What Does a Carp Look Like - mirror carp and common carp swimming underwater

Everyone acquainted with the world of coarse fishing knows what carp is, what it looks like, and how it behaves. Carp is one of the most prominent coarse fish globally, but especially in the UK, because of its unique fighting style, easily adaptable nature, and variety of sub-species.

Now, what does a carp look like? Most anglers will be able to tell you the answer in quite some detail. But what about its subspecies? How many subspecies of carp can you name? How many can you positively identify? The answer is probably less than five.

However, UK anglers should have a good idea of the many different types of carp that one can find here. Why is that? Because a good angler knows that the only way to succeed in this area is by knowing all that there is to know about this fish and its subspecies.

So, ready for an in-depth dive into all the different subspecies of the carp one can find in the UK? Let’s go!

 Subspecies Of Carp in the UK

There are hundreds of different species of carp in this world. Since it’s impossible to remember the distinctive features of all of these carp species, we will just focus on the ones commonly found in the UK as these are most likely what you’ll be setting out to catch.

There are many ways to tell the many different species of this fish apart, such as the barbles of the common carp and the beautiful colours of the mirror and koi carp. So, let’s see what they are.

Common Carp

What Does a Carp Look Like  - Common Carp on white background

As its name describes, the common carp is the most commonly found carp in the UK. However, it is valued primarily as a sports fish because most UK anglers do not like eating it because of its poor taste.

However, carp does not taste so bad once you know how to prepare and cook it correctly.

It is an omnivore — feeding on small aquatic animals as well as underwater vegetation. It is also classed as a bottom-feeder, meaning it scavenges for food at the bottom of the river or lake. Unfortunately, doing this kicks up a lot of silt and mud, causing the water to become unsuitable for other fish species to survive in.

But what does it look like, and how can an angler identify it? Let’s find out.

What Does It Look Like?

The carp is heavy-bodied, with a length that is almost four times more than its height. It has a regular pattern of tiny scales on its body. Anglers see common carp in various colors, such as in light shades of grey, silver, yellow and green.

It has a typical bottom-feeder mouth— it is downturned and protruding. It has two barbels on the sides of its mouth. Its belly is paler than the rest of its body, typically yellow-white.

The common carp also has a forked tail. Its length typically ranges from 15-31 inches, and its weight is usually in the range of 1lbs to upwards of 35lb.

Mirror Carp

What Does a Carp Look Like  - Mirror Carp on white background

The mirror carp, though less talked about, is even more common than common carp. Most fisheries stock this subspecies of carp in the most significant quantity.

It is an omnivore fish. Mirror carp eat everything from aquatic vegetation to fish eggs and smaller invertebrates. They store a lot of fat on their body, so their physique is rounder than other carp species.

Curious about what it looks like? Let’s see.

What Does It Look Like?

The mirror carp’s most prominent feature is its irregularly distributed scales. It is believed to be a mutation of the common carp with which the mirror carp lost many of its scales.

Anglers classify mirror carp into those with scales arranged in a linear formation and those with scales arranged in a fully-scaled pattern.

Its colours range from brownish-yellow with a yellowish-white belly.

Its weight usually ranges from 1lbs to upwards of 35lbs . The mirror carp has a large mouth and a deep body. In the UK, it is the largest species of carp that anglers fish for.

Leather Carp

What Does a Carp Look Like - leather carp

Leather carp is named so because of its smooth, leathery appearance. This appearance is because its body does not have any scales on its flanks. Thus, this species of carp bears a solid resemblance to the mirror carp, to the extent that many British anglers considered it a scaleless version of the mirror carp.

However, they have been proved to be genetically different from each other.

Want to know more? Let’s go.

What Does It Look Like?

Leather carp, when inspected closely, is seen to have some scales on its dorsal line. Its colour ranges from greenish-brown to bronze. Its average size is 10-20 lb, with massive ones weighing up to 30 lb.

Its anal fin only has a few rays. There isn’t much need to remember other distinctive features about this fish as its lack of scales is its most significant identifier.

Grass Carp

What Does a Carp Look Like - leather carp - Grass Carp

As its name signifies, this type of carp is a herbivore. It feeds on a wide range of aquatic vegetation for nutrition. It is a very aggressive fighter which is the reason why UK anglers love to catch it.

It grows rapidly and eats food that is many times its body weight. Because of its aggressive feeding and herbivore nature, many European countries use it to control aquatic weed growth.

