DESCRIPTION AND CHARACTERISTICS
Carp is native to Central Asia, but has been intro-duced to many regions of the world includingEurope, North America, the Middle East, Canadaand Australia. They are now one of Australia’smost obvious and most despised alien fish species.Carp characteristically have small eyes, thick lipswith two barbels at each corner of its mouth,large scales and strongly serrated spines in boththe dorsal and anal fins. Their body is elongatedwith a moderate sized head. Carp have a singledorsal fin and a forked tail. They are most oftenolive green to silvery grey dorsally, with a silveryyellowbelly, how-ever theircolouringis variable.
Photo byGunther Schmida. Sourced from the Murray-Darling BasinCommission.
BIOLOGY AND LIFE CYCLE
Carp inhabit still or slow-flowing waters comprisingabundant aquatic vegetation. They can also befound in brackish lower reaches of some rivers andcoastal lakes. They are tolerant to a wide range of temperatures, oxygen levels and salinities.They have been reported to grow to over one me-ter in length and 60 kg in weight, however in Aus-tralia 4-5 kg in weight and 30-40 cm in length ismore common. Their growth depends largely onthe availability and type of food items eaten, wa-ter temperature and population densities.At one year of age some carp become mature, andby three years of age they are ready to breed. Fe-males have high fecundity, able to produce up toone million eggs per kilo of body weight and canspawn several times in one year!!! Spawning occursin spring when water temperatures reach 17 de-grees Celsius. The eggs are laid among aquaticvegetation and the young grow quickly in warmplankton rich water.Carp are omnivorous. They suck and strain mudfrom the bottom, and suck insects and plants fromthe surface. Juvenile Carp feed mainly on micro-scopic algae, rotifers and crustaceans.
Carp can create high levels of turbidity under cer-tain conditions; increase erosion; and cause thedislodgement of aquatic plants due to their habitof sucking bottom sediments while feeding. In-creases in turbidity reduce the ability of sunlightto penetrate the water, affecting plant growth andincreasing nutrient levels. Damage to vegetationdeprives native fish and invertebrates of vital foodand habitat and prevents the disturbed vegetationfrom re-establishing.Since around the time that Carp were introduced,our river systems have undergone many changesincluding regulation and alteration of naturalflows, farming, urban development and snag re-moval. Carp thrived under these disturbed condi-tions whilst native species suffered negative im-pacts.