Fun Arapaima Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Oct 20, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Arapaima facts are very interesting

Arapaima, pronounced as ar-uh-pahy-ma, is one of the largest freshwater fish that resides in the South American tropical rivers. This species of fish is a very old one that is believed to have resided in the water for millions of years.

They are also considered to be very tasty fish by the natives. Increased demand for their meat made arapaima vulnerable to hunting. For this reason, these living fossils decreased in numbers.

Arapaimas are also known as paiche and piracuru in other languages. A remarkable feature of the arapaima is that they are air breathers.

They reside on low water levels and have to come up to the surface to take in oxygen. Their modified bladder that opens in the mouth helps them to breathe above water.

They eat by the process of gulping making a coughing noise. They are commonly found in Brazil, Peru, and also in Colombia, Bolivia, and Guyana.

They eat underwater fish as well as fiercely coming out of the water to eat small animals present on the surface. Due to their tasty meat and high demand, arpaimas are sometimes referred to as the 'Cod of the Amazon'. Aparaima gigas were considered to be the only species of arapaima.

However, scientists have found three more species of this family. It is a very unique animal and if you are interested in some more insights about this fish then here are some fascinating arapaima fish facts.

For relatable content check out the articles of swai fish and skate fish facts too.

Arapaima Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Arapaima?

Arapaima gigas of the arapaima family also known as pirarucu is one of the largest species of freshwater fish.

What class of animal does an Arapaima belong to?

Arapaima or pirarucu belongs to the class Actinopterygii.

How many Arapaima are there in the world?

There is no specific data regarding the total population of arapaima distributed all over the world because it is very difficult to conduct a survey in such an extensive area of the Amazon River Basin. However, scientists have succeeded in deducing the population of arapaima in certain places by counting methods.

For instance, in a survey including ten inhabitable areas of arapaima, it was seen that until 2017, the population of arapaima was approximately over 170000. In another place called Essequibo, there were found to be 5000 arapaimas.

Where does an Arapaima live?

The Amazon basin is the home of some of the most diverse freshwater fish in the world. There are still a number of undiscovered underwater communities that reside in the river water.

The arapaima is one such native species of fish residing in the freshwater of the amazon river. This species of fish prefer to live in the tropical waters and are the largest freshwater fish in the world.

Its distribution covers most of the river basins in Brazil, Peru, and other places like Bolivia, Guyana, and Colombia. These aquaculture species have also spread to the other tropical rivers of South America apart from the Amazon river basin.

In Bolivia, arapaima is considered to be an invasive fish since it is harmful to the native ecosystem. Traces of arapaima are also available in east Asia where they are believed to have been introduced by accident and for fishing purposes.

What is an Arapaima's habitat?

Arapaima gigas or pirarucu prefer healthy and sizeable habitats for themselves. They are an emblematic species of the Amazon fish fauna. This fish is found in rivers that are comparatively oxygen deficient.

The floodplain of the Amazon river basin is the ideal habitat for this large species of freshwater fish. The river overflows at times of flood and the fish get dispersed into the floodplains. Due to human activities, they now spread to the freshwater habitats of East Asia as well.

Who do Arapaima live with?

Aparaima lives near the surface of the water mostly alone.

How long does an Arapaima live?

Arapaima is one of the oldest large water fish to exist on earth. They are considered living fossils. An arapaima has an average life span of 20 years.

How do they reproduce?

An arapaima's reproduction cycle is dependent and highly affected seasonal floods that occur in the Amazon basin. It is believed that Arapaima changes its color when they reproduce.

The female fish typically lay eggs when the water level remains low. They also construct nests for laying their eggs in the muddy bottom areas that are about six inches deep and 20 inches wide in the low water level season only.

The eggs hatch at the time when the water level gradually rises. The flood season between May to August is the time for the younger fishes to flourish.

This annual spawning process is regulated. The adult male species of arapaima or pirarucu perform a unique reproductive role.

They are mouthbrooders which means they incubate tens and thousands of eggs by keeping them in their mouth and protecting them from danger by all means. The females protect the males by fencing around them to protect the eggs from potential predators.

What is their conservation status?

The number of arapaima fish was gradually depleting. They face increased commercial fishing due to their size and their conservation can be considered as vulnerable.

However, it is observed that there has been a steep rise in recent years in the population of arapaima. Due to the lack of credible population data because of its vast extent, the International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN has listed arapaima or pirarucu in its Red List as Data Deficient.

