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The Arapaima, One of Guyana’s “Giants,” is the World’s Largest Freshwater Fish

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This Arapaima was caught in the Rewa River by Russian nature and wildlife enthusiast, Oleg Viber, during his visit to Guyana. Photo: Oleg Viber

First Published: 17th of May, 2022 by Patrick Carpen

Last updated: October 15, 2023 at 22:04 pm

Scientific Name: Arapaima gigas

Guyana is known as the land of the giants, and the arapaima, the world’s largest freshwater fish, is one of the reasons why. The arapaima is a “gentle giant” with a suction power that is damaging to smaller fish up to four feet away. The arapaima can grow as long as 3 meters and weigh up to 440 pounds. In 2015, a monster arapaima was caught in Guyana which weighed 416 pounds!

The arapaima is found in Guyana, Brazil, and Peru. It prefers to live in slow moving waters. In its natural habitat, the arapaima feeds mostly on fish, but it also eats fruits, seeds, insects, birds, and mammals found on the surface of the water.

The arapaima can live for up to 20 years. Sexual maturity is reached at around 4 to 5 years. During the dry season, between February and March, the arapaima lays thousands of eggs. The eggs hatch at the beginning of the wet season – between October and November.

The arapaima has a broad, bony head which is copperish-green in color. Its body is black with a white center and its tail is red. In Brazil, the arapaima is known as “pirarucu,” an indigenous (Tupi) word which means “red fish.” In Peru, they are known as “paiche.”

In Guyana, the arapaima is a protected species and are mostly found in the Rewa River where conservation efforts are strong causing the numbers to steadily increase. The arapaima is also found the Essequibo River and the Amazon River Basin of Guyana, South America.

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