Arapaima, pirarucu, or paiche is a large fish native to the Amazon and Essequibo basins in South America. The fish can grow as long as 3 m (9.8 ft). Arapaima is the type genus of the subfamily Arapaiminae within the family Osteoglossidae. They are an important food source for many people in the Amazon. They are large, streamlined, air-breathing freshwater fish native to the Amazon River basin. It can survive in pools with low water levels or decaying vegetation by breathing air.
The Arapaima species was formally regarded as a monotypic genus, with only one species being present. However, in the 1990s several additional species were recognized. Now the taxonomic confusion of this fish is so great that even its native range is not explained.
Arapaima has been taken outside the native range (within South America and elsewhere), where they are sometimes considered invasive species. In Portuguese, it is called pirarucu, from the Tupi language words pira and urucum, meaning “red fish”. In Brazil, for example, it has been released into the wild in the states of Pará, Amapá, and Maranhão.
Arapaima has large, bony heads with torpedo mouths and streamlined bodies. Dorsal fins stretch along their backs toward their tails, which are massive but stumpy in appearance. Arapaima is black with a white center and red tails. Their heads are copperish-green in color.
Arapaima can reach lengths more than 2 meters in some exceptional cases, even exceeding 2.6 meters and over 100 kilograms. The maximum recorded weight for the species is 200 kilograms, while the longest verified length was 3.07 meters.
The Arapaima has a dependence on surface air to breathe. It has gills, but it also has lungs that are highly developed in its swim bladder. The swim bladder acts like lungs, allowing the fish to extract oxygen from the air.
The arapaima is found in the Amazon River basin of Brazil, Peru, and Guyana. They live in slow-moving, typically oxygen-deficient rivers. they are one of the oldest species of fresh water in the world and they can live up to 22 years. they can survive outside water for like 24 hours.
Diets and Habitat
The arapaima is a fish that can grow up to 10 feet long. It has no scales, fin rays, or gills. The mouth of the fish is located at the bottom of its head. Its diet consists of fish, crustaceans, fruits, seeds, insects, and small animals that walk near the shore. The Amazon River contains low oxygen levels.
This fish is able to in oxbow lakes with very little oxygen. 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. Its prey becomes lethargic and vulnerable at this time. The arapaima may leap out of the water if it feels constrained by its environment.
An arapaima’s lifecycle greatly depends on seasonal flooding. When the flood season is approaching, and arapaima lays its eggs in the soft mud near water bodies. The eggs are light brown and oblong, about 5 cm long and 2 cm wide. They remain undisturbed until the flood season begins when the young hatch. Young arapaimas are displaced by the flood into different habitats.
The male also acts unusually because it acts as a mouthbrooder, protecting the young inside of its own mouth until they are larger. The female helps protect the male and the young by circling them.