A very large fish found in major rivers of South America
The arapaima is a large freshwater fish found in the Amazon, Orinoco, and Essequibo River basins of South America. It is one the largest freshwater fish in the world with a documented length of over nine feet and a weight of over 400 pounds. Its body is torpedo-shaped with a tapered head. The large scales are primarily black to gray, with red markings. The scales are thick and tough; the hide is used for various purposes, including jewelry and footwear. The arapaima’s mouth is turned upward. While it has gills like other fish, the arapaima obtains the majority of its oxygen needs through its mouth, the fish having an enlarged and modified swim bladder composed of lung-like tissue. While this adaption is useful when in hypoxic waters, the need to surface every twenty minutes or so makes the fish vulnerable to humans. The flesh of the arapaima is considered tasty and the fish is hunted both by spear and net. There is even a move toward farming the arapaima, but large areas are required. The fish has been introduced into Thailand and Malaysia. In addition to production of boneless steaks, natives often salt and dry the meat, rolling it into a cigar-style package that is tied and able to be stored for long periods without refrigeration. Arapaima feed primarily on fish and crustaceans, but have been known to consume small land animals and birds found near shore or in the water. During the dry season, bottom nests are constructed and females lay eggs. The male of the species is a mouth-brooder, meaning that newly born young are protected in his mouth until able to fend for themselves.