• Carp Etch
    Carp Etch
  • Drawing of a koi
    Koi carp
  • Drawing of a mirror carp
    Mirror carp

General information

Three varieties of carp, that are all the same species are present in Australian waters:

  • Common carp                
  • Koi carp                
  • Mirror carp.                

Carp were originally imported into Australia as game fish and have since spread throughout many waterways, including the Murray-Darling Basin. It is illegal for carp to be kept as ornamental fish in Queensland.

Carp pose a major environmental threat, as they can rapidly outnumber native fish and greatly disturb aquatic environments through their destructive feeding habits. Strategies are being developed to control and reduce the number of carp in Australian waters.

Carp is a restricted noxious fish under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Scientific name                                                

Cyprinus carpio


Three varieties of carp are present in Australian waters: the common or European carp, koi carp and mirror carp.                                                                

  • carp have large scales                                                                                
  • deeply forked tail                                                                                
  • single dorsal fin                                                                                
  • two pairs of fleshy whiskers (or barbels) in the corners of their upper lip. These barbels are a useful way of distinguishing them from goldfish which do not have any                                                                                
  • colouration is highly variable - they may be bronze or olive-gold, becoming pale yellow or whitish on the sides and belly or have a bright gold colouration                                                                                
  • koi carp are often brightly coloured with dark blotches over their back                                                                                
  • can live up to 17 years.                                                                                
  • prefer warm, still waters with silt bottoms and abundant aquatic vegetation                                                                      
  • rarelyfound in clear, cool, swiftly flowing streams                                                                      
  • can survive at high and low temperatures (4-35 degrees celsius), high salinity and turbidity and low dissolved oxygen levels.                                                                      
  • feed by sucking up mud and plants from the bottom and blowing out what they don't want. This feeding behaviour is known as 'roiling'.                                                                      
  • adults feed on crustaceans, insects and plant material                                                                      
  • larval stages feed on plankton.                                                                      
  • native to central Asia                                                                                
  • introduced to Australia as a sportfish in the late 1800s                                                                                
  • widely distributed throughout south-eastern Australia with smaller populations in Western Australia and Tasmania                                                                                
  • in Queensland carp have established throughout the Murray-Darling River in the Condamine-Balonne catchment, Paroo River, Warrego River, Nebine Creek, Culgoa River, Barwon River and MacIntyre River                                                                                
  • also abundant in the Logan and Albert rivers south of Brisbane                                                                                
  • there have been isolated reports of people keeping koi carp in ornamental ponds around the State - this is an offence and the fish must be removed.                                                                                
Life cycle                                                
  • males are sexually mature between 1-3 years of age and females between 2-4 years of age                                                                                
  • carp spawn between September - December and can produce up to 1.5 million eggs.                                                                                


  • carp an survive in a range of environmental conditions which native fish find difficult to cope with                                                            
  • feeding habits can result in muddied water and uprooted aquatic vegetation—less light can penetrate muddy water resulting in reduced plant growth and lower oxygen levels, thereby degrading the water quality and making it more difficult for other species to survive.                    


  • Loss of favourite fishing locations due to invasion and destruction caused by carp.                    
  • Biosecurity Queensland advocates the ethical euthanasia protocols recommended by the 2001 ANZCCART publication: Euthanasia of animals used for scientific purposes. The most appropriate method may involve stunning the fish via a sharp blow to the back of the head just above the eyes. When applied correctly, this causes brain            destruction—the fish's gill covers should stop moving and its eyes should remain still.          
  • Intensive fishing may have the potential to reduce carp numbers in small enclosed waterbodies, but it is very unlikely that fishing alone is an effective long-term control measure.          


  • poisons have been used to eradicate carp in ponds and small dams, but are not practical for rivers and streams as these poisons also kill native fish          

Biological control

  • biological control methods, such as disease or manipulating the genetic structure of carp to disrupt their breeding or bring an early death, are being investigated          
Legal requirements            
  • Carp is a restricted noxious fish under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • It must not be kept, fed, given away, sold, or released into the environment without a permit.
  • If caught these species must be immediately humanely killed and disposed of responsibly away from the water body.
  • By law, everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take reasonable and practical steps to minimise the risks associated with restricted noxious fish under their control.

Further information

Last updated 01 July 2016