Arapaima Fun Facts

What do Arapaima look like?

Arapaima lives near to the water surface.

The biology of Arapaima fish is quite remarkable. They are the largest species of freshwater fish.

Known as pirarucu, Arapaima has a wide body that is torpedo-shaped and a tapered head. Their body is covered with scales that appear greyish or blackish-green in color. Their mouth is placed upturned.

The body appears black with a center white portion. Reddish spots are present all over its body.

Its Brazilian name pirarucu translates into 'red fish' in the Tupi language. The body of an arapaima is sleek and streamlined.

The dorsal fins stretch along the entire back of the fish's body and are suspended near the tail. The anal fins of an arapaima are also set near the tail.

Their scales have a hard and mineralized outer layer which makes the surface of the body rough and corrugated. Under the scales, several layers of collagen fibers are stacked in a Bouligand arrangement. The body of the arapaima is very tough due to the arrangement of each layer of these fibers in angular orientation.

The corrugated and hard outer surface and a tough layered inner layer allow the fish to be flexible as well as protects itself from predators underwater. Apart from its gills, arapaima also has a modified swim bladder opening into the mouth and made of lung tissues that enable the fish to take oxygen from the air.

How cute are they?

Arapaima has an upturned mouth. Their face does not meet the traditional standards of cuteness.

How do they communicate?

Adult arapaima communicates with their offsprings in a very unusual way. They release a special kind of hormone from their head. This chemical substance is known as a pheromone.

This hormone helps in the protection of the larvae from predators. It acts as a signaling substance that keeps the larvae close to the adult species. However, the methods and means of adult communication of this fish have never been evaluated.

How big is an Arapaima?

Arapaima or the pirarucu is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world. Their length measure from 79 in- 118 in (2 m-3 m). The longest recorded length of arapaima was 120 in (3.07 m).

How fast can an Arapaima swim?

Although there is no concrete mention of the exact speed of an Arapaima gigas, it is believed to be a slow-moving fish since they are a native of the slow-moving tropical rivers of South America.

How much does an Arapaima weigh?

The weight of an arapaima varies between the range of 220 lb-440 lb (100 kg-200 kg). The highest recorded weight of the species is 440 lb (200kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Arapaima does not have any different names for its male and female species. However, there are some common names of arapaima in different regions like they are called pirarucu in Brazil and paiche in Peru.

What would you call a baby Arapaima?

As arapaima or pirarucu is a fish of freshwaters, its baby is known as fry.

What do they eat?

Arapaima is known to be gulpers. They feed by the process of gulping, opening their large mouth which creates a vacuum that pulls the food placed nearby. In the wild, Arapaima mostly eats fish. When they come up to the water surface to breathe air, they also eat birds, mammals, insects, fruits, and seeds that they find there.

Are they dangerous?

They are not considered to be dangerous in general. Arapaima does not contain venom or sharp teeth or anything that might result in fatal for humans. However, their large size and heavy weight can sometimes cause danger. If an arapaima becomes aggressive they might hit you or bite you causing immense pain.

Would they make a good pet?

Arapaima is a very large fish. They need large space and open habitat to survive.

To keep an arapaima as a pet you have to invest in thousands of gallons of water which results to be very costly. They are also known as air gulpers. So they need adequate oxygen levels at the surface and large open space to breathe air without any trouble.

Did you know...

Arapaima fishes have a unique bony tongue and hard covering. The bony tongue is a unique feature of tropical water fishes. Their tongue is also in high demand and consumed by some native communities.

Arapaimas and humans

Arapaimas are huge freshwater fishes with very hard bodies. Due to their size, they might appear scary but they are not harmful to humans. Arapaima lacks sharp teeth so they cannot really bite.

They are not aggressive and are peaceful in nature. However, they have strong jaws and if they bite it can be painful.

No human fatalities have ever been recorded associated with this fish. Sometimes they come in close proximity to humans when they come up to breathe in oxygen which makes them vulnerable to human predators. They are easily hunted.

How many Arapaimas are left?

The number of arapaimas has increased in the past few years. In the Essequibo basin, the arapaima count has increased to 5000 from a mere 800 in 2012.

There is no credible data of arapaima of the Amazon basin but in a 2017 survey including 10 areas, it was seen that there are more than 170000 arapaimas which is a lot more than 2500 in 1999. In Colombia, the conservation of arapaima is practiced during their breeding season.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including codfish and fluke fish.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our arapaima coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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