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Arapaima © MNHN - F-G Grandin

The arapaima

The arapaima, Arapaima gigas, is one of the largest bony freshwater fish in the world. Just like a suit of armour, its broad scales protect it from piranha bites.


Class, order and family :
Actinopterygii, Osteoglossiformes, Arapaemidae
Life span :
up to 45 years
Size & Weight :
3 m in length and 250 - 300 kg
Incubation period :
5-10 days
Natural habitat :
rivers and flood plains
Diet :
Native region :
Amazon River basin
Statut UICN : 

Data Deficient (DD)


A rare fact with fish: the males and females build a nest and protect their young together.

Distinctive features

The arapaima can suffocate if it does not come to the surface every ten to twenty minutes to breathe. Although the young have gills which work for a few days, they lose part of their function in adults. So the adults use their swim bladder (œsophagal diverticulum in fish) as lungs.


Its flesh is very tasty, so it is intensively fished.