Animal Encounters

Fun Animal Encounters

From a hairy tarantula to a talking African gray parrot, you never know what you’ll bump into in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari at the Tennessee Aquarium!


Animal Keeper

Animal Keeper Updates

Get a peek behind the scenes of the Aquarium’s Husbandry department. Read their weekly animal updates and get an insider’s look at caring for over 10,000 animals and plants.



Arapaima gigas

ON EXHIBIT: River Giants exhibit in River Journey


This is the largest fish found strictly in fresh water. The arapaima is very unique among fish— it can breathe air! They have a very primitive lung. They can take up oxygen through their gills also but they typically live in oxygen-poor waterways and supplement with air breathing. 

Arapaima are listed as endangered fishes according to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, or CITES.  This means that their trade is strictly regulated.  All arapaima on display at the Tennessee Aquarium have been acquired through confiscations by US Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Fan Photo

Arapaima fan photo
Photo by Todd Stailey

About This Animal

SIZE: Up to 15 feet in the wild

RANGE: Northern South America: Amazon and Essequibo river systems

HABITAT: Freshwater; demersal

DIET: These fish are fierce predators, sometimes leaping out of the water to grab birds, lizards and even small primates from low-hanging branches.