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Common Name: Koi (or Nishikigoi)

Scientific Name: Cyprinus carpio

Koi Swimming
(image by James T. Dowling-Healey)
Flower in Lily Pond

History: These colorful fish are a variety of the common carp. Carp have been kept in ponds for many centuries. As far back as 500 BC, a Chinese author wrote about the care and breeding of carp. In the 1800s, the Japanese began selectively breeding the carp which possessed naturally occurring patches of color. Soon, new genetic mutations were observed including pale blue, red, yellow and white. These carp with color mutations were highly valued for their beauty. There are now over 100 color variations recognized. They were first called "nishikigoi" or "colored koi carp" in Japan during the early 1940s.

Range: Native to Eastern Europe and Asia.
Prior to human influence, the common carp was found in the drainages of the seas of Central Asia and as far east as China and as far west as the Danube River. Subsequently, they have been introduced across the world and can now be found on every continent except Antarctica. When introduced outside controlled ponds, they can create significant problems and are recognized as one of the top 100 invasive species by the Invasive Species Specialist Group.

Habitat: Common Carp live in freshwater rivers, lakes, ponds.

Diet: Carp are omnivorous bottom feeders, eating crayfish, smaller fish, and plant material found while rooting around on the bottom of the lakes and ponds where they reside.

Social Life: Common carp are passive to each other and fairly social, often schooling loosely.


Naples Zoo thanks to James T. Dowling-Healey for assistance with this page.

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