Genus and Species: Arapaima gigas
Individual arapaima are typically six to seven
feet long, but can reach eight feet or more. One of the largest
freshwater fish in the world, the arapaima is a torpedo-shaped
black fish with red markings. The scales are quite large.
Its mouth is turned up toward the surface of the water, and
it feeds at the surface.
Range and Habitat: The arapaima is found in the Amazon
and Orinoco River drainage of South America. A limit to its
distribution is the presence of large rapids or waterfalls,
which they are unable to navigate.
The arapaima is a predator. In the Zoo, it is fed
a prepared diet and chopped fish.
Spawning occurs in shallow lakes, chiefly
during the months of October and November. "Mouth incubation" is
thought to take place. The father guarding the eggs is known
to take them in his mouth and move them to another location.
The young are led by the male in a group once they are able
Status: The arapaima is becoming rare. It is still not
endangered, but may well be on its way.
Arapaima are very unfishlike in that they are
air breathers that stay submerged for 10 to 20 minutes at
a time. This tendency to stay at the surface makes them vulnerable
to hunters with harpoons.