Alternative Name
Binomial name Arapaima gigas

Basic Info

The Arapaima (Arapaima gigas), also known as the Piracucu, Pirarucu, or Paiche, is one of the world's largest freshwater fish. The species is reported to reach lengths in excess of 3 m (9.8 ft.) and weigh up to 200 kg (440 lb), although these reports have been disputed. As one of the most sought after fish species in South America, it is often captured by spearing for export, and, consequently, large Arapaima of more than 2 m are seldom found today.


The diet of A. gigas consists of other fish or even small animals, including birds. This fish is able to survive extensive drought periods by gulping air and burrowing in the mud or sand of the swamps. Due to the geographic range that A. gigas inhabits, the animal's life cycle is greatly affected by the seasonal flooding that occurs. Half of the year the pirarucu experiences an abundance of water, which is a benefit to these aquatic organisms; however, the other half of the year the pirarucu experiences drought conditions. The pirarucu has adapted to this great fluctuation in many aspects of its life, including reproduction. A. gigas lays its eggs during the months of February, March, and April when the water levels are low. They build a nest approximately 50 cm wide and 15 cm deep, usually in sandy 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. A. gigas is a mouthbrooder.

Arapaima picture

Fresh water fish


A. gigas is hunted and utilized in many ways by local human populations. Pirarucu 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 clubbing them and then harpooning them dead. One individual can yield seventy kilograms of meat. In addition, the pirarucu's bony tongue is often used to scrape cylinders of dried guarana, an ingredient in a beverage, and the bony scales are used as nail files. This animal also appears in the pet trade, although to keep a pirarucu correctly requires a large tank and can prove quite difficult.




The Arapaima has also been introduced for fishing in Thailand and Malaysia. It is also considered an aquarium fish, although it obviously requires a large tank and ample resources.

Common Foods

Young Silver Arowanas should not be overfed, because according to some hobbyists, they can develop dropeye, a condition in which the eyes are turned downward, as they grow. Arowanas should be offered meaty foods such as insects, shrimp, fish, beef heart,

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