Farming Arapaima – the world’s largest freshwater fish

An alternative to deforestation – declining fisheries force Amazonians into fish farming

The good people at have a recent (May 19, 2005) report about farming Arapaima. Here’s an exerpt: The Arapaima (Arapaima gigas), also known as the Pirarucú or Paiche, is the world’s largest freshwater fish. It can reach lengths of up to 14.75 feet (4.5 m) and weigh up to 440 lbs (200 kg). Because of its size and tasty meat – the Arapaima has a mild sweet flavor – the Arapaima is one of the most sought after fish species in the Amazon. Today, it is rare to find large Arapaima. At 1.3 meters (4 feet), the average length of individuals havested from the wild is below the average length of sexual mature fish (1.5 meters – 5 feet).

Arapaima are increasingly raised on fish-farms as part of integrated conservation and development projects or stand alone commerical operations. According to Dr. Marco Lima of the INPA Amazon Research Institute Manaus, about 15% of the 50-60 tons of Pirarucú consumed monthly in the Brazilian Amazon city of Manuas comes from local fish farms.

“These farms offer fresh fish at lower prices,” says Dr. Lima. “One kilo costs around $5.”

The Arapaima offers a number of characteristics that make it a valuable species for integrated aquaculture. According to the National Fisheries Institute of the Amazon, the Arapaima:
1. does well in fish ponds
2. is resistant to diseases
3. survives under low oxygen conditions with its ability to breathe atmospheric oxygen
4. gains 10 kilograms in weight per year
5. eats foods of low commercial value
6. high demand and commercial value
7. yields value added by-products (scales, head, tounge and skin)
8. offers potential for international commercialization
9. has potential to be used in sport fishing and the ornamental aquarium/pet trade


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