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Monday, July 18, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Arapaima (Arapaima gigas)

Arapaima gigas (Schinz, 1822)

Range: Northern South America (Amazon Basin)
Habitat: Rivers, Lakes, Flooded Forest
Diet: Fish, Insects
Social Grouping: Will congregate in dry seasons
Reproduction: Form pairs in December through March, larvae hatch 3-5 days after spawning, at which point female leaves the young to the male.  Male cares for young for 3 months. Sexual maturity reached at 4-5 years old
Lifespan: 15-20 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Data Deficient, CITES Appendix II

  • Body length up to 3 meters, weight up to 200 kilograms - one of the world's largest species of freshwater fish
  • Sleek, streamlined body with dorsal and anal fins set far back.  Body is gray or green  with red flecks on the scales
  • Tongue is covered with bony teeth than grind against teeth on roof of mouth
  • Common name derived from indigenous words for "red" and "fish"
  • Enlarged swim bladder allows arapaima to breathe from the air, typically surfacing every 5-15 minutes in low-oxygen waters of the Amazon
  • Have been known to leap from the water to grab prey on overhanging branches
  • Adult males have a pheromone they release to keep their offspring nearby for protection
  • Outside of native range, have been introduced to waterways in east Asia, both deliberately for fishing and accidentally as escaped pets
  • Once believed to be the only arapaima species, now sometimes divided into four or five
  • Habit of emerging to the surface to breathe makes arapaima an easy target for fishermen (highly desired because of their large size)

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