Carp Family
Carp [Koi (Japanese), family Cyprinidae]

The modern Carp family (Cyprinidae) has been around for about 55 million years and the carp order (Cypriniformes) since the end of the Cretaceous 65 million years ago. They are not considered a prime eating fish in North America, but are very popular on the menu Europe, particularly Poland, and are the most important farmed fish in Asia.

Coming in many brilliant colors and patterns, and happy to live in small freshwater ponds, carp is the primary fish displayed in decorative gardens. Call a fancy carp "Koi" and it can sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Unprotected ponds need big submerged pipes for them to sleep in because they are definitely on the menu for raccoons.

Bighead   -   [Speckled Amur, Tongsan, Noble Fish, Hypothalmichthys nobilis alt Aristichthys nobilis]
Whole Bighead Carp 20e

This Asian (probably Chinese) carp has been introduced worldwide and escapees from pond clearing duty now populate waters in 23 U.S. states where they, and their near relative the Silver Carp, are considered troublesome invasive species. Bighead is a filter feeding fish that lives on plankton near the surface of the water and is used to clear algae from ponds.

This fish is common in Asian markets in Los Angeles where it is generally sold in sections due to its large size. Split heads are sold for making soup. This fish can grow to over 5 feet and 100 pounds, but the photo specimen was 3 feet 6 inches and weighed 19.2 pounds, factory cleaned. That's a full size dinner fork in the picture for scale.   Details & Cooking.

Black Carp   -   [Mylopharyngodon piceus]
Live Black Carp 02e

This fish is native to larger lakes and rivers in East Asia, from the Amur River Basin south to Vietnam. Black carp are highly commercial in China and are the most prestigious (and expensive) of the native fish there, but have not become as widespread as other Asian carp worldwide. I have not seen them in the Asian fish markets here in Southern California. They can grow to nearly 6 feet and 77 pounds, and can become pests if they escape. A few have been found loose in the Mississippi basin. They live on snails and mussels so some attempts have been made to use this fish to control mollusks. They are considered a threat to native mollusks, so sterile fish are generally used to prevent wild populations. It is illegal to carry a live black carp into the United States, across state borders, or to posses one in many states. IUCN Red Listed DD (Data Deficient). It is both caught wild and farmed.   Photo from Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial v3.0 Unported.

Common Bream   -   [Carp Bream, Bronze Bream; Abramis brama]
Live Carp Bream, live

The Common Bream is a highly commercial fish from Central Europe to Central Asia. It was once an important food for the poor in Britain, but the flesh has been described as "bony, insipid and soft". It can grow to 32 inches and 13 pounds but is more typically 12 to 20 inches and 4 to 9 pounds. Juveniles are often mistaken for Silver Bream, but the scales of this fish are smaller. Count from the leading edge of the dorsal fin down to the lateral line 13 or more scale rows (11 max for the Silver Bream). This fish is not found in North America, but is imported salted and dried. IUCN listed as LC (Least Concern).   Details and Cooking.   Photo contributed to the Public Domain.

Common Carp   -   [Cyprinus carpio carpio]
Whoel Common Carp 10e

Possibly originating in the Danube river, these fish have been transplanted all around the world and have become pests in some areas. They can grow to 80 pounds and 47 inches long but the photo specimen was 25-3/4 inches and weighed 7 pounds.

This is a highly commercial fish just about everywhere except North America, where fancy varieties are used mainly as a landscaping accent. Common Carp prefer larger lakes and slow moving streams with muddy bottoms and eat just about anything. Wild carp and decorative koi tend to be less deep of body and without the distinct hump typical of farmed carp. IUCN Red Listed VU (Vulnerable, wild in their native rivers).   Details & Cooking.

Crucian Carp   -   [Carassius carassius]
Live Crucian Carp 03e

Native to Europe through Siberia and into China, this highly commercial carp is both farmed and caught wild, Crucians can grow to 25 inches and 6.6 pounds but are more commonly between 1 and 3 pounds. They are found throughout European lakes, streams and rivers, and as far north as Finland. It can be told from the very similar looking Prussian carp by it's more golden color, it's tail is not so deeply forked, and by the thin lining of the body cavity being white, whereas it is black for the Prussian. It also has a more rounded snout than other carp.

