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young Carp one or two years old. The fish will arrive in a worn and hungry condition, and must
be kept in a tank constructed on purpose for observation, where it has no chance to bury itself in
the mud ; here it will sometimes take a little food. At such times I generally make use of boiled
barley, or rye flour converted into a kind of tough paste by the addition of hot water, and with
this I mix a little loam and dry bread ; but I continue the feeding only until I can judge from the
looks of the fish that they have recovered. This method I followed with the Carp wuich I imported
from Europe for the purpose of breeding in the winter of 1876-'77. It is a most striking fact that
the Carp, though it does not take any food during this winter sleep in its natural retreat, does not
diminish in weight, while, in the so-called " winter chambers," it does so to a remarkable degree.
These " winter chambers" are large tanks, one thousand to five thousand square feet in size or
less; they are sometimes walled in with masonry, sometimes they are constructed of wood. Fishes
intended for sale are kept in them for a few weeks or months during the winter.

The Carp does not grow in the winter. Warmth alone seems to exercise a favorable influence
upon it and to promote growth. It only grows in the months of May, June, July, and August,
and does not appear to continue doing so in September. This slight increase in weight which

'Report United States Fish Commissioner, pt. iv, p. 876 et leg.



622



NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.



takes place during the latter month seems to grow out of an accumulation of fat which is being
deposited around the entrails. In ponds which contain plenty of food and healthy water, in an
ordinary year, the growth and increase of weight in the year will be represented in figures as
follows :





Per cent, of
original
weight.


Per cent, of
growth.


Mav


10-15


13




33


31


July


36


34




20


18




6


4








Total


110


100









If the weather in the mouth of May be mild and warm from the beginning, a better growth
may be expected, amounting, as in June, to about thirty per centum. This month (May) is decid-
edly of great importance for the growth of the fish during the current year, for, in proportion as
the fish has grown in the short space of one month, it will take more food in the following ones, as
the increase of its growth and consequent wants will demand. Guitarists, therefore, consider the
mouth of May as being the most important of the whole period of the Carp's growth. The above-
given calculations, of course, are limited to ponds in which no artificial feeding is resorted to, but
in which there is sufficient food by reason of the good quality of the water and soil which pro-
duces it.

In small ponds, situated in parks or gardens, which possess favorable soil and river water, the
increase of weight will be even a little greater if feeding is had recourse to, for such small ponds
(covering only half an acre) cannot produce sufficient food themselves. On the whole, feeding is
a makeshift, as will be seen presently, and which in very large ponds of more than from twenty
to one thousand acres should not be made use of.

The above calculations are only admissible for Central Europe, from the Adriatic to the Baltic
and the North Sea. In countries farther north, as in Sweden, the growth of the Carp is less, as,
on the contrary, in more southern countries than Central Europe, for instance in Illyria, Dalmatia,
Southern Italy, Southern Spain, and partly, also, Southern France, the result is more favorable
still. There a milder and warmer climate, an early spring, a very warm summer and autumn, and
a late winter, which, in addition, is mild and short, combine to exercise a favorable influence upon
the thriving condition of the fishes. In these warm climates the fish becomes lively at a much
earlier season, if it does at all pass the winter in that lethargic state, without taking any food,
than it does in the countries of the northern parts of Central Europe.

REPRODUCTION. The pond Carp of Central Europe generally leaves its winter retreat when
the rays of the spring sun have warmed the water thoroughly, while at the same time it begins to
seek for food at a somewhat earlier period in rivers and lakes. At the beginning of the month of
March the eggs have developed themselves considerably in the body of the fish, and it only needs
a few weeks of warm weather to bring about the spawning season. This commences in the middle
of May in such lakes and ponds of Central and Northern France, Southern Germany and Austria,
as have a warm situation and are sheltered from the cold winds. It continues in some localities
throughout June and July, and sometimes, in more elevated situations, until August, as, for
instance, in Francouia and Upper Bavaria. The spawn of so late a season, however, is scarcely
fit for breeding purposes, as the fish cannot grow much more during the short space of warm
weather. It remains very small and suffers greatly from the ensuing winter weather, and is easily



