Version: B | 1.1 (2022-09-06)
Please note: This part of the profile is currently being revised.
Condensed assessment of the species' likelihood and potential for good fish welfare in aquaculture, based on ethological findings for 10 crucial criteria.
Li = Likelihood that the individuals of the species experience good welfare under minimal farming conditions
Po = Potential of the individuals of the species to experience good welfare under high-standard farming conditions
Ce = Certainty of our findings in Likelihood and Potential
FishEthoScore = Sum of criteria scoring "High" (max. 10)
Arapaima gigas is a carnivorous fish that naturally inhabits the lowland with slow-flowing waters of the Amazon River basin in South America, occurring in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Peru. It is a long-living species with parental care – especially by males – often referred to as one of the largest freshwater fishes of the world. It was already introduced to Bolivia, China, Cuba, Mexico, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, but the main producer is still Brazil. A. gigas has great economic and cultural importance, presenting some characteristics which are advantageous for aquaculture, such as the best growth rate among the Amazonian farmed fish species, a great tolerance to handling and ammonia concentrations, a fillet with no intramuscular bones, and a mild flavour. This fish is also tolerant to low dissolved oxygen levels due to its obligatory aerial breathing. A. gigas is harvested as JUVENILES and is commercialised mainly as fillet. The active fishing has reduced its population size and the occurrence of large individuals over the years, especially around the populated regions of the Amazon. Because this fish appears in the CITES II section (strictly regulated and controlled commerce), its aquaculture development must rely solely on spontaneous reproduction in captivity. Further research about home range, density of aggregation, and aggression in the wild is still needed. Moreover, nothing is known about a possible high-standard slaughter method for this species or the malformation rates under farming conditions.
1 Home range
Many species traverse in a limited horizontal space (even if just for a certain period of time per year); the home range may be described as a species' understanding of its environment (i.e., its cognitive map) for the most important resources it needs access to. What is the probability of providing the species' whole home range in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.
JUVENILES: WILD: lakes: 1.1 km2 10 with unclear home range use, 0.004-4 km2, core range area: 0.2 km2 in a lake of 38 km2 11. FARM: young JUVENILES: cages: 50 m2 (10 x 5 m) 3, 1,000 L 12; ponds: 100-1,000 m2 3 1, 200,000 L 12; tanks: 2,000 L 12 5. On-growing JUVENILES: cages: 1-300 m3 (10 x 10 m) 3 13 14 15, 4 m2 (2 x 2 m) 16; ponds: 100-50,000 m2 17 18 3 19 20 1 21; tanks: 200-5,000 L 5 22 6 23.
2 Depth range
Given the availability of resources (food, shelter) or the need to avoid predators, species spend their time within a certain depth range. What is the probability of providing the species' whole depth range in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is high for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
JUVENILES: WILD: DEMERSAL 29, but prefer shoreline in a lake of about 6-10 m max 11; shallow slow-flowing habitats: range 1.4-5.2 m, mean 3 m 28. FARM: young JUVENILES: net cages: 1 m 3; ponds: 1.3 m 1. On-growing JUVENILES: cages: 1-3 m 3 13 14 16; ponds: 1-2 m 3 19 1 21.
ADULTS: WILD: ➝ JUVENILES. FARM: no data found yet.
Some species undergo seasonal changes of environments for different purposes (feeding, spawning, etc.) and with them, environmental parameters (photoperiod, temperature, salinity) may change, too. What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the migrating or habitat-changing behaviour of the species?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: WILD: 12-13 h PHOTOPERIOD 28, 24-31 °C 17 31-28, fresh water 28. FARM: FRY: tanks: 26.3-28.1 °C, fresh water 4 7 8; net cages: 24.5-29.8 °C, fresh water, Secchi disc: 0.3-1 m 9; ponds: 29 °C, fresh water, Secchi disc: 0.6 m 1. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
JUVENILES: WILD: strong residency, but can move 1.3-30.8 km (mean 4 km) in 18 months 11. 11-13 h PHOTOPERIOD 32 10 28 29, 24-31 °C 17 31-28, fresh water 32 10 28 29, Secchi disc: 0.6-1.4 m (mean 1.2 m) 28. Lakes: low water transparency, especially during the rainy season 11. FARM: young JUVENILES: ponds: 29 °C, fresh water, Secchi disc: 0.6 m 1. On-growing JUVENILES: cages: 12 h PHOTOPERIOD 15, 26.3-30.2 °C 16 15, fresh water 16 15, Secchi disc: 1-1.3 m (mean 1.2 m) 16; tanks: 26-28.3 °C, fresh water 5 23; ponds: 26.3-29 °C, fresh water, Secchi disc: 0.6-0.7m 1 21. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
ADULTS: WILD: strong residency, but can move 1.3-30.8 km (mean 4 km) in 18 months 11. 12-13 h PHOTOPERIOD 32 28, 24-31 °C17 31-28, fresh water 32 28, Secchi disc: 0.6-1.4 m (mean 1.2 m) 28. Lakes: low water transparency, especially during the rainy season 11. FARM: ponds: 12-13 h PHOTOPERIOD, fresh water 24 (for ADULTS to become SPAWNERS). For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1.
