Common Carp
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • There are 21-27 short gill rakers.
  • The body is deep; there are 32-41 lateral line scales.
  • Close-up of mouth: Notice the barbels; the mouth is subterminal.
  • View of ventral area: There is no ventral keel present.
  • Close-up of dorsal fin: There is one serrated spine and 15-23 dorsal rays.
  • Close-up of anal fin: There is one serrated spine and 4-6 anal rays.
  • Head of a breeding male: Note the small tubercles on the head.
  • Close-up pectoral fin of a breeding male: Notice the tubercles on the fin rays.
  • Close-up pelvic fin of a breeding male: Notice the tubercles on the fin rays.
  • Back of a breeding male: Note the small tubercles on the back and a few on scales.
  • Side view of a yearling: They are similar to adult, but with a relatively deeper, more angular (less rounded) body.
  • Side view of a young-of-year: They are similar to adult, but with relatively deeper body and proportionally bigger eye.
  • Side view of a "leather" carp.
  • Side view of a "mirror" carp.
  • John Lyons with a 20 lb carp.
  • Close-up of dorsal spine.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Family
Minnows (Cyprinidae)
Body
Mouth and Snout: Subterminal with 2 obvious barbels on each side. No teeth. Shorter barbels at tip of snout and longer barbels at the corners of the mouth. Body Pattern: Variable, from solid dark brown to golden or olive brown on back and flanks grading to tan, cream or yellowish white. Fins pigmented similarly to body. Scales outlined in dark pigment especially anteriorly, giving the sides a cross-hatch or even spotted appearance. The body is fully scaled with relatively large scales. A natural genetic mutation causes some carp to develop without scales (leather carp) or with only a few scales (mirror carp). Body Shape: Slightly laterally compressed, somewhat ventrally flattened. Typical adult size is 400-700 mm TL (1.3-2.3 ft), with a maximum of about 1200 mm (4 ft).
Fins
Elongated dorsal fin with 15-23 rays. The first ray is a serrated spinous ray. The anal fin has 4-6 rays, and the first is also a serrated spinous ray. Forked tail. Pelvic fins abdominal. No adipose fin.
Distinguishing Characteristics
Carp have large scales, a long dorsal fin with a serrated spine, and 15-23 soft rays. Anal fin with a serrated spine, and 4-6 soft rays. A subterminal mouth with a pair of obvious barbels on each side. Deep, somewhat laterally compressed body, no ventral keel. 32-41 lateral line scales and gill rakers 21-27. Obvious barbels. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Small tubercles sometimes on head region and pectoral fins of males; head and tail dark.
Juveniles
Juveniles have a deeper, chunkier body and their eyes are proportionally larger.
Hybrids
Goldfish X Common Carp
Compare Similar Species
Body Shape
Buffalo, BigmouthDeep, laterally compressed
Buffalo, BlackDeep, laterally compressed
Buffalo, SmallmouthDeep, laterally compressed
Carp, BigheadFusiform
Carp, CommonDeep, laterally compressed
Carp, GrassFusiform
Carp, SilverFusiform
Carpsucker, HighfinDeep, laterally compressed
Carpsucker, RiverDeep, laterally compressed
GoldfishDeep, laterally compressed
QuillbackDeep, laterally compressed
Ventral Keel
Buffalo, BigmouthAbsent
Buffalo, BlackAbsent
Buffalo, SmallmouthAbsent
Carp, BigheadFrom anal fin to pelvic fins
Carp, CommonAbsent
Carp, GrassAbsent
Carp, SilverFrom anal fin to isthmus
Carpsucker, HighfinAbsent
Carpsucker, RiverAbsent
GoldfishAbsent
QuillbackAbsent
Mouth
Buffalo, BigmouthTerminal, subterminal or inferior
Buffalo, BlackTerminal, subterminal or inferior
Buffalo, SmallmouthTerminal, subterminal or inferior
Carp, BigheadTerminal
Carp, CommonSubterminal
Carp, GrassTerminal
Carp, SilverTerminal
Carpsucker, HighfinTerminal, subterminal or inferior
Carpsucker, RiverTerminal, subterminal or inferior
GoldfishTerminal
QuillbackTerminal, subterminal or inferior
Barbels
Buffalo, BigmouthAbsent
Buffalo, BlackAbsent
Buffalo, SmallmouthAbsent
Carp, BigheadAbsent
Carp, CommonPresent
Carp, GrassAbsent
Carp, SilverAbsent
Carpsucker, HighfinAbsent
Carpsucker, RiverAbsent
GoldfishAbsent
QuillbackAbsent
Dorsal Fin
Buffalo, Bigmouth22-32 rays; first few rays elongated
Buffalo, Black22-32 rays; first few rays elongated
Buffalo, Smallmouth22-32 rays; first few rays elongated
Carp, Bighead1 spine in adults, 8 rays
Carp, Common1 serrated spine, 15-23 rays
Carp, Grass7-9 rays
Carp, Silver1 spine in adults, 8 rays
Carpsucker, Highfin22-32 rays; first few rays elongated
Carpsucker, River22-32 rays; first few rays elongated
Goldfish1 serrated spine, 15-19 rays
Quillback22-32 rays; first few rays elongated
Anal Fin
Buffalo, Bigmouth7-10 rays
Buffalo, Black7-10 rays
Buffalo, Smallmouth7-10 rays
Carp, Bighead1 spine in adults, 13-14 rays
Carp, Common1 serrated spine, 4-6 rays
Carp, Grass8-10 rays
Carp, Silver1 spine in adults, 12-13 rays
Carpsucker, Highfin7-10 rays
Carpsucker, River7-10 rays
Goldfish1 serrated spine, 5-6 rays
Quillback7-10 rays
Lateral Line Scales
Buffalo, Bigmouth33-40
Buffalo, Black33-40
Buffalo, Smallmouth33-40
Carp, Bighead85-100
Carp, Common32-41
Carp, Grass34-47
Carp, Silver95-103
Carpsucker, Highfin33-40
Carpsucker, River33-40
Goldfish27-30
Quillback33-40
Gill Rakers
Buffalo, Bigmouth20-70
Buffalo, Black20-70
Buffalo, Smallmouth20-70
Carp, Bighead53-80; long and fine
Carp, Common21-27
Carp, Grass15-16
Carp, SilverFused into sponge-like matrix
Carpsucker, Highfin20-70
Carpsucker, River20-70
Goldfish37-43
Quillback20-70
Similarity Index
Buffalo, BigmouthModerately similar
Buffalo, BlackModerately similar
Buffalo, SmallmouthModerately similar
Carp, BigheadModerately similar
Carp, CommonN/A
Carp, GrassModerately similar
Carp, SilverModerately similar
Carpsucker, HighfinModerately similar
Carpsucker, RiverModerately similar
GoldfishModerately similar
QuillbackModerately similar
Comments
Carp, BigheadNot yet confirmed from WI waters (two anecdotal records), but well-established further south in the Mississippi River and likely to be encountered in WI in the future.
Carp, GrassNot established in WI; present only as a stray from further south or from illegal introductions
Carp, SilverNot yet confirmed from WI waters, but well-established further south in the Mississippi River and likely to be encountered in WI in the future.
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