browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Arapaima gigas

 Arapaima gigas Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2 Hua Hin Thailand
© by Günter & Muriele Fritsche
Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2 Hua Hin Thailand

Name: Arapaima (pirarucu, paiche)
Species: Arapaima gigas
Thai name: ปลาช่อนอเมชอน (Bplaa tschoon amazon)
Max length: 3m (9.842ft)
Max weight: 250 kg (550lb)
IGFA record: 154kg (339lb)
Stocked to: 182kg (400lb)
Diet: Fish, frogs, animals, birds, and chicken
back to the fish description overview

The Arapaima gigas, Pirarucu, or Paiche is a South American tropical freshwater fish. It is a living fossil and one of the largest freshwater fishes in the world.

The Arapaima is an air breather.

He has to the breathe a labyrinth organ, which is rich in blood vessels and opens his mouth to the breathe, an advantage in oxygen deprived water that is often found in the Amazon River. This organ allows him to take in oxygen directly from the air, instead of taking it from the water in which they reside. The labyrinth organ helps the inhaled oxygen to be absorbed into the bloodstream. As a result, the Arapaima can survive for a short period of time out of water, as they can inhale the air around them, provided they stay moist. The arapaimas can stay underwater for 10 to 20 minutes, then he must come up to breathe. That is why it is very important that when you release the Arapaima the head above the water is held, so that he can breathe air. You must him good hold until he breathed air. You can see this very well and hear mostly by a burp. He must under no States to freely admitted before he breathed. Otherwise the arapaima drowns, 100%.

arapaima breathing

For a split second, an arapaima surfaces to gulp air

About to open the mouth and remove the hook

The arapaima has a thin bone to the closing the mouth. That is why under no circumstances must to be the mouth forcibly opened. Otherwise this bone breaks and the arapaima drowns. When the Arapaima has closed the mouth the hook may under no circumstances by opening the mouth to be removed. Wait until he opens his mouth to remove the hook. The steel should otherwise to be cut. This is better than to open the mouth forcibly. Because the arapaima drowns otherwise.

Anatomy and morphology

Arapaima can reach lengths of more than 2 m (6.6 ft), in some exceptional cases even more than 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and over 100 kg (220 lbs). The often cited maximum length of 4.5 m (14.8 ft) comes from a single second-hand-report from the first half of the nineteenth century, and is not confirmed. The maximum-cited weight for the species is 200 kg (440 lbs). As one of the most sought after food fish species in South America, it is often captured primarily by handheld nets for export, by spearfishing for local consumption, and, consequently, large Arapaima of more than 2 m are seldom found in the wild today.

Fishing

Commercial fishing of the arapaima has been banned by the Brazilian government due to its commercial extinction. Fishing is allowed only in certain remote areas of the Amazon basin, and must be catch-and-release, or harvesting by native peoples for consumption. Because the arapaima produces “large, boneless fish steaks”,it is considered a delicacy; some 7000 tons per year were taken from 1918 to 1924, the height of its commercial fishing. The demand for the Arapaima has led to farming of the fish by the “Ribeirinhos” (as Brazilians call those living on the riverbanks).

Ecology

They enjoy water temperatures of 75 degrees or higher. When the water is cooler they may not eat and they may not be able to survive. The Arapaima Fish is therefore able to survive in oxbow lakes with dissolved oxygen as low as 0.5 ppm. In the wetlands of the Araguaia, one of the most important refuges for this species, it is the top predator in such lakes during the low water season, when the lakes are isolated from the rivers and oxygen levels drop, rendering its prey lethargic and vulnerable. The fish is an air-breather, using its labyrinth organ, which is rich in blood vessels and opens into the fish’s mouth, an advantage in oxygen-deprived water that is often found in the Amazon River. The diet of the arapaima consists of fish, crustaceans, and other small animals. The Arapaima Fish is very aggressive and they are continually on the move. They don’t seem to really have a home range – they simply live where they are able to survive.

Reproduction

Due to the geographic range that arapaima inhabit, the animal’s life cycle is greatly affected by the seasonal flooding that occurs. The Arapaima lays its eggs during the months when the water levels are low or beginning to rise. They build a nest approximately 50 cm wide and 15 cm deep, usually in muddy bottomed areas. As the water rises the eggs hatch and the offspring have the flood season to prosper, during the months of May to August. Therefore, the yearly spawning is regulated seasonally. The Arapaima male is supposed to be a mouthbrooder, like its relative the Osteoglossum., meaning the young are protected in its mouth until they are older. The female Arapaima helps to protect the male and the young by circling them and fending off potential predators. In his book The Whispering Land, naturalist Gerald Durrell reports hearing the tale in Argentina that female arapaima have been seen secreting a white substance from a gland in the head and that their young have been noted seemingly feeding on the substance.

Arapaima nest in the Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2

Arapaima nest in the Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2 Hua Hin Thailand

Arapaima bred in the Specimen Lake 2

We received the best gift we could ever can get. We have the second time nests and the Arapaima gigas have bred. Now we have many young Arapaima gigas in our Lake. And since they are very rare and it is also very difficult that they breed so we are even more pleased. The Arapaima on the picture is approx. 10 months old. The Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2 is one of the best sport fishing lake in Thailand. We will start with the one digging new small lake where our babies in calm can grow. And we hope that we can move as many babies of Arapaima from the large lake in the new small lake. Many thanks to Jay from the fishfarm in Bangkok he will help us bi do it.

young 12 month old Arapaima gigas born in the Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2 Hua Hin Thailand

young 10 month old Arapaima gigas born in the Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2 Hua Hin Thailand

Importance to humans

The Arapaima is hunted and utilized in many ways by local human populations. Arapaima are harpooned or caught in large nets, and the meat is said to be delicious. Since the Arapaima needs to swim up to breathe air, traditional Arapaima fishers often catch them by first harpooning them and then clubbing them dead. One individual can yield as much as 70 kg of meat.