SPAWNERS: WILD: 12-13 h PHOTOPERIOD 30 28, 24-31 °C 17 31-28, fresh water 30 28, Secchi disc: mean 0.7 m 28. As water levels rise, IND migrate to flooded forests for feeding and spawning (nest building, mating, and parental care) and, as water levels decline, IND migrate back to lower habitats of flooded forests and then to connecting channels and lakes for feeding, courting, and pairing 30 28. FARM: for ADULTS to become SPAWNERS ➝ ADULTS. Ponds: 12-13 h PHOTOPERIOD 24 26, 27.5-32.4 °C 24 25, fresh water 24 26, Secchi disc: 0.07-1.2 m (mean 0.3 m) 25. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
A species reproduces at a certain age, season, and sex ratio and possibly involving courtship rituals. What is the probability of the species reproducing naturally in captivity without manipulation?It is high for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a high amount of evidence.
WILD: mature at 3 years old 24 (but supposedly between 2-5 years old) 17; males and females form pairs 3 and guard the eggs and the young 29 3; spawn April-May 29 or mainly during the rainy season 17 18 3; multiple spawner 17. FARM: able to reproduce at 4-6 years old 17 3 24 26 27; sex ratio 1:1 24 26 27. No clear sexual dimorphism, but Enzyme Immuno Assay technique using antibodies to identify the vitellogenin of this species can be used 29. Spawn naturally in captivity, but with a low success rate (29%) 24. Continuous natural spawning throughout the year 3 25, but mainly during rainy season 25 26, short PHOTOPERIOD, and higher temperatures 25, with a better survival of FRY 25. Multiple spawner 3 26, especially when isolated in smaller ponds 3 33. Spawning in a shallow area of the pond in a small depression or nest dug by the two SPAWNERS 25, which occupied mainly one specific area in a pond edge - male spent more time around the nests than female, with male and female being closer during the spawning day 27. As A. gigas is in the CITES II section (strictly regulated and controlled commerce), only spontaneous reproduction is allowed - no artificial induction of reproduction is available yet 3. LAB: endoscopy can be used for gender confirmation and assessment of ovary development 33.
Species differ in the way they co-exist with conspecifics or other species from being solitary to aggregating unstructured, casually roaming in shoals or closely coordinating in schools of varying densities. What is the probability of providing farming conditions that are compatible with the aggregation behaviour of the species?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is high for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: WILD: gregarious, shoaling 17 18 7. FARM: FRY: rectangular tanks: 50-100 IND/m2 3; tanks: 1-2 g/L 6, 0.2-2 IND/L 3 4 7 8 - with better growth, lower cortisol concentrations and higher survival rates at the highest stocking density (at lower densities, disorientation behaviour reflects a stressful condition) 7; net cages: gregarious at 0.02-0.03 IND/L 9; ponds: 0.2-1.3 IND/m2 17 1.
JUVENILES: WILD: gregarious 17 7. FARM: young JUVENILES: cages or ponds: 1.3-10 IND/m2 3 1; ponds: 0.0003 IND/L 12; cages: 0.02 IND/L 12; tanks: 0.008-0.009 IND/L 12. On-growing JUVENILES: ponds: 0.06-1.3 IND/m2 17 3 19 22 1 21; cages: 0.003-0.01 IND/L 3 14 16 15, but decreased growth at the highest density 16; tanks: 1-220.1 g/L 22 6 23, 0.04 IND/L 5.
SPAWNERS: WILD: ➝ ADULTS. FARM: for ADULTS to become SPAWNERS ➝ ADULTS. A few tens of brooders are kept together at the beginning of the rainy (spawning) season 3, 0.002 IND/m2 in pairs 27; 1 pair/pond 24 26.
There is a range of adverse reactions in species, spanning from being relatively indifferent towards others to defending valuable resources (e.g., food, territory, mates) to actively attacking opponents. What is the probability of the species being non-aggressive and non-territorial in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: WILD: no data found yet. FARM: FRY: no aggression, food competition or cannibalism registered 9.
ADULTS: WILD: ➝ JUVENILES. FARM: no data found yet.