REPRODUCTION OF THE CARP. 623

at that time. The spawning of tbe individual fish doea not take place all at once. Days
and weeks may pass U-iore it will have left the last egg to the care of nature. At times, upon the
setting in of rainy, cool weather during this period, it will be interrupted, but reassumed as soon
as the temperature grows warmer again. Culturists altogether dislike cold weather at this time,
as not only the eggs but the young fry also suffer much from it. Wet, cold summers are no more
profitable to the culturists of Carp than to the agriculturist. In the southern part of Europe the
-[awning season commences at an earlier date than in Central Europe. In Sicily, in the neigh-
borhood of Palermo, where there are some private ponds, the Carp begins to .spawn at the com-
mencement of the month of April. This is said to be the case also in the French province of Con-
st a mine, Algeria, Africa.

The abundance of eggs in the Carp is very great, and it is this circumstance which will
explain its extraordinary increase in the natural waters. A fish weighing from four to five pounds
contains, on an average, 400,000 to 500,000 eggs. Other statements figure still higher. I not only
made calculations myself formerly, repeating them in 1876 on a female Mirror Carp, which I
obtained from the environs of Guuzenhausen, Bavaria, and which, curiously enough, at the end
of November, was entirely ripe, but I also obtained statements from culturists on whom I could
depend. The calculation I made in the following manner: After freeing the eggs from all the fat
and the inclosing membrane, ami after having washed them in alcohol, 1 counted off exactly 1,000
of them; these I weighed, and according to the result I deduced the number of the whole. In
the somewhat longer-bodied Scale Carp, 1 generally found comparatively more eggs than in a
Mirror or Leather Carp, though all were of equal age and weight.

During the spawning season an appreciable change takes place iu the male, protuberances,
like warts, appearing on the skin of the head and back, and disappearing upon the expiration of
that period. This is a peculiarity with most of the cypriuoids. Some time before the spawning
season sets in, the falling out of the pharyngeal teeth takes place; these grow anew every year.

Some days before spawning the fish show an increased vivacity; they rise more often from
the depths below to the surface. Two or three or more of the male fish keep near the female; the
latter swims more swiftly on a warm, sunny morning, keeping mostly close to the surface, followed
by the males. This is called "s<retcA"=runuiug-8pawning, and is more frequent in warm than
in windy and rainy weather. The female prefers spots which are overgrown with grasses and other
kinds of aquatic plants, such as Utricularia, Nymphea, and Aliama. The male fishes follow close
to the very water's edge, as far as the diminished depth will allow them. They lose all their timid-
ity and precaution, so that they may be taken quite easily. They lash the water in a lively way,
twisting the posterior portion of the body energetically, and shooting through the water near its
surface with short, tremulous movements of the fins. They do so in groups of two or three males
to one female fish, and forming an almost compact mass. This is the moment when the female
drops the eggs, which immediately are impregnated by the milter. As this process is repeated
several times, the female drops probably only from four hundred to five hundred eggs at a time, in
order to gain resting time, so that it will require days and weeks before it has given up the
last egg.

The eggs of the Carp are adhesive, not detached, like those of the Salmonidte, these latter
lying loosely on the ground, while the former adhere in lumps to the object upon which they have
fallen. As soon as the egg has left the body of the fish it swells up a little, the mucus, which
surrounds it, serving as a means to fasten itself upon some aquatic plant, stone, or brush-wood.
Those eggs which have no such object to cling to are lost. I found numerous eggs on the reverse
sides of the leaves of the Nymphaeea and their stems, the Phellandrium and Utricularia, but the



624 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

greater number of them I discovered on the Festuca fluitans, which among fishermen is known
generally by the name of "water-grass." Its narrow, long, strap-shaped, thin leaves spread softly
over the water's surface, as also its numerous branches in the water afford to Ihe fish the sought-
for opportunity to deposit its eggs upon its tender leaves. The seeds of this grass are an excellent
food for the Carp. This may be regarded as a useful indication to be acted upon in the construc-
tion of ponds.