The Crucian Carp has an amazing ability to survive for months with almost no oxygen. This is an adaption to allow survival in ponds that are frozen over and covered with snow, ponds predators can't survive in.IUCN Red Listed LC (Least Concern).   Details & Cooking.   Photo by Karlj contributed to the Public Domain.

Dace / Mud Carp   -   [Cirrhinus molitorella (Asia) - similar but not commercial, Leuciscus leuciscus (Europe)]
Large and Small Whole Dace 09e

A common fish in fast moving fresh (or sometimes brackish) waters with a worldwide distribution in temperate climates. Dace is commonly categorized as a "course" fish and not used much for food in North America or Europe, but is quite popular in Asia for making fish balls.

The photo specimen was 11-3/4 inches long and weighed 10-1/4 ounces, fairly typical. Some markets also have trays of small dace. The photo specimen was 4-1/2 inches long and weighed 5/8 ounce, but the tray contained fish from 1/4 ounce to 1-3/8 ounces. In Cambodia small dace are used to make prahoc, a pungent fermented fish condiment, but I use them differently.   Details & Cooking.

Goldfish   -   [Gold Crucian, Carassius auratus auratus]
Live Goldfish 02h

A Siberian carp introduced throughout the world, generally pictured in a small bowl with a cat trying to get at it. This fish is actually the Prussian Carp (Carassius gibelio) bred for color variations. It can grow to 23 inches and 6.6 pounds but will stay small if kept in a small aquarium, often around 2 to 4 inches.

It's ability to survive in low oxygen environments made it possible to keep goldfish in fishbowls before the advent of aerated aquariums. This ability resulted from the Prussian Carp having to live under ice in its Siberian homeland.

Goldfish are highly variable in color and fin shape, having been bred in China as a decorative for about 1000 years. They are edible but not generally eaten except by cats and raccoons. Swallowing live goldfish was once a popular stunt among college frat-brats but has long been out of style. Not Red Listed.   Photo by Heptagon contributed to the public domain.

Grass Carp   -   [Rehu (India); Ctenopharyngodon idella] Whole Grass Carp 18d

A silver bodied fresh water fish imported from Asia, the grass carp can grow to 59 inches and nearly 100 pounds, but the photo specimen was 27 inches and 8.4 pounds. Grass carp are voracious eaters of underwater vegetation and are an important food fish in Asia, both farmed and caught wild.

Use of triploid (sterile) grass carp to control invasive aquatic weeds was pioneered in the Imperial Valley of California. Triploids are created by slightly damaging eggs immediately after fertilization. They grow to only 40 pounds in the irrigation channels and live half as long as diploid carp but they eat about 90% as much and won't establish wild populations where they are not wanted. The California hatchery has been studied by teams from many states and countries.   Details and Cooking

Prussian Carp   -   [Carassius gibelio]
Whole Prussian Carp 02e

This carp may have originated in eastern Asia or Siberia, but is now also found through most of Europe. It is a fast breeder and can becomes a pest where introduced. This fish is often confused with the Crucian Carp, which has caused it to be accidentally stocked where it was not wanted. The Crucian is considered more desirable commercially. They can be told apart by the more golden color of the Crucian, by the more deeply forked tail of the Prussian, and the thin lining of the body cavity is black, whereas it is white in the Crucian. This fish can grow to about 14 inches (some sources say 17 inches), but the photo specimen was 11 inches and weighed 1 pound 1-3/4 ounces.   Details and Cooking.

