In central Europe it thrives best in enclosed, preserved waters, with a clayey or muddy bottom and with an abundant vegetation; it avoids clear waters with stony ground, and is altogether absent from rapid streams. The tench is distinguished by its very small scales, which are deeply imbedded in a thick skin, whose surface is as slippery as that of an eel.
The tench is really an excellent fish for the table, if kept in cool, clear water for a few days, as it is the custom to do in Germany, in order to rid it of the muddy flavour imparted to it by its favourite abode.
Large numbers of fish, principally carp, pike and tench are still reared profitably, the pools being periodically dried up and the ground cultivated.
Among European freshwater fishing-grounds, the Danube is only surpassed by the Volga; the most valuable fish being sturgeon and sterlet, mostly netted in the St George mouth; carp, often weighing 50 lb; pike, perch, tench and eels.
As the tench is of comparatively uncommon occurrence in unenclosed waters, its place among the indigenous fishes of Great Britain has been denied, and it has been supposed to have been introduced from the Continent; a view which, however, is not supported by any evidence, and is practically disposed of by the fact that fossil remains of the fish are found in the Pleistocene deposits of Great Britain.
In the days of medieval abbeys, when the provident Cistercian monks attached great importance to pond culture, they gave the first place to the tench and bream, the carp still being unknown in the greater part of Europe.
Salmon, lampreys and eels are caught in some of the larger rivers; trout abound in the streams of the northern provinces; but many fresh-water fish common elsewhere in Europe, including pike, perch, tench and chub, are not found.