What Are Carp? We all know what they look like and im sure most of you have caught a few in your time but do you really know much about the species and their origins?
The carp family are known as cyprinids, and they are the largest fish family in the world with a staggering 2,400 known species in total. As a carp angler you will have come across a small variety of cyprinids that are native to the United Kingdom which include Roach, Rudd, Tench and Carp. Carp are originally native to Asia and the Danube river in Europe and they are not exactly the same as the carp we have in our English lakes today, although that is where their story begun.
Common carp were farmed as a food source as far back as roman times, but between the 13th and 16th centuries the monks wanted a fish with less scales so they were easier to prepare for the table. It was through mutation and selective breeding that our beloved European domestic common, mirror, leather, fully scaled and linear carp were born. Since then different strains have evolved all over the continent and have been bred to get the variety shapes, sizes, growth rates and markings that we see in the European domestic carp in our lakes today. It is because of the selective breeding process why we have fish farms creating their own strain of carp which can vary in shape, growth rate, colouration and scale pattern. But because all of this is interfering with the genetics by inbreeding, some strains for example will have a massive growth rate but will have a much shorter life span. Whilst other strains are more stable and may be bred for their specific markings rather than growth rates. These are all things that fisheries will have considered when stocking a lake.
What is selective breeding?
Selective breeding which is also called hybridisation, is when you select fish for their specific traits, characteristics and genetics and use them for breeding. Say for instance you chose a dark female mirror carp that is growing much faster that all of the others, and a golden male linear mirror carp. By using them for breeding you would find that a percentage of the spawn would be fast growing dark linear mirror carp. There will also be a percentage of common carp too suprisingly, but that is because this is where the genetics came from all those years ago. So by in-breeding the spawn of the new fast growing dark linear mirror carp you can create a strain of carp that will have the characteristics and genetics that you have specifically chosen from the parents. Just like us looking like our parents really, its all genetic.
- Carp do not have a stomach, their digestion takes place in their intestine which is around double the length of its body. Carp can eat around 2-5% of their body weight each day in the right conditions, so a 30 pound fish has to eat over half a kilo of food per day just to sustain itself. Food passes through their digestive systems pretty quick, which is why when they are are laying on your unhooking mat they can often poop out the bait you have just been using.
- Carp do not have teeth although they do have boney hard pads called pharyngeal teeth which are located between the mouth and intestine, and when the fish makes a chewing motion it enables them to crush up harder foods like boilies and insects and gives them a more varied diet than other members of their family.
- The linear mirror carp came from Germany and Poland and has a row of large scales that run along the middle of the fish called the lateral line. With the German reputation for order it almost makes complete sense that this is where they would originate from.
- Leather carp are a completely scaleless carp, although some scales along the dorsal may be present, but not a complete row are permitted to be classed as a leather. They have a distinct genetic difference from mirror carp, so they are not actually a mirror carp without any scales as some people think. This is because they have a reduced numbers of red blood cells which slows growth rate and is why large leather carp are not common but large mirror carp are.
- Carp have been recorded to live to around 65 years old, with some reports of some living to over 100 years.