Genus and Species: Arapaima gigas
Description: Individual arapaima are typically six to seven feet long, but can reach eight feet or more. One of the largest freshwater fish in the world, the arapaima is a torpedo-shaped black fish with red markings. The scales are quite large. Its mouth is turned up toward the surface of the water, and it feeds at the surface.
Range and Habitat: The arapaima is found in the Amazon and Orinoco River drainage of South America. A limit to its distribution is the presence of large rapids or waterfalls, which they are unable to navigate.
Diet: The arapaima is a predator.
Reproduction: Spawning occurs in shallow lakes, chiefly during the months of October and November. "Mouth incubation" is thought to take place. The father guarding the eggs is known to take them in his mouth and move them to another location. The young are led by the male in a group once they are able to swim.
Conservation Status: The arapaima is becoming rare. It is still not endangered, but may well be on its way.
Fun Fact: Arapaima are very unfishlike in that they are air breathers that stay submerged for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. This tendency to stay at the surface makes them vulnerable to hunters with harpoons.