Rohu   -   [Rohu, Rohu labeo (India & elsewhere); Labeo rohita] Whole Rohu Carp 01e

This fish, native to the rivers of South Asia, is very popular in Pakistan, Thailand, Bangladesh and northern India, especially in West Bengal. It can grow to over 6 feet and 99 pounds, but is generally marketed much smaller. It is farmed in Karala state, India and has been introduced to other regions for stocking reservoirs and aquaculture. It is Red List rated LC (Least Concern).   Details and Cooking

Rudd   -   [Scardinius erythrophthalmus] Dried Rudd 02e

This fish, native to most European rives and estuaries, has been introduced in the United States, Canada, Spain, New Zealand, Tunisia, Morocco, and Madagascar. It can be a serious invasive pest where introduced. This fish can grow to over 20 inches and 4.6 pounds, but is commonly under 8 inches. In North America it is most often found salted and dried in markets serving Russian, Ukrainian and Armenian communities. The photo specimens were 7-1/2 inches long and weighed about 0.9 ounces each. It is caught wild and farmed, Red List rated LC (Least Concern).   Details and Cooking

Silver Bream   -   [White Bream (Fisbase); Blicca bjoerkna]
Whole Silver Bream 01e

The Silver Bream is a minor commercial fish native to fresh and brackish water of rivers draining into the Baltic, White, Black, Aral and Marmara seas of Eastern Europe. Introduced to parts of France and Spain and present in southern England. This is not considered a highly desirable fish, but is eaten when caught. Juvenile Common Bream are often mistaken for Silver Bream, but the Silver Bream has larger scales (8 to 11 from leading edge of the dorsal fin to lateral line). The photo specimen is a female, males are slimmer, lacking the bulge at the chest and more pointy at the nose. Silver Bream grow to about 14 inches and 2.2 pounds. IUCN listed as LC (Least Concern)   Photo by Viridiflavus distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.p unported

Silver Carp   -   [Hypophthalmichthys molitrix]
Whole Silver Carp 05e

This is an Asian carp that has been introduced worldwide for food and for cleaning algae out of lakes and reservoirs - though it often becomes a pest. This fish, like the closely related Bighead Carp, is a plankton eating filter feeder, but it feeds a little deeper than the Bighead. It is the worlds most important farmed fish, but it only began to to appear in Southern California's Asian markets in 2012. By 2015 It could be found both in the live fish tanks and frozen.

This fish is a major pest in the Mississippi, Illinois, Ohio and Missouri rivers. While the photo specimen was just just 13 inches long and weighed only 12-1/8 ounces, they can grow to well over 40 pounds and leap 10 feet out of the water when startled. Many recreational boaters in fast ski boats have been injured and even killed by leaping fish. Contests are held to catch as many as possible, but there is no effective control method - except to eat them all. They are notably delicious, but as with any other carp, you have to get accustomed to dealing with the spines, something which most of the world has accomplished.   Details and Cooking.

Tinfoil Barb   -   [Barbonymus altus (Red Tailed Tinfoil (photo)), B. schwanenfeldii (Tinfoil Barb), Poropuntius malcolmi (Goldfin Tinfoil)]
Whole Redtail Tinfoil 03e

Found in the rivers of Southeast Asia these are very small carp. The photo specimen (B. altus) is 10 inches and weighed 1 pound but most are smaller, while B. schwanenfeldii (black edges on the tail) can get 13 inches. The Goldfin doesn't tolerate aquaculture and is only sold locally in Southeast Asia.   Details & Cooking.

Vobla - Caspian Roach   -   [Rutilus caspicus   similar   Common Roach Rutilus rutilus]
Dried Salted Vobla 02d

This fish, found in brackish and fresh waters, is native to the northern and western reaches of the Caspian Sea. At spawning time It enters the Volga, Ural, Emba, Terek and Kura river drainages. It may be a subspecies of the Common Roach which has a much larger range, including Norway, British Isles, Italy, the Adriatic basin, and Anatolia, but is not native to Iberia. Both are IUCN rated "Least Concern", but the Common Roach can become a pest.

The photo specimen, purchased from a multi-ethnic market in Los Angeles, was from Russia, 10-1/2 inches long and weighed 4 ounces. It was packed with three smaller fish. Dried, salted Vobla is quite an institution in Russia, and judging by the stores I buy it from, it is also known in Armenia, and no doubt Georgia and Azerbaijan as well. It is often brought as a hostess gift by travelers from Moscow.   Details & Cooking.

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