Grass carp belongs to the Asian carp family. They are native to China and brought to the United States in the 1960s. Also, many other countries imported these fish for commercial purposes. They spread in several natural waterways later. People no longer address them as trash fish nowadays. Fish farmers are interested in grass carp because of their heavyweight, high growth rate, and polyculture opportunities. Catching them is pretty challenging for the anglers. Still, they try to get fish bites for setting new records. No matter if anyone prefers farming or fishing, knowing their eating pattern is a must. This article covers some important topics related to grass carp’s diet.
What do Grass Carp Eat?
Most pond wonders ask a common question to the experts- What do grass carp eat. Grass carp depends mostly on aquatic plants. However, not all species are their favorite. The diet includes pond-weeds, naiad, water meal, duckweed, star-grass, etc. They do not like to consume filamentous algae, weed with big leaves, white water-lily, and similar plants in most cases. They feed on mollusks and invertebrates, as well. Anglers usually use mollusks, tomato worms, earthworms, corn-based meals, and grasshoppers as lures. Cherry tomatoes, pieces of watermelon, grass, and oak leaves also work fine.
When they eat the most
An adult carp can eat from 20 to 100-percent of its body weight. This amount depends on its size, seasonal effect, temperature, age, and water fertility.
They become highly active in pre-spawning, spawning, and post-spawning times. These periods come in the warmer months, April to October. The temperature should be above 60-degree Fahrenheit. They need more food to save energy for either spawning or to take care of the children. That’s why people get more bites in the late summer. Because of severe eating, they can grow up to 2 lbs. or even more per month.
Grass carp clean the weeds rapidly from two to five years after stocking. Then, the growth will decrease eventually.
When they eat the least
Winter arrives with food scarcity for the carp. They limit activities for saving energy; their growth rate reduces too. It is the only way to survive a lean winter. The big eaters like grass carp do the same. This is the reason why winter carp fishing is very challenging.
After a couple of years of stocking, their eating rate becomes half. As they get older, they start eating minimal amounts of food.
Grass carp for cleaning ponds
Grass carp are available at a low rate ($14 to $20). These fish work better than chemical weed control methods. As a carp can live up to 10 years, you will get really long-term service. Therefore, there is no better alternative to clean your pond. As we described earlier, they will only take particular plants. They avoid plants having hard and fibrous leaves. So, you should have the proper idea of the plants’ type of your reservoir. Make sure that they are on the food list of grass carp. Contact local or country fishery biologists to identify the plants. Note that the effectiveness is not predictable at all. They eat what they like, not what we want.
Threats for overeating
Yes, we don’t like excessive aquatic plants because it makes the water dirty. But they release oxygen to the lake or pond water, which directly connects with the ecology. This vegetation forms habitat structures for a wide range of aquatic wildlife. Having rooted trees is required to stabilize shorelines as well. Apart from grass carp, many more species consume the plants to survive. The vegetation’s quantity decreases very fast because of grass carp’s greedy appetite. As a result, there can be less oxygen supply and food scarcity. According to research, they can be a threat to the native species. Besides, they cannot digest almost half of the meal and expel it in the water. It promotes algal growth while polluting the water.
Overcoming the threats
Keep these following facts in your mind to ensure limited grass carp usage:
- They are more likely to move out of a farmer’s pond with flowing water. Such conditions include water draining systems like outlet pipes. Moreover, some pond water overflows the ponds after rain events and leaves the pond. If the grass carp escape to the natural streams, they will endanger the lives of other species. We should reconsider stocking these carp in overflowing waterways. Another solution is building any type of barrier structure on the pond outlets.
- Many prefer cultivating more fish species along with grass carp, especially native ones. If you are planning to do the same, check the fish’s health every month. Keep the number of grass carp within a limit. When the unwanted plant growth and quantity comes under your control, harvest some carp from your pond. Do the same if they are causing threats to the other fish. The most effective technique is net fishing. You can collect the heavy ones for marketing and release the rest. Note that, after a certain age, grass carp neither eat much nor reproduce. You can restock these old fish with the younger ones. One more option is selective methods such as rod fishing, pole fishing, or bow fishing. Grass carp are super cautious and picky eaters. They seldom take the bait. If you still want to try, apply pre baiting in a particular spot by supplying whole kernel corn. Then, use the other grass carp baits.
- It is not necessary to cultivate grass carp unless you do not have business plans. If you want to clean ponds only, simply go for sterile or triploid grass carp. They cannot reproduce. So, the amount of grass carp will never increase.
- Stock only the amount you need. Calculate the water area and determine the types of plant infestations. Place two carp per acre for less than 30-percent plant coverage in the pond. Add three more fish to take care of 30 to 60-percent density. For a higher amount of weeds, reserve ten grass carp per acre. It will assist in preventing overgrazing, starvation, as well as carp migration.