The arapaima has also been introduced for fishing in Thailand and Malaysia. Fishing for this species in Thailand can be done in several lakes, where one often sees Arapaima over 150 kg landed and then released.

Special care is needed when dealing with these fish as, since they are large, they can be hard to handle. With catch and release after the fish is landed, it must be held in a shallow pen/bed for about 3 hours. As this species goes into shock, a careful watch must be kept to make sure that it is coming up for air about every 10 to 20 minutes. If not, then the fish can be gently lifted so that its head comes out of the water. When this happens, it has a reflex action to breathe. Arapaimas are also known to leap out of the water if they feel constrained by their environment or harassed.

It is also considered an aquarium fish, although it obviously requires a large tank and ample resources. In addition, this animal appears in the pet trade, although keeping an Arapaima correctly requires a large tank and can prove quite difficult.

The tongue of this fish is thought to have medicinal qualities in South America. It is dried and combined with guarana bark, which is grated and mixed into water. Doses of this are given to kill intestinal worms. In addition, the Arapaima’s bony tongue is often used to scrape cylinders of dried guarana, an ingredient in some beverages, and the bony scales are used as nail files.

In July 2009, some villagers who live around Kenyir Lake in Terengganu, Malaysia, reported sighting the arapaima gigas. The “Kenyir Monster,” or “dragon fish” as the locals call it, was claimed to be responsible for the mysterious drowning of two men on June 17. 2009

The giant Amazon arapaima fish is ‘under threat’

The arapaima, a giant species of fish that lurks in the Amazon river, may be threatened by overfishing. Studies reveal that errors in the classification of the species could mean that it is being pushed closer to the edge of extinction than thought. The arapaima is the largest freshwater fish with scale in the world.
But there may actually be four species rather than one, say scientists, and a lack of research and management may allow some to be fished to extinction.
The threat to the future of these fish has been revealed in research conducted by Dr Leandro Castello of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, US, and Professor Donald Stewart of the State University of New York in Syracuse, US.
They have reviewed what is known about populations of the arapaima, and conducted detailed investigations into the status of the fish in the wild. Previously, it was thought there was one species of arapaima (Arapaima gigas), which also goes by the common names pirarucu or paiche. This perspective is based on a taxonomic review done over 160 years ago. Adults grow to almost 3m in length and can weigh more than 200kg, making the fish the largest with scales living in freshwater anywhere in the world.
They are also air-breathers, coming to the surface every 10 to 20 minutes to gulp air, a behaviour which allows them to colonise muddy oxygen-poor rivers and lakes within the Amazonian basin and prey on other fish that find it difficult to move in such conditions.
Also interesting to see is if the arapaima hunts. Often the arapaima rises with the caudal fin of the fish half out of the water and then slapping with the tail, with a vociferously loud bang on the water. So are his prey fish disoriented for a moment and the arapaima can accessing hearty. However, in an ongoing study, Prof Stewart has analysed nearly all preserved specimens of supposed arapaima available in museums in the world. So far he has only found one specimen of Arapaima gigas.
The others are suspected to be closely related species, including some as yet unreported. “Our new analyses indicate that there are at least four species of arapaima,” says Dr Castello.
“So, until further field surveys of appropriate areas are completed, we will not know if Arapaima gigas is extinct or still swimming about.”
Concern about the fish’s numbers comes from other work done by Dr Castello and Prof Stewart.  That suggests that arapaima sexually mature relatively late, and need very specific habitats to both live and reproduce. Their research also shows that populations of the fish are being put under severe pressure by fishermen.
Because of the fish’s huge size and habit of coming to the surface, it has long been a favoured fish to catch, with fisherman using harpoons and gill nets to land their prey. “They have the curse of being tasty and of having to breathe air,” says Dr Castello.
Fishermen have been catching large numbers of arapaima in this way since the 1800s.
But now, while a few populations are increasing, others are being overfished, say the researchers, who have published a paper warning of the fish’s fate in the Journal of Applied Ichthyology. And while Brazil implemented regulations to manage arapaima fisheries some 20 years ago, most fishermen do not follow the regulations, say the authors.

Fishermen caring for a trapped arapaima

fishermen caring for arapaima

Fishermen capture a young arapaima for ecological studies
 

“Arapaima can be viewed as badly overexploited and under some level of threat of extinction,” says Dr Castello.
One solution, they say, is to encourage community-based schemes for fisheries, and there is much need for additional action on the part of the government.
For example, their research shows that fishermen who specialise in hunting arapaima with harpoons can accurately count the fish, due to the fish’s habit of breaching the surface for air.
The fishermen can then select a sustainable proportion of the populatin to hunt. “Populations of arapaima managed with this system increased about 50% annually, while yielding increasing catches and hence economic profits to the fishermen,” says Dr Castello.
Around 100 such community schemes are in place, and some previously overexploited populations have recovered.
“Such results are extremely rare in wildlife conservation, especially in tropical countries where wildlife conservation challenges are greater than elsewhere,” says Dr Castello.
But much more needs to be done to research these fish in more detail and prevent overfishing, the scientists warn.
In particular, “the present situation may be one in which one species of arapaima is recovering in certain areas, while unrecognised species are going extinct,” they say.

In many fishing lodges in Thailand, the Arapaima due to ignorance about the handling of Arapaimas is killed. It is getting any welcome to us, to learn more about the wonderful Arapaima.

© by Günter & Muriele Fritsche
Greenfield Valley Sport Fishing Specimen Lake 2 Hua Hin Thailand
 

back to the fish description overview