Do Carp Change colour - Carp Swimming underwater in coloured water

If you’re interested in carp angling, I’m sure you’ve caught many carp or at least seen plenty of pictures of carp caught by anglers.

Distinguishing between types of carp should be reasonably straightforward, with each having distinct features that you can easily spot, such as the significantly reduced number of scales on mirror carp or the full bodies of scales of commons.

Carp come in various shapes and sizes, with some being longer and slender and some short and more round, but generally, you should be able to tell which type of carp you’ve caught.

One thing you might also notice is that carp can be different colours depending on where you catch them from and sometimes what time of year it is.

If you have the pleasure of catching the same fish at different times of the year, you may notice that its colour could have slightly changed.

In this post, I will discuss if carp change colour and why this is the case.

So, do carp change colour?

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  • Do Carp Change Colour?

    Yes, carp can change colour, and this colour change usually happens to move into winter or summer from winter as conditions drastically change.

    Overall, carp can all be different colours at certain times depending on their strain, how they were bred and where they come from in the world.

    The common carp can range in colours from dark brown, greeny brown or even bronze.

    Carp in Czechoslovakia sometimes have more of a blue tinge to them, and some fish in Croatia are thought to have more of an orange tinge to them.

    These base colours are usually due to genetics, but the shading of these colours can vary and get darker or lighter depending on a few factors, and the carp can actually be seen changing shade throughout the year.

    The reasons for these shade changes usually come down to 4 factors:

    • Light levels
    • Stress
    • Food
    • Water clarity

    Let’s take a look at how each of these points can vary the colour of carp

    Light Levels

    Depending on where the carp resides, the light levels in the water will vary, for example, during the winter the light levels in the water can be lower due to the lower sun angle.

    UV rays are usually weaker in the winter months, which affects the light levels in the water. This is why we don’t commonly have to worry about applying sun cream throughout the winter.

    Basically, these lower light levels affect the pigment in the carp’s skin similar to how humans tan under the sun.

    in the winter, it’s common for carp to become lighter, and in the summer (if they are in clear water) they can become darker. Basically, the carp can get tanned under the sun.


    Stress can also play a part in the shade changing of carp. As a carp is caught, the fish will become stressed, and blood will be pumping around the fish far faster than normal.

    This can cause a two-tone colour look as the carp is fought and landed.

    This colour change usually comes from the higher level of blood travelling around the body, and you won’t commonly see two-tone carp basking in the sun. 


    The food the carp are feeding on can also impact the shade of the fish to some extent.

    If the carp are consistently eating coloured fishing baits of the same colour, then you may notice a slight tinge of this colour.

    The colour of the algae in the water can also impact their colour. Carp will tend not to metabolise these pigments and will store it instead

    Water Clarity

    Turbidity also has an impact on the shade of the carp swimming i the water. Turbidity is the level of floating particles in the water that make the water clear of dirty looking.

    If there is a high population of carp in the water, then it is common for the water to become dirty as the carp root through sediment on the bottom looking for food.

    This uproots the silt or other debris o the bottom, where it will float in the water and potentially make it cloudy.

    Murky water will not allow high light levels to enter the water, so carp can be pale looking in this kind of water.

    On the other hand, if the water is clear and high light levels enter the water, it will react with their pigment and potentially make them darker.

    Do Koi Carp Change Colour?

    Do Carp Change colour - Koi Carp Swimming in clear water

    As I’m sure you’re aware. Koi carp are the most colourful variants of carp and come in over 20 different colours and patterns.

    Koi carp are generally ornamental fish and are kept in ponds as display fish and not commonly fished for on a large scale, partly due to the price some of these fish can sell for.

    Koi are no exception to carp changing colour and can change colours and patterns significantly over their long life spans.

    The changes can depend on their type, with some changing a lot and some not so much.

    Light levels in the water also impact the colour of koi. In the winter, they may seem a little pale and less vibrant. As summer rolls around and the light levels increase, the koi can brighten up significantly.

    Environmental problems such as poor water quality, poor nutrition, stress and changes in water temperature can also make colours dull.

    As koi age some may change from patchy colours to almost completely one tone, which is usually white.

    That’s All

    You can witness colour changes in nearly all carp species that are determined by:

    • Genetics
    • Light Levels
    • Water Quality
    • Stress

    As koi are the most colourful koi, changes in colour can be the most notable.

    You should now have a reasonable understanding of why carp can change colour through the year and over their life span.

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