Depending on where in the water column the species lives, it differs in interacting with or relying on various substrates for feeding or covering purposes (e.g., plants, rocks and stones, sand and mud). What is the probability of providing the species' substrate and shelter needs in captivity?It is low for minimal farming conditions. It is medium for high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: WILD: not found in sediment-rich waters 17. FARM: FRY: net cages: covered with canvas to prevent bird predation and reduce the incidence of sunlight 9. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
JUVENILES: WILD: not found in sediment-rich waters 17. Lakes: prefer shoreline closely related to the presence of aquatic vegetation 11. FARM: ponds: cloudy water 17. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
ADULTS: WILD: ➝ JUVENILES. FARM: for details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1.
SPAWNERS: WILD: not found in sediment-rich waters 17. Build nests (50-57 cm width x 15-16 cm depth) 3 34-30 30 29 under forested levees 30 in sandy locations 29 30 or clayey bottom with no vegetation 17 in shallow (1-1.5 m) 17 34-30 30 waters. FARM: ponds: muddy bottom 27, variable floating vegetation cover with shorelines usually covered by grass or other small plants 25. For details of holding systems ➝ crit. 1 and 2.
Farming involves subjecting the species to diverse procedures (e.g., handling, air exposure, short-term confinement, short-term crowding, transport), sudden parameter changes or repeated disturbances (e.g., husbandry, size-grading). What is the probability of the species not being stressed?It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a medium amount of evidence.
LARVAE and FRY: FRY: stressed by 3 or 6 h of transportation in bags (30-60 L) inflated with oxygen with 5-10 L of water at 1.2 IND/L or 65-125 g/L 2 6, with mortality <3% between 110-125 g/L 6. Using salt diluted in the water (1-5 g/L) did not prevent stress and can cause osmoregulatory disturbance 2.
JUVENILES: stressed by 3 or 6 h of transportation in open boxes (50 L) or bags (30-60 L) inflated with oxygen or air with 10-20 L of water at 0.6-1 IND/bag or box or 50-170 g/L (more stressed at 170 g/L 6), but no mortality observed 13 12 20 6. Using salt diluted in the water (3-6 g/L) did not prevent stress 20. Stressed by 6 h of transportation in 1,000 L tanks with 700 L of water at 80-160 kg/m3 followed by continuous handling for blood sampling and adaptation to a new environment, but no mortality observed 22. Stressed by crowding at 0.2 IND/L during 0.5 h for harvesting: abrasive stress due to successive encounters between IND and the intense physical exercise due to attempt to swim, but no mortality observed 12.
ADULTS: no data found yet.
SPAWNERS: no data found yet.
Deformities that – in contrast to diseases – are commonly irreversible may indicate sub-optimal rearing conditions (e.g., mechanical stress during hatching and rearing, environmental factors unless mentioned in crit. 3, aquatic pollutants, nutritional deficiencies) or a general incompatibility of the species with being farmed. What is the probability of the species being malformed rarely?There are no findings for minimal and high-standard farming conditions.
The cornerstone for a humane treatment is that slaughter a) immediately follows stunning (i.e., while the individual is unconscious), b) happens according to a clear and reproducible set of instructions verified under farming conditions, and c) avoids pain, suffering, and distress. What is the probability of the species being slaughtered according to a humane slaughter protocol?It is low for minimal and high-standard farming conditions. Our conclusion is based on a low amount of evidence.
Common slaughter method: killed in chilled water, bled and eviscerated, following the removal of the skin, the head, and spinal cord 3. High-standard slaughter method: no data found yet.
Side note: Domestication
Teletchea and Fontaine introduced 5 domestication levels illustrating how far species are from having their life cycle closed in captivity without wild input, how long they have been reared in captivity, and whether breeding programmes are in place. What is the species’ domestication level?DOMESTICATION LEVEL 2 35, level 5 being fully domesticated.
Side note: Forage fish in the feed
450-1,000 milliard wild-caught fishes end up being processed into fish meal and fish oil each year which contributes to overfishing and represents enormous suffering. There is a broad range of feeding types within species reared in captivity. To what degree may fish meal and fish oil based on forage fish be replaced by non-forage fishery components (e.g., poultry blood meal) or sustainable sources (e.g., soybean cake)?
*partly = <51% – mostly = 51-99% – completely = 100%.
DEMERSAL = living and feeding on or near the bottom of a body of water, mostly benthopelagic, some benthic
DOMESTICATION LEVEL 2 = part of the life cycle closed in captivity, also known as capture-based aquaculture 35
FARM = setting in farming environment or under conditions simulating farming environment in terms of size of facility or number of individuals
FRY = larvae from external feeding on, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
IND = individuals
JUVENILES = fully developed but immature individuals, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
LAB = setting in laboratory environment
LARVAE = hatching to mouth opening, for details ➝ Findings 10.1 Ontogenetic development
PHOTOPERIOD = duration of daylight
POTAMODROMOUS = migrating within fresh water
SPAWNERS = adults during the spawning season; in farms: adults that are kept as broodstock
WILD = setting in the wild
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