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Arapaima

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The arapaima, pirarucu, or paiche (Arapaima gigas) is a South American tropical freshwater fish. It is one of the largest freshwater fish in the world.

Arapaima can reach lengths of more than 2 m (6.6 ft), in some exceptional cases even more than 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and over 100 kg (220 lbs). The often cited maximum length of 4.5 m (14.8 ft) comes from a single second-hand-report from the first half of the ninteenth century, and is not an actual fact. The maximum-cited weight for the species is 200 kg (440 lbs). The Arapaima the largest freshwater fish in South America. As one of the most sought after food fish species in South America, it is often captured primarily by handheld nets for export, by spearfishing for local consumption, and, consequently, large arapaima of more than 2 m are seldom found in the wild today. In the Camden aquarium in Camden, New Jersey, arapaimas are on exhibit along with the Arowanas and other species.

The diet of the arapaima consists of fish and other small animals, including birds. The fish is an air-breather, using its swim bladder, which is rich in blood vessels and opens into the fish’s mouth[1], an advantage in oxygen-deprived water that is often found in the Amazon River. This fish is therefore 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 arapaima inhabit, the animal’s life cycle is greatly affected by the seasonal flooding that occurs. The arapaima 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. The arapaima is a mouthbrooder, meaning it keeps its young in its mouth until they are older.

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