Monster Fish Found in Florida

Chad George, Writer

A fearsome new invasive predator has emerged in the state of Florida: the arapaima, a monster fish that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds. In February, Florida officials found the remains of an arapaima washed ashore at the Caloosahatchee River. The Pirarucu, or arapaima, is the king of the Amazon rivers. Arapaima are native to the Amazon River in South America and are one of the world’s largest predatory fish. The Brazilian name “pirarucu” comes from the Tupi language and translates to “red fish.” The arapaima is part of the bony tongue group, which includes any number of heavy-bodied tropical river fish with hard scales. Arapaima can use their mouths as a vacuum to pull in nearby food and are also capable of jumping out of the water for prey, including small mammals, lizards, birds, and other fish. The Arapaima feed on commercially important fish and, because of its appetite, arapaima are harmful to native Florida wildlife. However, they also have high growth rates, making them a good choice for farming. 

During February, March, and April, the reproduction cycle is dependent on the overflow of rivers, leading to fish being pushed into floodplains with low levels of oxygen to support most fish. During the low water months, the females bury the eggs under sand. Arapaima are capable of producing hundreds of thousands of eggs during their lifetimes. Females can produce egg masses every four days and can release up to two million eggs a year. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said the arapaima can even die in water that’s 60 degrees or colder. 

It is unknown how the arapaima washed ashore in Florida this February, but it may have been someone’s fish that grew too big and, when it grew too big, it was dumped into the river.