Are Arapaima Dangerous? – Detailed Explanation

An Arapaima could most certainly be dangerous to humans. With an enormous amount of muscle mass and a body shaped like a missile, their sheer size and strength make them potentially dangerous. Arapaima have been known to grow over 400lbs, In fact, the world record stands at 440lbs.

However, are they intrinsically dangerous to humans? Well, not really. Firstly, Arapaima don’t see people as prey, they don’t have the desire or physical ability to consume a person. They don’t have any teeth either, which means they certainly couldn’t cause any damage from lacerations. Also, their mouths are tapered, meaning they couldn’t swallow a human even if they tried. The Arapaima fundamentally doesn’t have an aggressive disposition towards anything that isn’t prey.

This doesn’t negate the fact that they are apex predators in their own realm and they are most certainly dangerous to anything that they do consider prey, like fish for instance.

How Dangerous Is Arapaima To Humans

As we mentioned before, Arapaima aren’t really intrinsically dangerous to humans. In fact, they’re not really interested in us at all. Unless you were deliberately provoking the fish, it would be very unusual for it to present hostile behavior towards humans. However, hypothetically speaking, if you were to encounter one of these creatures and for some reason, it wanted to hurt you, it most certainly could.

In an episode of River Monsters, we see Jeremy Wade get hit in the chest by a relatively small Arapaima. He said that it left him winded with bruised ribs and he could feel the pain for days and the fish weighed less than a 100lbs. Arapaima are extremely strong, fast, and explosive. If you somehow managed to get with one of these fish, it could become very dangerous very quickly. Arapaima usually use their thick, bony, heads as weapons. They can headbutt incredibly hard and with all that muscle behind them, its hardly a surprise that it would hurt. If an Arapaima of the right size were to headbutt you in the chest or head, it could be life-threatening.

While this is very unlikely and some would argue nigh-on impossible, technically speaking an Arapaima has the capacity to severely damage or even kill human beings. Not because of their predatory weapons or nature, but simply due to the massive size and strength of the fish.

Are Arapaima Dangerous To Fishermen

If you don’t bother them, Arapaima aren’t dangerous at all to humans. However, fishermen who actively target Arapaima have to be very careful when handling these fish. They have been known to be quite spirited and aggressive when pulled out of their natural environments, so anglers have to take lots of precautions when handling a large Arapaima.

The main threat occurs when you are unhooking and holding the fish. While you are playing fish, the threat level is minimal, but once you make physical contact with the fish, you have to be wary. If you are handling a large Arapaima, you’ll need at least 2 or 3 people to lift and restrain the fish. If this fish decided to kick off, there isn’t much you could do about it and it hit you in the chest with full propulsion, the outcome could be devasting.

Arapaima put up incredibly hard fights so by the time you’re able to reel it in, the fish should be relatively subdued. However, Arapaima are always very strong, so you should still take precautions when handling this fish. Fishermen need to ensure they have enough people with them to hold and control the fish and they need to know when they should attempt to lift the animal out of the water. If the fish is energized and is displaying aggressive behavior, pulling it out of the water will almost certainly cause thrashing and unnecessary danger.

Are Arapaima Dangerous To Animals

Arapaima predominantly eat fish and they swallow their prey whole. So the Arapaima is dangerous to any fish that it can swallow. They also eat small birds and mammals that have fallen into the water along with fruits, seeds, and insects. Aside from their prey Arapaima have rarely been known to cause altercations with other animals.

They are sometimes targeted by crocodiles but this is usually the smaller Arapaimas. Since Arapaima’s scales are so thick and protective, they don’t have very many natural predators and the larger Arapaimas will often escape the crocodiles. However, if a large crocodile does catch them, they will be bested despite their enormous strength.

How Strong Is The Arapaima

Arapaima are among the strongest freshwater fish in the world. They are basically entirely made of muscle which makes them extremely strong and explosive. In a lot of ways, they remind me of a Wels Catfish. They are both extremely large with longer tapered bodies that are designed for propulsion. While I haven’t had the fortune of having an Arapaima at the end of my line, I’ve heard countless stories about how much of a struggle it is to physically catch these. Wels are similar in the sense of their physical structure. However, I do imagine that the Arapaiama would be significantly stronger.

To better contextualize just how strong the Arapaima is, we’ve compiled a list of some of the strongest freshwater fish in the world along with their respective weights:

Strongest Freshwater Fish (Species)Size (Large Adult)
Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon Gigas)650lbs
Giant Freshwater Stingray (Urogymnus Polylepis)650lbs
Arapaima (Arapaima Gigas)400lbs
Piriaba (Brachyplatystoma Filamentosum)300lbs
Wels Catfish (Silurus Glanis)250lbs
Nile Perch (Lates Niloticus)220lbs
African Goliath Tiger Fish110lbs
Goonch Catfish (Bagarius Yarrelli)170lbs
Muskellunge (Esox Masquinongy)30lbs
Common Carp (Cyprinus Carpio)65lbs


Do Arapaima Have Teeth? – Fortunately, no! Arapaima don’t have any teeth. Instead, they have to swallow their prey whole.

How To Identify An Arapaima? – Arapaima are pretty hard to miss but they are tapered snouts and a dark copper body with streaks of red and a white underbelly. They also have very distinctive red tails so it’s easy to distinguish them from any other species.

Are Arapaima Aggressive? – Arapaima aren’t known for their aggression, in fact, they have been known to be quite lazy. But if you hook one of these monsters, it certainly won’t go down without a fight.

Where Do Arapaima Live? – Arapaima are native to the Amazon River and Essequibo basins of South America


Unless you’re a relatively small fish, bird, or mammal who lives in the Amazon, the Arapaima isn’t dangerous to you. It certainly has the potential to harm a lot of creatures but in actuality, the chances of you getting hurt or attacked by one of these fish are negligible. It’s basically impossible to even encounter one of these fish unless you’re actively fishing for it. So while the Arapaima is big and strong with an intimidating figure, there are far worse things to worry about if you’re swimming in the Amazon.

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