Mirror Carp

Mirror Carp, Cyprinus carpio var. specularis

The Mirror Carp, Cyprinus carpio var. specularis, whose common Spanish name is carpa espejo, is a species in the Carps and Minnow or Cyprinidae Family, known collectively as carpas and carpitas in Mexico. Their common name originates from their scales, which resemble mirrors. They were developed by cross-breeding around the year 1300 and are a domesticated sub-species of the Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio. Two alternative genes, the S allele and the N allele, have been replaced but biologically they are virtually identical species. Globally, there are twenty-four species in the genus Cyprinus, of which one, this one has multiple sub-species. The Mirror Carp was introduced to Mexico in 1956 from Haiti and is currently widespread throughout Mexico’s freshwater systems.

The Mirror Carps have elongated and somewhat compressed bodies that are widest near the dorsal fin origin. They can be brassy-green, yellow, golden brown, or even silvery in color. Their fins are dusky with the caudal fin being darker than the other fins. Their head is fairly small with small eyes and an overhanging front jaw. Their mouth has thick lips, extends to the margin of the eyes, and has pharyngeal teeth with flattened crowns; it opens at the front in younger fish and becomes subterminal with age. They have two pairs of barbels with the shorter pair located on their upper lip. Their anal fin has 6 or 7 rays; their caudal fin is forked; and their dorsal fin has a concave anterior outline and a long base with 17 to 22 branched rays. Their body has a limited number of large scales.

The Mirror Carps are large freshwater fish found in backwater areas of streams, rivers, and water reservoirs that normally have dense aquatic vegetation. The current world record was caught in Hungary in 2012 and weighed 46 kg (101 pounds 10 ounces). The maximum recorded length is 1.13 meter (3 feet 8 inches). They have a highly developed sense of hearing, smell, and taste and are omnivorous, consuming birds, water insects, larvae of insects, mollusks, worms, snakes, and zooplankton, as well as leaves, seeds, and stalks of aquatic and terrestrial plants. They significantly increase the turbidity of the water body in which they reside by their bottom feeding. Reproduction involves external fertilization; the released eggs are quickly fertilized by males, become sticky, and adhere themselves to vegetation. After hatching, the fish become free swimming and start to consume food within six days of spawning. They are non-migratory and have a lifespan of up to sixty years. Farming is somewhat difficult as the fish become large very quickly, requiring a great deal of space and a source of plentiful food to survive.

The Mirror Carp is easy to separate from the Common Carp, Cyprinus carpio var. communis. Both have similar robust bodies but the Mirror Carp has patches of irregular and very large shinny scales in limited number on its sides whereas the Common Carp has traditional uniformly sized scales. The Mirror Carp also has a deeper and more rounded body than the Common Carp.  The Leather Carp is also similar and resides in similar locations but is virtually scaleless

The Mirror Carps are common in Europe where they are considered a great recreational foe by anglers. As such the scale patterns are different in every fish and in the United Kingdom, for example, each fish over 18 kg (40 pounds) has been given its own nickname and is caught, weighed, and released on multiple occasions.

Mirror Carp, Cyprinus carpio var. specularis. Fish sold commercially in Soriana’s Mercado, San José del Cabo, Baja California Sur, February 2012. Length: 34 cm (13 inches).