However, they do react to some traditional carp baits, which is how anglers catch them.

Have you ever caught a grass carp without knowing what it was? Let’s find out.

What Does It Look Like?

Unlike other species of carp, the grass carp do not have barbels. Its colour ranges from yellow to green, with a belly that is lighter than the rest of its body.

It has scales that are spaced close apart in a regular pattern. It has an elongated body covered in scales with a rounded head that doesn’t have any scales on it.

Grass carp is smaller in size than common and mirror carp.

In the UK, its typical weight is between 8-20 lb.

Koi Carp

What Does a Carp Look Like - Koi Carp

While koi carp is more of an ornamental fish in the UK than a sport fish, it still deserves mention here as many anglers love to catch vibrant koi carp. However, other anglers believe that koi carp should only be used for decorative purposes and should not be fished.

In any case, the koi carp’s burst of orange and yellow often makes it a straightforward target to catch, especially in shallow water.

Want to know more about this exciting species? Read on!

What Does It Look Like?

The koi carp is brilliantly coloured. Its colours range from bright orange to red, brown, and yellow. It is so intensely coloured  even predators such as cats, foxes, and otters can attack them in ornamental ponds and lakes.

They can grow to quite large sizes. Koi carp has two barbels on each side of its mouth. Many anglers find them very similar to goldfish.

They usually weigh somewhere between 10-20 lb, although some koi carp grow to much larger sizes. Its large size and presence of barbels are how anglers can differentiate between koi carp and goldfish.

F1 Carp

What Does a Carp Look Like - Man holding F1 Carp

What is an F1 carp? This species of carp is a cross between the common carp and the crucian carp. Many anglers in the UK stock F1 carp in their lakes because they are tough, feed through the entire year, and do not grow to enormous sizes.

Another great feature of this fish is that it is resistant to some deadly diseases such as KHV. This quality makes F1 carp an ideal choice for stocking fisheries and lakes.

Fascinated about what this cross-species looks like? Let’s find out.

What Does It Look Like?

The F1 carp is similar to the common carp in regards to its physical features. However, anglers can easily differentiate between F1 carp and common carp by looking at their barbles.

F1 carp has two barbels which are relatively small in size. However, you will remember that the common carp has four barbels which are pretty prominent on both sides of its mouth.

Another way to differentiate between them is by comparing their sizes. While common carp can grow up to 35 lb, F1 carp usually weigh between 6-9 lb.

Crucian Carp

What Does a Carp Look Like - crucian carp

Crucian carp is one of the F1 carp’s parents. While increasing stocks of F1 fish endanger the crucian carp’s population, it is still stocked in many lakes and ponds across the UK.

It is known for its ability to survive in harsh conditions such as waters with low oxygen levels and harsh temperatures.

Anglers treasure this sport fish as it is hard to spot because of its small size and hard to detect its bite because it is a very graceful eater. Most of the time, you won’t even know that it has taken the bait!

Do you think you can identify crucian carp when out on the water? Let’s dive in.

What Does It Look Like?

It is a small fish that is similar to the common carp. However, unlike other carp species, it does not have any barbles. Its lack of barbels is the reason why the F1 carp has very small barbels only.

Their scale pattern is somewhat similar to that of the common carp.

In the UK, it rarely weighs above 3-6 lb.

It is usually in shades of gold and brown, which typically darken as the crucian carp ages. Its scales have a slight golden shade on them.

Ghost Carp

The ghost carp, much like the F1 carp, is a cross between two species of carp. In the ghost carp’s case, those species are common or mirror carp and a koi carp.

Ghost carp form shoals and can rapidly go from one place to another.

The ghost carp is an efficient feeder. However, this is not a very common species in the UK.

What Does It Look Like?

The ghost carp is named so because of its pale, almost white appearance. It also has some markings across its body that serve to make it look even more strange. In addition, they have some darker markings on their head and around their eyes.

In terms of size, it takes after its parent, the koi carp. Many ghost carp weigh up to 40 lb, which is massive.

That’s All

What does a carp look like? How can we differentiate between them? All newbie anglers think of these questions at some point. The easy way to do so is by learning all of the information first and then remembering it by comparing it with what you’ve seen out on the waters.

So, one hopes that you’ve finally learned to differentiate between all the different subspecies of the carp.

Time to try out your new knowledge? Pick up your fishing rod and head out now!

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