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, reportedly with a maximum length in excess of 3 m (9.8 ft.) and weight up to 200 kg (440 lb.).
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.
The diet of the arapaima consists of fish or even other kinds of small animals, including birds. The fish also has the ability to breathe air from the surface due to a lung-like lining of its throat, 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.
The arapaima has also been introduced for fishing in Thailand and Malaysia. It is also considered an aquarium fish, although it obviously requires a large tank and ample resources.
Fossils of arapaima or a very similar species have been found in the Miocene Villavieja Formation of Colombia.
The tongue of this fish is thought to have medicinal qualities in South America. It is dried and combined with guarana bark, which is grated and mixed into water. Doses of this are given to kill intestinal worms.
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