Yacuma Blog

Arapaima: Amazon’s Biggest Fish

The Amazon river is home to many exotic and unique species, including the largest freshwater fish in the world: Arapaima fish. This massive dinosaur-like predator catches the attention of many travelers. Below we dive in into what you should know about these creatures.

Amazing size

Arapaima can reach up to 3 meters in length. The largest recorded arapaima had a staggering weight of 200 kilograms and a whopping length of almost 4.6 meters. To picture it, imagine a average tall man who is about 2 meters tall. This fish would be longer than that!

Torpedo Shape

The Arapaima’s body is torpedo-shaped with large scaly, gray and red markings and a tapered head. Its local names, paiche or pirarucu, derive from the indigenous words for “red” and “fish.” Like a torpedo, this fish is a strong and powerful swimmer and it’s even known to jump out of the water. Arapaimas may leap out of the water if they feel limited by their environment or harassed.

It’s an air-breathing fish

This remarkable fish is capable to breath air. Thanks to its swim bladder or ‘labyrinth organ’, composed of lung-like tissue, it’s able to take oxygen directly from the air. Due to this special ability, it can survive in the Amazon River, which is oxygen-deficient especially at low-water season.

A strong armor

This awesome fish has a mineralised, hard, outer skin layer with a corrugated surface under which lie several layers of collagen fibre. The fibre structures are oriented at right angles in each successive layer, giving the armor toughness. Despite of the layer’s rigid structure, they are flexible enough to allowing the fish move around.


This fish spends a lot of its time near the water surface for hunting its prey, which makes it vulnerable to local fishermen. Its tasty flavor is one of the most sought-after food fish species in South America. Just one individual can yield as much as 70 kg of meat. However, overfishing of this fish has become a serious problem. South American authorities have even attempted to enact protections because Arapaimas are close to being extinct.

Curious to see one in person? Start planning your Amazon adventure! But make sure to stay at Yacuma Ecolodge. We offer ideal location, comfortable accommodation, sustainable service, and private and group guided tours.