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Related subjects: Insects, Reptiles and Fish

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Common carp, Cyprinus carpio
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cypriniformes
Family: Cyprinidae

and others

Carp is a common name for various freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae, a very large group of fishes originally from Eurasia and southeast Asia. Some consider all cyprinid fishes carp and the family Cyprinidae itself is often known as the carp family. In colloquial use, however, carp usually refers only to several larger cyprinid species such as Cyprinus carpio (common carp), Carassius carassius (Crucian carp), Ctenopharyngodon idella (grass carp), Hypophthalmichthys molitrix (silver carp), and Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (bighead carp). Carp have long been an important food fish to humans, as well as popular ornamental fishes (see koi and goldfish). As a result, carp have been introduced to various locations, though with mixed results.

History of carp introductions

The culture of carp originated in East Asia, and the first text on aquaculture, Fan Lee's "Treatise on Pisciculture," was written in 473 BCE on carp. Domesticated carp were eventually introduced to Europe (probably through the Middle East) during the 13th century, at which time they were cultivated mainly by monks. They were subsequently introduced into North America in 1877, as a government program to try to popularize them as a food source for a growing immigrant nation. Fish were released in ponds in Druid Hill Park in Baltimore, Maryland; later, surplus populations were released in Washington D.C. This was primarily the project of Rudolf Hessel, a fish culturist in the employ of the United States government. Carp were fairly widely introduced throughout the central eastern States, and introduced carp readily adapted to their new environment, spreading rapidly throughout any drainage area in which they were released. Carp have since become naturalized in almost every water in which they were introduced. However, carp never attained in the U.S. the great popularity they have in Europe.

Eating and sport

The common carp, along with several other large carps, are one of the most aqua-cultured consumption fishes in the world, produced in the hundreds of thousands of tons annually.

Carp are tasty when raised in cleaner waters, when prepared properly taking special attention to the two special and unusual rows of small bones in the fillets. Fish that live in muddy waters tend to acquire a muddy flavor. In China, Japan, and Taiwan carp are esteemed as food fish and are also considered to be signs of good fortune, so are often served at banquets and other formal meals. Indeed, it has been said that they were the favored entree at imperial feasts in very ancient times in Asia and Europe. In Central and Eastern Europe, carp are also much appreciated, and are traditionally eaten on Christmas Eve in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Croatia, Hungary and Poland.

Rohu and other carps are a favourite food item in East India and Bangladesh and is cosidered one of the main dish to be served with rice. In the UK and North America carp are considered less of a table fish, but still highly sought by immigrants and ethnic communities that continue rod and reel as well as support commercial harvest.

Carp are similarly variable in terms of angling value. In Europe even when not fished for food they are eagerly sought out by anglers, being considered highly prized coarse fish that are difficult to hook. In the United States, the carp is also classified as a coarse fish as well as damaging naturalized exotic species but with sporting qualities.

Carp are an important subsistence aquaculture product, and have been cultivated in complex polycultures since the 7th century AD. Grass carp, silver carp, and common carp were all sought after during the Tang dynasty in China (618-907 AD) and did not necessarily compete in the same waters due to their dissimilar feeding habits. White Amur are often referred to as grass carp while they are not related to the common carp they are fairly unique in that they eat live plant matter with pharyngeal grinding teeth, on which they will feed continuously at the proper temperatures, consuming several times their body weight in grass per day. The other two species are a sort of filter feeder, herbivorous and omnivorous respectively. These are often eaten within a grass/fish dietary polyculture; but historically one of the important food production systems in China, on a subsistence level at least, has been rice/fish culture. The fish provide not only human nutrition, but crop fertilizer, and can increase rice yields per hectare. (However, this system tends to be compatible only with small operations using genotypically lower-yielding tall rice varieties and is not feasible on a commercial scale.) Other poly-cropping systems involving carp include livestock/carp (in which livestock wastes fertilize carp ponds, or more indirectly fertilize row crops whose green manure fertilizes the ponds), and carp/sericulture (in which pond silt is used to fertilize mulberry trees that support silkworm populations.

Ornamental carp

Different colorations of koi

Carp, along with many of their cyprinid relatives, are popular ornamental aquarium and pond fish. The two most notable ornamental carps are goldfish and koi. Goldfish (Carassius auratus) were kept as ornamental fish in China for hundreds of years before being introduced to Japan in the 15th century, and to Europe in the late 17th century. The koi, a domesticated variety of common carp (Cyprinus carpio), also originated from China and spread widely in Japan. The koi are historically a prevalent symbol in Japanese culture of good luck. They are shown in competitive fish shows like those at the All-Japan exhibition. They are also popular in other parts of the world as pond fish. Goldfish and koi have advantages over most ornamental fishes, as they are tolerant of cold (they can survive in temperatures as low as 4 degrees Celsius), and can survive at low oxygen levels.

Carp as pests

Carp gather near a dock in Lake Powell

Carp have been introduced, often illegally, in many countries. In the USA they were introduced by the US government as a food source around the turn of the century in one of the largest and most successful stocking efforts in history. In Australia there is enormous anecdotal and mounting scientific evidence that introduced carp are the cause of permanent turbidity and loss of submerged vegetation in the Murray-Darling river system, with severe consequences for river ecosystems, water quality and native fish species.

Efforts to eradicate a small colony from Tasmania's Lake Crescent without chemicals have been successful; however, the lengthy, expensive and intensive undertaking is an example of both the possibility and difficulty of safely removing the species once it is established.

Types of carp

Carp swarm in great numbers to eat feed thrown by tourists in Urfa, Turkey.
  • Genus Abramis
    • Carp bream (Abramis brama)
  • Genus Aristichthys:
    • Bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis)
  • Genus Barbodes:
    • Carnatic carp (Barbodes carnaticus)
  • Genus Carassius:
    • Crucian carp (Carassius carassius )
    • Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio)
    • Goldfish (Carassius auratus)
  • Genus Cirrhinus:
    • Chinese mud carp (Cirrhinus chinensis)
    • Deccan white carp (Cirrhinus fulungee)
    • Hora white carp (Cirrhinus macrops)
    • Small scale mud carp (Cirrhinus microlepis)
    • Mud carp (Cirrhinus molitorella)
  • Genus Ctenopharyngodon:
    • Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus)
  • Genus Culter:
    • Predatory carp (Culter erythropterus)
  • Genus Cyprinus:
    • Common carp, Koi (Cyprinus carpio)
  • Genus Epalzeorhynchos:
    • Red-tailed black shark (Epalzeorhynchos bicolor)
    • Red-finned black shark or Rainbow shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatus)
  • Genus Henicorhynchus:
    • Siamese mud carp (Henicorhynchus siamensis)
  • Genus Hypophthalmichthys:
    • Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix)
  • Genus Labeo:
    • African carp (Labeo coubie)
    • Fringed-lipped peninsula carp (Labeo fimbriatus)
    • Bigmouth carp (Labeo kontius)
  • Genus Mylopharyngodon:
    • Black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus)

carpunius maximus (daniel ybarra)

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