The eggs will develope themselves quickly if assisted by warm weather. As early as the fifth
or sixth day the first traces of dusky spots, the eyes, will be visible, and toward the twelfth, or at
the latest the sixteenth day the little embryo fish Will break through its envelope. This rapid
development takes place only in shallow, thoroughly-warmed ponds, or in such as were expressly
constructed for hatching, and called breeding ponds. If these poiids are deep, and consequently
their water is colder, the hatching process may require as many as twenty days. In from three to
five days the young fish has absorbed the yolks, and seeks its food. If the breeding pond be pro-
ductive enough to furnish the necessary food for so many young fishes, these will grow very rap-
idly. I shall return to this subject hereafter.

I remarked above that the Carp prefers stagnant or slowly-running water with a muddy bot-
tom, and that it lives upon vegetable as well as animal food, aquatic plants, seeds, worms, and
larvae of water insects; it is therefore no fish of prey. It does not attack other fishes, and has no
teeth in its mouth, but only in the throat, and is, on account of its harmlessness, an excellent fish
for the culturist, as well as for stocking large lakes and rivers in general.

GROWTH AND SIZE. Its growth differs, according as the fish inhabits cold or warm water, a
river, lake, or pond, finding plentiful food therein, or I'eing fed. An additional factor is the quality
of the soil, whether muddy or stony. In cold water, or such as has a stony ground, the Oarp will
not progress favoiably. For this reason, the statements concerning its normal size, attained to
in a certain given time, differ widely. Very naturally, it will exercise an extremely great influence
upon the thriving of the fishes whether the pond contains a great number or only a few of them;
whether it is overstocked, as culturists term it, or whether there are only a proportionate number
of fishes in it, according to its capability of producing food. Other considerations remain to be
mentioned, namely, Is the pond provided with supplies from brooks falling into it, or are th fishes
to be fed t The latter course is almost indispensable in the culture of trout. The expenses
incurred in this case diminish the income of the culturist; if not resorted to, the result will be the
same, as the value of the fish will be smaller. This feeding is needless with the Carp, if it be cul-
tivated judiciously in suitable ponds, and for this reason alone the culture of the Carp is preferable
to that of the trout.

In rivers and lakes it grows larger, although the same fish; for the reason, probably, that in
a larger space, which at the same time yields more sheltered retreats, it escapes from the pursuit
of man more easily than in regular artificial ponds, and finds more plentiful supplies of food.

The question of the species, or I would rather say the race, is of great moment, particularly in
respect to carp-culture in ponds.

A favorable result may be expected from the culture of this fish wherever the necessary water
ia to be found, be it in the north or south, and that, too, as well in ponds as in open lakes and
rivers.

The normal weight which a Carp may attain to in three years, whether it be Scale Carp,
Mirror Carp, or Leather Carp, is an average of from three to three and one-fourth pounds; that
is, a fish which has lived two summers, consequently is eighteen months old, will weigh two and
three fourths to three and one-fourth pounds the year following. The growth may turn out to be



SIZE AND WEIGHT OF TUB CAEP. 625

even more favorable in a warm year, or if only a few fishes have been placed in a pond, as we
shall see farther on, in the chapter treating of pond-culture and the operations of the culturist. 1

Carps in;iy reach a very advanced age, as specimens are to be found in Austria over one
hundred and forty years old. The increase in length only continues up to a certain age, but its
circumference will increase up to its thirty-fifth year.

I have seen some common Carp in the southern parts of Europe in the lowlands of Hungary,
Servia, Croatia, Wallachia, as also in Moldavia and the Buckowina which weighed from thirty to
forty pounds and more, measuring nearly three and one-half feet in length by two and three-fourths
feet in circumference.

