Raising carp at home has become a popular option for those looking for sustainable farming methods. Homesteading and farming your own fish is an attractive proposition if you’re looking to add to your homestead’s sustainability during any food crisis.
In a world where we see increasing food costs, decreasing natural food sources, and a decrease in food availability and variety, it’s encouraging to be able to provide your own high-quality protein on a predictable and reliable schedule despite food price increases and supply chain problems.
With the right practices and techniques, you can successfully produce delicious, healthy fish with minimal effort and cost.
Raising and growing carp for food is a traditional and sustainable method of producing protein for a wide variety of cultures that has been practiced for centuries. Carp are a type of freshwater fish that are relatively easy to care for and can be grown in a variety of environments, including ponds, tanks, and even rice paddies.
In this article, I’ll outline the basic steps required for farming carp at home in your own tank, pond or pool that can help you enjoy fresh seafood while helping sustain your household and even local economies.
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What Exactly is a Carp?
Carp are a type of freshwater fish that are native to Europe and Asia. There are several different species of carp, including common carp, koi carp, and goldfish.
Carp are a popular food fish and are also kept as ornamental fish in outdoor ponds and tanks.
Common carp are the most widely cultivated and consumed species of carp. They have robust, elongated bodies and can grow to be quite large, reaching up to 100 pounds in weight and over 4 feet in length.
Common carp are typically gray or brown in color, with a distinctive set of barbels (whisker-like appendages) on the lower jaw. They are hardy and adaptable fish that can survive in a wide range of environments.
Koi carp are a type of domesticated common carp that are popular in ornamental ponds. They are known for their colorful patterns and long lifespan.
Goldfish are also a type of domesticated common carp and are popular as ornamental fish in outdoor ponds and indoor aquariums.
Carp are omnivorous, which means they will eat a variety of foods, including plants, small insects, and fish food. They are typically found in still or slow-moving bodies of water, such as ponds and rivers, and prefer habitats with plenty of cover and oxygen.
In North America, carp are often seen as “junk” fish and are not widely sought after. However, there is a dedicated following of carp anglers who understand this fish can grow to sizes 5 times larger than a big bass and offers good quality meat that is very underrated in the Western Hemisphere.
Can You Raise Your Own Carp?
You certainly can raise carp in a backyard with a relatively low start-up cost and few barriers to entry. Raising carp can be done in a tank, pond or pool either in your backyard or even in your home.
Unlike raising salmon, trout or bass, carp require little care at all if you’re raising them in a backyard aquaponics pond and even less maintenance if you’re raising them in a murky farm pond used for watering cattle.
Carp are one of the most adaptable species of fish in North America and they actually prefer water that is slightly murky since they are easily spooked in clear water.
Carp are hearty and can live comfortably under the ice for the Winter season as long as the pond has enough space under the ice to sustain oxygen levels and a basic ecosystem.
The more space carp have under the ice (4 feet or more is good) the better the chance of survival and long-term health.
What Kind of Water Conditions Do Carp Like?
Carp are freshwater fish that are native to Europe and Asia and are adapted to living in a variety of aquatic environments. They prefer slow-moving or still bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes, and reservoirs, and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions.
In general, carp prefer water that is cool to moderate in temperature (around 60-75°F), with a pH level of 6.5-8.5. They also require a good supply of oxygen, which can be provided through aeration or the presence of aquatic plants.
Carp are tolerant of high levels of nutrients and organic matter in the water, but regular monitoring and maintenance of water quality is still important to ensure the health and well-being of the fish.
This may include testing pH, temperature, and ammonia levels, as well as removing excess nutrients through the use of filters or other methods.
In addition to the water quality, it is also important to provide carp with a suitable habitat that includes places to hide and shelter, such as logs or rocks, as well as aquatic plants for cover and food.
Very often, carp are found in farm ponds with murky, brown water where they thrive quite well as long as other factors are present like an oxygenation source, acceptable pH level and proper temperature.
Can You Raise Carp in a Pond?
Carp can be raised in a pond quite successfully as long as water quality, quantity, depth and conditions are provided and maintained to the recommended specifications for carp. In fact, raising carp in a pond (rather than a swimming pool or aquarium) is the preferred and most successful method of growing carp.
While sizes and depths can vary according to specific conditions, here is a good starting point for how to make your own carp pond:
While depth is not as crucial for carp as it is with salmon or trout, the deeper you make your pond, the less likely you are to lose carp in a dry season as the water level declines.
If you live in a Northern climate that freezes in the Winter, the depth of your pond should be at least 8 feet if not a few feet deeper. Even in warmer climates, the deeper the pond, the easier it is for the larger carp to hide. Remember, carp in large bodies of water can grow to over 100 lbs.
The smaller and shallower the pond, the smaller and slower a carp will typically grow.
