carp family includes several types of carp that aren’t as popular as bass or trout but can be delicious when prepared properly.
Carp are bony freshwater fish native to Asia and Europe that now populate lakes, rivers, and streams of North America, Australia, and Africa.
Different carp species in these regions are often listed as invasive species because they damage the natural fish populations.
Most people think of the common carp when they think of carp. It’s one of the easiest fish to catch in most American rivers and lakes, but there are several different species of carp for anglers to find.
11 Types of Carp
- Common Carp
- Silver Carp
- Grass Carp
- Mirror Carp
- Leather Carp
- Crucian Carp
- Koi Carp
- Ghost Carp
- Linear Carp
- Fully Scaled Mirror Carp
- F1 Carp
The Cyprinus carpio is named because it’s the most common carp species. The common carp is easy to recognize with its bronze, evenly-spaced scales that can have a green tinge and a tail often more reddish than the scales.
Like most types of carp, the fish has small protrusions on each side of its mouth, commonly called barbels, that look like short whiskers.
The average size of a common carp is between 15 and 25 pounds. The biggest one caught in the world came from France and weighed 101 pounds, 6 ounces.
Carp mostly eat aquatic plants and algae, but they also feast on insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and fish eggs.
The Hypophthalmichthys molitrix is also called the Asian carp. It’s more common in Asia than in other regions, though it lives worldwide.
The silver carp has a much shorter dorsal fin than the common carp and tiny silver scales instead of larger bronze ones.
This fish has eyes set lower on each side of the head than most other carp, with a mouth curved upward. They often eat enough plankton to kill off native mussels and fish who depend on it as a food source.
Most silver carp weigh between 20 and 40 pounds. The largest one ever caught was in Germany. It measured 51 inches long and weighed a whopping 101 pounds, 15 ounces.
The grass carp, scientific name Ctenopharyngodon idella, has a longer, thinner body than the common carp but with a similar pattern of darker green scales.
The biggest difference between the grass and common carp is that the grass carp don’t have barbels on each side of the mouth.
The grass carp’s average weight is between 15 and 30 pounds, though the largest catch in the world was in Bulgaria in 2009, weighing in at 87 pounds, 10 ounces.
These fish help control weeds in some North American waterways and get their name from their steady diet of plants. Grass carp are also lots of fun to catch!
Mirror carp are a common carp variety that monks bred to have much larger scales to make them easier to clean and cook.
Many mirror carp have a small number of large scales with random patches of scale-free skin.
The large scales are shiny and resemble mirrors, giving the fish its name. The scientific name is the same as for the common carp, and they have the same diet, but this variety is easy to distinguish because of the huge, patchy scale coverage.
The average weight is 15 to 30 pounds, and the largest one came from Hungary, weighing a massive 112 pounds, 14 ounces.
Cyprinus carpio nudus, or leather carp, is a staple food fish in South Korea with only a few scales near the tail and dorsal fin. Its dark gray skin has a leather-like appearance.
Asian breeders bred the leather carp to be a food source. This fish is also popular as a game fish in Europe, but it’s a pest in the United States.
The average size of a leather carp is between 10 and 20 pounds. The record catch weighed 56 pounds.
A 50-year-old leather carp called Heather the Leather lived in the UK and set the country’s record for the largest by topping out at 54 pounds, 8 ounces.
The crucian carp live in slow rivers, ponds, and lakes across Europe. It’s one of the smallest types of carp and one of the hardest to catch.
The scales are colored and patterned like a common carp, but it doesn’t have the carp barbels next to its mouth.
Another feature that sets this different species of carp apart is its ability to live in poorly oxygenated water where other fish can’t survive and its adaptability to extreme temperatures.
When temperatures drop, the Carassius carassius buries itself into the sediment at the bottom of its pond or lake, producing ethanol to keep itself warm enough to survive.
The average weight is 2 to 4 pounds. The largest ever caught was in the Netherlands and weighed 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
Koi carp, or Cyprinus rubrofuscus, are a different species of carp bred to look beautiful in ornamental ponds and water gardens.
Over a hundred variations in coloring and patterns make Koi carp a beautiful addition to ponds.
The average size of a koi carp is between 10 and 20 pounds, but the record for a British lake koi is 47 pounds, 14 ounces.
Though the Japanese originally domesticated the fish for its beauty, wild koi carp are present worldwide and listed as invasive in many places like Australia, along with other types of carp.
Ghost carp, the scientific name Cyprinus carpio albino, get their name from their whitish skin, visible because of a lack of scales.
They can seem light gray with a metallic sheen, and their scale pattern, if they have scales, resembles a mirror carp. This scaling happens because ghost carp come from breeding between the mirror and koi carp species.
Sometimes these fish have dark rings around their eyes, contributing to the “ghostly” appearance.
The average size is between 10 and 20 pounds, though there’s an unofficial European record of a 94-pound catch. The largest ghost carp in the UK weighed over 65 pounds.
This carp is a variant of the mirror carp with large scales that run the length of its body on its upper half.
This scale pattern creates a line almost down the middle of the fish. Most weigh between 12 and 25 pounds.
Some linear carp have the line and more scales in random patches. Since this fish is a mirror carp, the record catch is the same mirror carp weighing over 110 pounds caught in Hungary.
Anglers are more likely to encounter linear carp in Eastern Europe, though it’s more often a farmed fish than one caught in the wild.
Fully Scaled Mirror Carp
A fully-scaled mirror carp isn’t a different species of carp but a mirror carp completely covered in scales. Most mirror carp have random patches of few scales, but some can maintain full-body scaling.
Since the mirror carp is already just a common carp variation, a fully-scaled mirror carp looks like a common carp in most ways. The easiest way to tell them apart is that the common carp has much smaller scales in a replicated pattern.
Mirror carps have larger, less replicated scales, even when they fully cover the fish. Most fully-scaled mirror carps weigh between 10 and 20 pounds.
The F1 carp is a UK hybrid of the crucian carp and common carp varieties with the scientific name Carassius Carassius × Cyprinus Carpio Carpio.
The average size is between 2 and 4 pounds, but these fish are surprisingly strong.
Many UK commercial fisheries originally bred this fish, and then the F1 carp became popular in match sportfishing.
The fish looks like a common carp with its neatly patterned scales and bronze color, but it lacks the barbels on each side of its mouth like the crucian carp.
The record catch of an F1 carp in the UK weighed 7 pounds, 14 ounces.
While some types of carp like the F1 or the linear are specific to certain regions, anglers can find most carp everywhere because of their ability to adapt and flourish.
The common carp and its varieties can provide fishing fun and a delicious reward after a successful day on the water.