Old men, whose credibility and truthfulness could not be doubted, assured me and gave the
most detailed accounts of the capture of this species of fish in former years, giants, which weighed
from fifty to sixty pounds, and which they had seen themselves. During the Crimean war in 1853,
a French engineer officer, stationed at Widclin, on the Danube, in Turkey, killed a Carp by a bullet-
shot, some distance below the city ; this fish weighed sixty-seven pounds. I had some of its scales
in my possession, of which each had a diameter of two and one half inches. Their structure indi-
cated to a certainty that the age of this fish could be no more than twenty-four years at the most.
It is a well-known fact that two large Carps, weighing from" forty-two to fifty-five pounds, were
taken several years ago on one of the Grand Duke of Oldenburg's domains in Northern Germany.
They have been kept in some particularly favorable water, productive of plentiful food, and had
been used as breeding fishes. These two specimens might, from their size, be calculated to be
comparatively very aged fishes; it was proved that they were only fifteen years old. If we may
credit the chronicles kept centuries ago by old families, nnd especially by the monks, who had
taken possession of all the best localities along the banks of the beautiful blue Danube, then still
greater giants had been caught, and that in the waters of the Danube itself. A ch'rouicle of the
monastery of Molk, in Austria, refers to a Carp weighing seventy-eight pounds, which had been
captured on Ascension Day in 1520. Another record speaks of a Carp which had been taken in
the third decennium of the present century in the lake of Zug, in Switzerland, and which weighed
ninety pounds. These giants are certainly only wonderful exceptions, and have become celebrated
through the scarcity of such occurrences, but still these facts are encouraging illustrations that it
is possible for such large specimens to grow up in favorable waters. All the countries where
these large fishes have been found, and which are situated between the Black, the North, and the
Baltic Seas, are pretty nearly such as have a late spring and a long, cold winter. Near Widditi
the Danube has been frozen repeatedly. There the Carp passes from five to seven months in its
winter sleep, during which it does not grow. If this fish thrives so well in the countries which
have such a very cold winter (on an average they have the same winter temperature as Boston,
Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore and Saint Louis), where the
rivers, have not enough food for these fishes by far, their level being regulated by dams, which are
a subject of constant complaint to the fishermen, how much more would they thrive in the waters
of this country with their great riches of food! But if we take into account the rivers of the mild
South and Southwest of the United States, what success may not be expected for this fish in those
regions t

If the Carp finds food in superfluity it will grow much more rapidly than the above statement
indicates. This gives an increase of from three to three and one-fourth pounds in one year and six
mouths ; but this is only the normal one, the food consumed being of an average amount. If the
fish obtain food very plentifully it will grow more rapidly. In this case, again, it is to be consid-

1 Report of the United State* Fish Commision, pt. i v, p. 876 et ieq.
40 F



626 NATURAL HISTORY OF AQUATIC ANIMALS.

ered that the waters of the milder climates of this country possess this advantage, scarcely to be
judged of or estimated at its proper value as yet, that the fish may be able during three-quarters
of the year, or even the whole year round, to take food, and will omit the lethargic winter sleep
conditioned by the cold winter. There is scarcely a comparison to be made, so far as the Carp is
concerned, between the rivers of this country, so richly supplied with food, which it will not
be compelled to seek under a constant strife for existence, and the much poorer waters of the
Rhine, Elbe, Rhone, etc. In the waters of its native country, in Central Europe, after its first
awakening from the long winter sleep, it seeks most diligently the contents of the seeds of
the Nwphar luteum and Nymphcea alba (the yellow and white water-lily), the Phellandrium aqua-
ticum, Festuca fluitans, etc. The waters of the United States abound in all these plants and
numerous others the seeds of which will serve the fish as food; for instance, the wild rice (Zizania
aquatica and Z. Jluitam), the well known Tuscarora rice or "water-oats" with its great riches of
seeds, and many others, which will yield food profusely, and which European waters do not possess,
thus giving a great advantage to the American carp culturist. And then there is the culture of
fish iu ponds. There are culturists in Central Europe who, wishing to see the fish grow more rap-
idly, take the trouble to feed them with soaked barley, which they occasionally throw out in differ-
ent places, and by doing so they have had a very full success, the fish growing larger, that is, more
quickly than when not thus fed. By introducing the above-named wild or natural water plants
in carp ponds they will be perpetuated, and the grains which have fallen to the bottom of the
water will form an ample article of food for the first spring days, if we do not prefer to give them
the almost worthless offal of the slaughter-houses. I do not advocate the so-called artificial feeding
of this fish where the ponds themselves yield food in ample abundance, a consummation toward
which the Tuscarora rice will largely contribute.