As far as the area or dimensions of the pond are concerned, the larger the pond, the better. It’s not good to have such a small pond that fish can hardly move. A good suggested size would be that of a medium-sized swimming pool of around 450 feet as a surface area (approx. 15′ x 30′) and an average depth of 5-6 feet.
Assuming a carp will grow to around 15 inches (this is very conservative), then a pond of this size would be adequate for 80 fish. This is assuming a basic requirement of 250 gallons of water for 1 adult carp. Some estimates state that 100 gallons per carp is adequate.
However, carp sizes vary wildly, so this calculation is just a starting point. Here’s the basic calculation:
Pond Length x Pond Width x Average Depth x 7.48 = Gallons ( Then calculate 1 carp per 250 gallons or 100 gallons depending on your preference)
To make your own pond, it’s best to have some knowledge about using a backhoe, digging procedures and construction protocol. You’ll have to contact the local authorities to find out if there are any restrictions to making a pond as well as any potential problems with pre-existing buried cables.
After you’ve dug the pond and finessed the shape and base, walls, etc. it’s best to line the dirt floor and walls with fine concrete. Mason’s concrete is a good example, but nearly any concrete will do.
As the next step, some suggest lining the concrete (especially if it’s roughly finished with stones and other rough protrusions) with landscape fabric. The fabric will be a barrier between the rough concrete surface and the next (and final) layer.
The final layer of your carp pond will be a pond or tank liner to hold all the water efficiently.
Once you’ve completed the pond itself, you’ll need a way to add oxygen to the water since any fish species will require some level of dissolved oxygen in their water.
The best way to do that is by using either an aeration kit or a pond pump which is used to create an artificial waterfall that oxygenates the water.
PRO TIP – When filling the pond with a hose, but sure to allow the water to gently enter the pond rather than blasting a concentrated flow in one place. The concentrated stream can damage the thin concrete layer under the liner.
You can let it gently seep in from a hose on the edge of the pond until there is enough water to shoot it directly onto the surface.
PRO TIP #2 – This blog article is an easy, readable summary of the basic steps needed raise carp in a backyard, casual pond or pool. If you’re interested in extreme details written in a very scholarly manner then THIS ARTICLE is for you!
Can You Raise Carp in a Swimming Pool?
Carp can be raised in a swimming pool though it’s best only to use an above-ground pool for seasonal farming, or in a warmer climate (like Southern U.S.) rather than a permanent, four-season environment. In-ground pools that have a deep end of at least 8 feet are best.
In-ground pools are less affected by freezing conditions (than above-ground pools) and the water temperature will fluctuate less.
In-ground pools are often converted into aquaculture environments for carp or koi farming since the switch from family swimming pool to fish pool is a small one compared to making an in-ground fish pool from scratch.
A swimming pool will need a high-volume filter to accommodate carp, but it can and has been done successfully by many.
Ultimately, any swimming pool (or fish-raising pool) will work well if you offer 250 gallons (average) per adult carp, provide some aeration and filtration, and provide some cover for the fish to hide.
Adding selected plants can be very beneficial as they can thrive on the waste of carp while enhancing water quality through filtration.
Can You Raise Carp in a Fish Tank?
Remember that carp are in the same family as koi and goldfish which are long-time staples of indoor tanks and aquariums.
Carp can be raised in an indoor aquarium, although it is important to consider their size and the space requirements of the specific species you are planning to keep. In a large 220/250-gallon tank, you may only be able to keep one or two large carp.
If you are planning to raise carp in an indoor aquarium, it is important to choose a species that is suitable for life in a confined space. Goldfish are a type of carp that are commonly kept in indoor aquariums, although they can still grow to be quite large and may eventually outgrow the tank.
It is important to research the specific size and space requirements of the goldfish species you are planning to keep and to provide them with a suitable habitat that meets their needs.
In general, it is important to provide carp with a suitable habitat that includes places to hide and shelter, such as logs or rocks, as well as aquatic plants for cover and food.
It is also important to monitor and maintain the water quality to ensure the health and well-being of the fish. This may include testing pH, temperature, and ammonia levels, as well as removing excess nutrients through the use of filters or other methods.
Here’s a well-featured 220-gallon fish tank you can have right next to your kitchen for the ultimate convenience in carp-raising. It will hold one or two large carp (suitable for several meals) along with a number of smaller fish.
What is the Best Species of Carp to Raise
There are several different species of carp that can be grown in a pond, including Common Carp, Koi Carp, Grass Carp and Goldfish. Each species has its own unique characteristics and requirements, so it is important to research and choose the species that is best suited to your pond and your goals.
Common carp are a hardy and adaptable species that are well-suited to life in a pond. They are native to Europe and Asia and can grow to be quite large, reaching up to 100 pounds in weight and over 4 feet in length.
Common carp are typically gray or brown in color, with a distinctive set of barbels (whisker-like appendages) on the lower jaw. They are omnivorous, which means they will eat a variety of foods, including plants, small insects, and fish food.
