Carp Teeth: Everything You Need To Know

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: October 3, 2022
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The carp is a fish that belongs to the class Actinopterygii and the order Cypriniformes. There are over 2,000 carp species including the goldfish, grass carp, koi, and common carp. They are predominantly located in Asia, and within the region, some species are singled out for selective breeding. They are also an invasive species and have been found in North American waters. 

Merely looking at a carp species or checking out a picture, it’s hard to imagine them having regular teeth. In this article, we’ll discover whether or not carps have teeth among other related details. 

Do Carp Have Teeth?

Carp teeth are situated at the back of their throats.

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Despite their physical appearance seemingly saying otherwise, carp absolutely have teeth and they are called pharyngeal teeth. The teeth are situated at the back of their throats, which is why many people find it hard to locate them. This is common to all species of carp and the frontal area of their mouths is often devoid of any chompers. 

Carp teeth aren’t pointy or razor-sharp but they look more like molars and are found in the area of their throats known as the pharyngeal arch. Their teeth, however, vary in number among different species, and of course, they grow as the individual ages. Fully-grown carp teeth are very much similar to human molars given their flat and round shape. The teeth are replaced several times during the course of an individual carp’s life and they always regrow. 

Do Carp Bite?

The carp’s pharyngeal teeth are not as sharp and pointy as other regular teeth. Hence, they are not strong or sharp enough to inflict any serious bite. Also, the location of the carp’s teeth makes it further difficult for them to bite anything at all. 

How Do Carp Eat?

Since carp can bite, they generally don’t go for any animals that require them to do too much biting or cutting. Once they get the prey into their mouths, it goes right through the throat and meets the pharyngeal teeth where they get to chew them. While chewing, they move their jaws slowly and begin to crush the food in a spinning motion. This way, the hard parts of the prey like the shell get crushed and the carp gets to focus on the prey’s soft and edible insides. The hard parts, if crushed enough, may also be ingested by the carp and the larger remnants will be spat out. 

While their teeth are mostly flat and not as razor-sharp as human teeth, they will grind food maximally with the right pressure. However, no biting is required. 

What Do Carp Eat?

What Do Carp Eat - Their Diet Explained
As omnivores, carp include insects, aquatic plants, and worms in their diet.

Carps have a predominantly omnivorous diet, which means they are fine eating both plants and animals. They are what the experts call “opportunistic feeders.” This means they will consume anything edible as long as it can fit in their mouths and won’t harm them in the process. Their diet includes insects, crustaceans, snails, algae, nuts, berries, detritus, crayfish, underwater vegetation, as well as corn and bread. 

They can eat up to two percent of their body weight with some species even eating up to 40% daily. In context, their average weight is between 4.5-31 lbs, with some species weighing as much as 100lbs. 

While they are voracious eaters, wintertime impacts their metabolism which makes them lethargic and reduces the amount of food they eat significantly. 

On the whole, carps have a diverse diet and they are blessed with pharyngeal teeth, good enough to help with crushing, grinding, and swallowing. 

Do Carp Bite Humans?

First-time fishers usually deal with the fear of carp possibly biting their hands while fishing. While this fear might be legitimate when hunting in areas with sharks and other dangerous fishes, it’s unnecessary with carp. Carp absolutely do not bite humans; not only are they unwilling to, but they also don’t have teeth sharp enough to inflict any actual harm.

Also, as we have mentioned several times prior, carp teeth are located right at the back of their throats and it’s very unlikely that anyone’s hands make it back there. Even if your fingers somehow end up in the carp’s throat, it still wouldn’t be sharp enough to cause any injuries. 

That’s not to say humans have a free pass to dip their fingers into carp throat as they wish. What we mean is, when fishing for carp, there is absolutely nothing to fear as they lack both the predilection and the ability to bite. 

Do Carp Lose Their Teeth?

grass carp

Carp shed over 30 sets of teeth in their lifetime.

©Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

Every carp species possess pharyngeal teeth at the back of their throats. However, they often shed their teeth throughout the course of their lives. They do this when their old teeth lose some efficiency and they need new ones. 

Some experts say replacement takes about two to three days during which they settle for extra softened food. Species like the koi carp are estimated to shed over 30 sets of teeth in their lifetime. This is why pond and aquarium managers often find old teeth around the pond and even in filter boxes. 

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Fabien Monteil/Shutterstock.com


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Sources
  1. slo-fishing.si, Available here: https://www.slo-fishing.si/fishing-for-beginners/421-do-carp-have-teeth
  2. Farnham Angling Society, Available here: https://www.farnhamanglingsociety.com/species/coarse/common-carp/#:~:text=Carp%20possess%20no%20teeth%20in,food%20and%20ejecting%20unwanted%20items
  3. StrikeAndCatch, Available here: https://strikeandcatch.com/do-carp-have-teeth/