The carp is native to the Far East, but it is hard to say when it was introduced into Europe, probably at the time of the Romans. It was not until the Middle Ages, however, that carp began to be raised in bodies of water in the Great European Plain. This fish had become a prized source of protein for the many days of fasting imposed by the Christian religion. So it is no coincidence that carp farming was perfected in monasteries. At that time, the effort to set aside the finest specimens for reproduction led to a genetic selection that has given us the robust, fleshy, long-lived fish that we know today, including those in the wild. Semi-extensive pond breeding began in the 19th century and is still practiced today, primarily in central Europe, where carp is still a popular feature of local gastronomy.

Common carp © ScandFish

Latin nameCyprinus carpio
Production (EU-27) – 66 330 t (2007); 2 % of global production.
Value (EU-27) – EUR 140 million (2007).
Main EU producer countries – Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Germany.
Main producer countries worldwide – China, Indonesia, Myanmar.
Fact sheet


Broodstock, selected on the basis of their physical characteristics, are caught in ponds during the laying season.

The eggs and milt are extracted manually from the female and male and are artificially combined in a fertilisation tank. They are then placed in small incubation tanks where they hatch in 3 to 5 days. Centuries of genetic selection have resulted in numerous local stocks. Genetic studies have been carried out since the 1960s in the aim to obtain the most outstanding hybrids best adapted to the numerous breeding conditions found from northern to southern Europe.

Rearing of fry

As soon as they hatch, the larvae are transferred to small shallow tanks of water kept at a temperature of 18 and 24°C and rich in zooplankton, on which they feed as soon as they have absorbed their yolk sac.

They remain in this tank for around one month, until they can swim. The larvae are then transferred for the first time to a natural setting, a small shallow pond. During its yearly cleaning, the pond is treated to promote the development of micro-algae and zooplankton, the only suitable diet for carp fry. They are kept in the pond for about a month, during which time they are gradually weaned onto a very fine powdered feed containing equal parts of fishmeal and vegetable meal. When they reach a size of roughly 3 cm, the fry are collected and transferred to a pond for juveniles.

Rearing of juveniles

Transferred in the spring, the immature carp live until the winter in a pond prepared for this purpose each year.

At first, the pond’s natural production of plankton, vegetation, molluscs, worms and small crustaceans is enough to feed the young carp. Soon, however, this food supply must be enhanced, generally with a vegetable supplement. At the start of the winter, the pond is cleaned and the carp are transferred to a wintering tank. They enter into a period of reduced activity during which they feed little or even not at all in the coldest climates. The carp then measure around 10 cm long and weigh 30 to 40 g.


In the spring of their third year, the carp are moved to large fattening ponds where they live off the ecosystem, although their diet is supplemented with pellets of fish oil, fishmeal, vegetable meal and vitamin and mineral supplements.

They are collected during the winter cleaning of the pond and, depending on their size, are marketed or moved to a wintering pond for another year of fattening or for selection as broodstock. A carp that has reached a ripe old age can weigh up to 40 kg and measure up to 1 metre long. Marketing size, however, is usually 30 to 50 cm in length and a weight of more or less 1.5 kg.


Nowadays, carp is mainly produced in central Europe, where it is served at traditional end-of-year and Easter holiday meals.

People are accustomed to buying carp live and soaking them a few days in fresh water to remove the silty taste. Producers are trying to diversify their offering today by setting up small processing units to supply semi-prepared products (cut up, fresh or smoked, filleted or sliced) and prepared products based on traditional recipes. A large part of production is also earmarked for supplying recreational fishing ponds.