Do Carp Sleep?

This is a topic that has been of great debate between many anglers. I will try to answer it to the best of my ability from my experiences fishing, researching and raising fish in my aquarium at home.

Sleeping Carp

Do Carp Sleep? Yes, carp do sleep. Although they sleep in a different way than humans and other animals, carp have been found to reduce their activity and rest in certain areas under certain conditions to restore and recharge themselves.

I have had many experiences where I have spotted fish and thought they were sleeping due to their posture and inactivity. Seemingly unaware of the presence of my approaching boat. There are many factors to consider when answering the question Do Carp Sleep?

I will delve deeper into each of the factors below.

How Do Carp Sleep?

In the early mornings before sunrise I usually quietly scout around local bays with my boat, powered only by a silent trolling motor so as not to spook the fish. Armed with a spotlight I search the shallows to spot where the majority of carp are holding to decide where to fish.

Most days I find the carp cruising through bare channels, almost like highways through weedy areas, a few days this past summer I noted behaviour that was quite different and barely caught any carp on these days.

  • As I drifted silently through the weedy bays I noticed that the bare swaths through the patches of weed had no fish activity at all.
  • Upon further inspection, I noted that the carp were buried in the weed beds themselves, not moving or spooking at all from the movement of my boat.
  • I practically had to poke or bump the fish to elicit a response. I came to the conclusion that the carp were resting or sleeping in the cover and safety of the weeds.
  • I stopped the boat and watched one fish very closely under my spotlight. Its dorsal fin was laying flat on its back as it rested under the edge of a weedy patch. Its belly was practically touching the bottom and its pectoral fins moved slightly to steady itself in the calm water. I also saw that its gills were very slowly moving in and out. The silt barely moved on the bottom from the movement of the pectoral fins although I noted two clear dimples in the bottom substrate to show that the carp had been there for quite some time.

Carp don’t sleep in the same way humans and other animals do. I have read that fish sleep or “rest” in two different ways. First off it depends on the type of fish as to how it sleeps. Some fish such as sharks require the constant flow of oxygenated water over their gills to breathe. With these types of fish, they must constantly be on the move or hold in fast-flowing water to breathe, their rest comes when they are in a safe enough environment to relax in the current or slowly drift through wide expanses of water with no stimuli.

Carp are much similar to the second type of fish which can sit stationary either in the water column or on the bottom. When fish sleep or “rest” in this state it will be noted that their breathing or gill movements will be greatly reduced. Fins will also be set flat against the body and it will take sudden noises or movement to arouse them.

Where Do Carp Sleep?

Carp tend to sleep or rest in the safest or most comfortable location they can find. Whenever I spot carp that are inactive or look to be in a state of sleep they are most times in thick cover such as weeds or blended into the bottom among large boulders.

I’ve noted that carp will sleep both alone and in schools of fish. When I’ve spotted them resting alone it was among thick weeds and cover. The fish that I’ve seen on my underwater camera that seemed to be resting in schools or shoals were always on big bodies of water in large open areas.

When water temperatures are colder carp will be found resting in certain areas where the water is warmer or more comfortable for them. It would be best to search for them near river mouths, shallower drop-offs or any man-made feature where warm water is running into a colder body of water.

Goldfish and koi are very similar to carp. I have raised many of these fish in my 55-gallon aquarium at home. After a night with the lights off and no food being added I have noted that the fish are normally schooled together in a clear area on the bottom of the tank. There is barely any current in the area and they all seem to be resting directly on the gravel until I turn the light on. I believe the light stimulates them into action as they associate it with feeding time.

Why Do Carp Sleep?

All animals and fish need to recharge every once in a while. I’ve noticed with fish it depends more on the conditions rather than a certain day/night pattern or routine.

Certain conditions when I’ve noticed carp resting are:

  • Before Spawning – Right before spring conditions meet peak spawning temperatures I’ve noticed year after year large schools of carp moving into certain holding areas. They seem to swim slowly in circles and tend not to be tempted to feed on bait placed near them.
  • Calm Warm Days – In shallow bays, I often see tons of carp basking and resting in the warm waters. These days I tend not to catch very many as the fish are slow and very inactive. Perhaps they are just saving their energy up for the next windy weather front to move in and stir up all the natural food on the bottom.
  • In Colder Water – When water temperatures drop so does fish activity. Carp tend to go into a hibernation state as their metabolism slows once temperatures drop below a certain point. Their feeding activity is greatly reduced and they move a lot slower from area to area.

When Do Carp Sleep?

Carp seem to sleep and rest more often when water temperatures are colder. During the winter months, it is much easier to find carp resting. It can be noted that carp bite less during these winter months, I have been told that they tend to feed only during a certain part of the day and only for a few hours. If you can figure out the patterns and when the carp feed each day you can spend less time searching and more time catching carp in these cold conditions.

In the summer and warmer months, I have noted that carp seem to rest more in calm conditions, especially after a stormy or windy weather front moves through.

Unlike humans and other animals, carp do not rest or sleep according to day and night routines. As many carp anglers know carp fishing at night can oftentimes be better than during the day. Carp sleep and rest patterns vary due to different circumstances such as:

  • Availability of Food – if there is a current hatch of invertebrates or other natural food sources carp will go without sleep or rest for long periods of time.
  • Spawning – during spawning season when water temperatures are at their prime level for carp I have yet to see any at rest when scouting with my underwater camera and boat. They seem to only have one thing on their mind at this time of the year.
  • Shortly After Spawning – This time seems to be a voracious time of feeding and activity for carp, I rarely see any at rest during this period as well.
  • Warmer Water Temperatures – In July one year I fished and baited for 15 days straight, only one calm day out of the 15 did the fish activity change and I found most of the fish resting in the weeds. This was the day that I caught the least amount of fish.
  • Colder Water Temperatures – In November of the same year I was able to fish for 5 days in a row. I noticed that 3 or these days the fish were in resting areas and the other 2 they were holding in feeding areas.

Although this is only a brief article, it is what I have found in my past fishing experiences while scouting and watching carp activity on my underwater camera. Carp may not sleep completely and dream like humans do but I have found them to be in a sleep-like state of rest and relaxation on many occasions.