Koi carp are a type of domesticated common carp (not typically raised for food) that are popular in ornamental ponds. They are known for their colorful patterns and long lifespan. Koi carp are typically larger and more delicate than common carp, and may require more specialized care and attention.
Goldfish are also a type of domesticated common carp and are popular as ornamental fish in outdoor ponds and indoor aquariums. They are smaller and more delicate than common carp, and may be more suitable for smaller ponds or tanks.
Can You Farm Carp Anywhere?
Because carp require very little maintenance compared to most other species, it’s possible to raise carp in farm ponds throughout their natural range including much of Eastern North America.
Do I Need to Oxygenate a Carp Pond, Pool, or Tank?
A carp pool or pond will need to be oxygenated since all fish species require oxygen in the water for proper respiration. There are no natural sources of oxygen production in a tank or pool though there likely are in a natural pond.
There are many ways to oxygenate the water, but one of the nicest and easiest ways is to install an artificial waterfall that is fed by a water pump from the pool. One of the better pond pumps from Alpine is pictured below.
How Many Carp Can I Raise in my Pool, Pond, or Tank?
The density of carp or koi in a pond, pool, or aquarium depends on the size of the body of water and the needs of the specific species of fish. It is important to provide enough space for the fish to move freely and to ensure that the water has a sufficient supply of oxygen to support their needs.
As a general rule, it is recommended to allow for at least 100 gallons (preferably closer to 250 gallons) of water per carp or koi in a pond or pool. This will provide enough space for the fish to move freely and to help prevent overcrowding and stress.
If you are keeping a smaller number of fish, or if you are keeping them in an indoor aquarium, you may need to adjust the space requirements accordingly.
What Do You Feed Carp in a Pond?
Carp are omnivorous, which means they will eat both plant and animal matter. In a farmed setting, carp are often fed a commercial feed that is formulated to provide them with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive, though naturally available insects, worms, and algae are on the menu as well.
These feeds can contain a variety of ingredients, such as corn, wheat, soy, fishmeal, and fish oil. Some farmed carp may also be fed supplemental feed in the form of fruits, vegetables, and other plant matter, depending on the specific farming operation and the preferences of the farmer.
Natural food for carp includes insects, aquatic worms, mollusks, and crustaceans. They also consume algae and other plant matter.
I know from experience that some of the best carp fishing baits include kernels from corn on the cob as well as bread balls.
How Long Does it Take to Grow Carp for Food?
From Fingerling size, a carp can reach sexual maturity in 2-4 years and reach a weight of well over 2 lbs. They will almost certainly grow significantly larger and they can live as long as 40 years and grow to over 100 lbs. A good average size to process for eating would be at least 4 lbs.
Will Carp in a Pond Reproduce?
Carp living in a pool or pond will eventually reproduce once they reach the stage of reproduction. However, it’s important to note that adult carp will often consume young carp, though a spawning female carp can lay over 100,000 eggs.
Because of this, it’s wise to offer lots of added food for your adult carp and lots of cover (plants, rocks, wood features, etc.) in which young hatchlings can hide.
Where Can I Buy Small Carp to Raise?
There are numerous hatcheries throughout North America that will sell you carp fingerlings. Generally, you can expect to pay $2 for every 3-5 inch carp and $10 for a foot-long carp.
It’s highly advisable to stock small fingerling carp instead of trying to raise them from eggs in a controlled environment. This is often more complicated than it’s worth for a hobbyist.
It’s best to stock carp fingerlings in ponds with no bass or other predatory fish. You can purchase larger ones to stock in ponds with relatively small bass so the bass will not eat the entire population of stocked carp.
Key Takeaways – Raising Your Own Carp at Home
While raising carp in a pond or pool is not for everyone, it can be an exciting and rewarding way to produce fresh seafood at home. Here’s a quick summary of the steps needed to successfully create a great environment for raising carp at home:
- Choose a suitable location for your carp pond. The pond should be large enough to accommodate the number of fish you plan to raise and should have good water quality.
- Construct or prepare the pond. This may involve digging the pond, installing a liner, and setting up a filtration system.
- Stock the pond with fingerling carp. These can be purchased from a hatchery or fish farm.
- Feed the carp a commercial feed formulated for their nutritional needs. You can also supplement their diet with fruits, vegetables, and other plant matter.
- Monitor the water quality and temperature regularly, and take steps to maintain optimal conditions for the fish.
- Harvest the carp when they reach a suitable size, usually when they are at least 1-2 pounds in weight.
- Process and store the harvested fish according to your preferences and local regulations.
Raising farmed carp at home can be a rewarding and sustainable way to produce your own protein, but it does require some knowledge and effort to be successful. It is important to do your research and be prepared to invest the time and resources necessary to properly care for the fish.