Mirror Carp (Cyprinus Carpio): Ultimate Guide

Common NameMirror Carp
Scientific NameCyprinus Carpio
Temperature35F to 85F
Water pH7.5 to 8.5
Adult SizeUp to 88 lbs or more and up to 45 inches in length.

Mirror Carp Facts

  • Mirror Carp are a genetically mutated form of Common Carp. This mutation makes their scales larger and more sporadic on their bodies. These scales resemble mirrors and this is where they get their name.
  • Mirror Carp do not naturally occur in many places, but were more likely introduced by breeders.
  • Mirror Carp are not often kept in home aquariums due to their tank requirements. Mirror Carp will eventually grow to large proportions, and they require very large home aquariums to match.

Mirror Carp

Mirror Carp are actually a genetically mutated form of Common Carp. Common Carp are covered in even scales all over their bodies, and Mirror Carp have large, uneven shaped scales. The name Mirror Carp comes from the look of the scales. Mirror Carp have shiny, rounded scales that resemble mirrors. Mirror Carp are also lacking scales on places on their bodies. Behaviorally, Mirror Carp are slower and less aggressive than Common Carp are, and they tend to have longer and more rounded bodies. These differences can be summed up by domesticated breeding of Mirror Carp in backyards for generations.

Mirror Carp (Cyprinus Carpio)
Mirror Carp (Cyprinus Carpio)

Male vs Female

The easiest time to tell the difference between male and females of the carp species is after they spawn. You will be able to look at the fish and see the vent of the male fish has a concave opening, while the vent of the female fish is more rounded and convex.

Why Are They Called Mirror Carp?

Mirror Carp are given their name from the look of the large, shiny scales that they have on their bodies. These scales resemble small mirrors. The scales of the Mirror Carp are uneven and missing in places. This is different from the Common Carp, which has more even scales on its body. The Mirror Carp scales are different due to selective breeding. It has been studied by scientists who have shown that if Mirror Carp are returned to their wild environment their offspring will eventually be born with more scales. 

Are Fully Scaled Mirror Carps Rare?

Mirror Carp are a common fish, and they can be found fully scaled. It is not as common to find them in the wild fully scaled, but it is possible to catch them. Even when fully scaled, they still maintain their visual difference from Common Carp.

Why Do Mirror Carp Lose Their Scales?

Mirror Carp do not naturally shed their scales. If you have a fish that is shedding scales it is most likely due to an injury or an ailment. The lack of scales on the Mirror Carp is due to selective breeding of the fish.

Do Mirror Carp Scales Grow Back?

Mirror Carp are lacking scales due to generations of selective breeding. If Mirror Carp are returned to the wild, eventually after several generations, they begin to produce offspring with more and more scales. Scientists have proven this by releasing Mirror Carp into the wild and then studying their offspring.

Food & Diet

Mirror Carp are omnivorous. In the wild, Mirror Carp will eat a diet of aquatic plants as well as search the bottom for food. They are scavenger fish who will eat plant matter, insects, crawfish, and worms.

In captivity, Mirror Carp are not picky eaters, and they will readily accept  good quality sinking pellets.

Size & Lifespan

Mirror Carp are a commonly kept fish, and when cared for properly they can grow very large. There are many Mirror Carp on record for being the largest ever caught, but they are all smaller than the record largest Common Carp ever caught. If cared for properly, Mirror Carp can live up to 20 years or more. Mirror Carp can grow up to 88lbs or more, and up to 45 inches or more. The maximum size and lifespan of Mirror Carp is largely dependent on how well they are cared for.

Tank Requirements

An important rule to consider when choosing a tank for Mirror Carp is that you need at least 10 gallons per every inch of the fish you are wanting to house in it. You will also want to keep in mind how large Mirror Carp can get. It is said that Mirror Carp kept in a home aquarium will not grow as large, but it is a good idea to have a plan in mind for them in case they reach that size. An easier choice for keeping Mirror Fish is in an outdoor pond. The pond needs to be over 1000 gallons, and at least 3 feet deep to house Mirror Carp.

Mirror Carp are able to tolerate a wide variety of temperatures, and this makes them a great addition to an outdoor pond. They can survive in temperatures as low as 35F – 85F, and they can survive brackish and freshwaters with a 7.5 to 8.5 pH.

Tank Setup & Pond Setup

Juvenile Mirror Carp can be kept in the home aquarium, but ultimately they will need to be transferred to an outdoor pond setup. When setting up a tank for Mirror Carp juveniles, you will want to try to set up their aquarium to closely mimic their wild habitat.

Mirror Carp spend most of their time on the bottom of the aquarium scavenging for food, so you will want to make sure that you choose a soft substrate so that they do not injure themselves. It is a good idea to fill their aquarium with planted plants, driftwood, and floating plants to give them cover,  places to explore, and places to hide.

Mirror Carp are a fish that require a lot of oxygen in their water, and you will want to make sure that you provide them with a good air pump to make sure that they are getting enough.

Mirror Carp, like other Carp produce a lot of waste and it is important to invest in a quality filter to keep their water parameters healthy and protect them from ailments.

Mirror Carp Tank Mates

Mirror Carp are not often kept their whole lives in an aquarium due to their large size. If you are keeping juvenile Mirror Carp in your home aquarium until they are too large, you will be happy to find that they are a peaceful and slow moving species. You will still want to make sure that you are keeping them with other fish that match their temperament. It is not a good idea to keep them with fish that are territorial or food aggressive. Goldfish and Koi are a good choice for a Mirror Carp tank or pond mate as they are similar in temperament and require roughly the same water parameters to thrive.

Do Mirror Carp Exist in the U.S.?

Mirror Carp are commonly found in the United States in many lakes and rivers, but they are an introduced species. This means that they did not occur naturally in the wild, but they were caught and bred somewhere else and released into waterways into the United States.

Mirror Carp Breeding

Mirror Carp, like most carp species, spawn in the spring and into the summer. You will visibly be able to see the female full of eggs. She will appear much more plump than the males. Once they are ready to spawn, the females will go to the more shallow, weedy, grassy areas. They will choose water that is more shallow, but is going to rise. The carp splash around, and it is said that this helps the eggs adhere to surfaces.

Mirror Carp are not parental, and they will eat their eggs and fry.

Mirror Carp Disease

Mirror Carp are susceptible to the same ailments as other carp and members of the cyprinid family. They can get parasitic, bacterial, and fungal infections. There are also infectious viral diseases that can easily be spread from fish to fish. It is important to monitor your fish frequently so that you can correct any problems as they arise.

Where Can I Find Mirror Carp for Sale?

Mirror Carp can be caught in the wild in most places, but if you are not willing to fish for them they can be purchased from breeders online. You will want to make sure that you are purchasing your fish from a reputable source so that you can ensure that you are getting a healthy fish. You can expect them to cost around $35 or more per fish.

Mirror Carp vs Common Carp

Mirror Carp are a genetic mutation of the Common Carp, and they have almost identical needs. Mirror Carp are slower and more peaceful than Common Carp.

The biggest difference between Mirror Carp and Common Carp are their physical appearances. Mirror Carp have the uneven, shiny scales and the Common Carp have more evenly spaced scales.