Let us once more consider the fact of its extraordinary increase of weight of about one
hundred and ten per centum in the exceedingly short space of four months, for during the cold
winter time, when ice thickly covers rivers and lakes, nature banishes it into its temporary tomb
which it chooses and digs for itself, to hold its winter sleep in. This fish needs from fifteen to
eighteen months of growth to gain, according to a low estimation, the weight of three pounds
without being fed. But much more satisfactory results are frequently arrived at when favorable
circumstances combine and when it will reach a greater weight. There are some culturists who
obtain in the same space of time fishes of four pounds' weight; of course they possess warmly situ-
ated ponds which thaw very early in spring, and perhaps they assist nature in some degree by
feeding the fishes. I have done so myself in two successive years, which were exceptionally warm,
when I fed the fishes with the almost worthless malt refuse or " grains." They increased visibly
and attained to the above-mentioned weight in the same space of time.

This fifteen to eighteen months of the actual time of growth transpires during a period of three
years and six months, as intervening months of winter sleep are to be included, during which the
growth is interrupted.

I will not recur to what this fish promises to become in the milder regions of the South, where
neither ice-bound water nor cold temperatures force upon it the lethargy of the winter sleep, where
it will have the longer space of from eight to ten months, or may be the whole year, including the
mild winter, for the most vigorous and rapid development, not, as in Europe, the sparingly allotted
four or five months. It is not to be doubted that the Carp will arrive at the weight of from two
and three-fourths to four poundsin one year in those warm climates, when in colder regions it
requires two years and six months. I do not think that I am mistaken in this; I am ready to
stand by this assertion, which the future will surely verify.
40 F



CATFISH FAMILY. 627

For a full account of the methods of culture the iuquirer is referred to the Report of the
Fmird States Commission of Fish. Tics, part iv, 1875-'7G, pp. 876-900, and to other papers in the
subsequent reports. At the time of the publication of this volume the progeny of the three
hundred and forty live young Carp brought over from Germany in .May, 1877, have been dis-
t ri I in ted to all parts of the United States, and the Carp is almost as familiar to our people as is
any other kind of domesticated animal.

"The Car])," writes Jordan, "has been extensively introduced into California and Oregon, and
it has thriven admirably. In many parts of California there are now carp ponds, but they are
most numerous, and perhaps most profitable, in Sonoma County."

189. THE CATFISH FAMILY 8HUEID2E.
By DAVID 8. JORDAN.

The Catflshes abound in all the fresh waters of the United States east of the Rocky Mount-
ains. The species of the three genera, Ictalurus, Amiurus, and Leptops, which constitute the bulk
of the family as represented in North America, all reach a length of from one to five feet, and are
all food-fishes of more or less importance. One of the Catfishes, Ictalurus ponderosvs, is our
largest fresh- water fish, weighing upwards of one hundred and fifty pounds, and two of the others,
Leptops olivaris and Ictalurus nigricans, reach a very considerable size.

The Catfishes are voracious and indiscriminate feeders, any kind of animal substance, living or
dead, being greedily swallowed by them. They are also (es]>ecially the species of Ami urns) extremely
tenacious of life, living for a long time out of water, and being able to resist impurities in the
water better than any other of our food-fishes. They spawn in spring, and the female fish keeps a
watch over the school of young, much asa hen takes care of chickens. The Catfishes are especially
adapted for stocking ponds and sluggish streams with mnddy bottoms, or which become partly
dry in summer, bodies of water not suited for the more aristocratic trout and bass.

The species of the genus Ictalurus known as "Channel Cats" are much less hardy than the
other Catfishes, and do not thrive well except in river channels. Any water which does not dry
up absolutely to the bottom in summer will suffice to nurture the common small Catfishes.

The flesh of all the Catfishes is of fair quality, not delicate nor tender, but of good flavor.
The Channel Cats have whiter meat than the ordinary small Catfish, but the flesh is drier, and the
latter are usually preferred.

THE COMMON CHANNEL CAT ICTALURUS PUNCTATUS.

The Channel Cat or Blue Cat abounds in all the larger Western and Southern streams, living



Online LibraryG. Brown (George Brown) GoodeThe fisheries and fishery industries of the United States (Volume 1:1) → online text (page 105 of 146)