Whether you want to catch them, eat them, or merely admire them, Brazil’s waters are filled with eye-catching and mouthwatering fish. Along the Atlantic coast, sunken galleons and kilometer-long protective reefs offer ideal opportunities for snorkeling and diving amid gaudily hued schools. Inland, the Amazon and the Pantanal together boast close to 3,000 species living in their rivers, lakes, and tributaries.
The Amazon is home to some particularly exotic specimens. On the small end of the scale are the dozens of species of infamous fanged piranhas. Then there is the regally red- and silver-scaled pirarucu, the king of freshwater fish, which can grow to lengths of 3 meters (10 feet) and weigh up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds). The pirarucu is a favorite Amazonian delicacy, as are the much smaller but common pirapitinga and tambaqui, both of which are from the piranha family. The tambaqui usually uses its sharp teeth to crack open seeds and nuts, but if none are available, it will easily resort to carnivorism.
Many varieties of catfish are also common; they make use of their “whiskers” to help them find food on river bottoms. Among the most common are the piraiba, which can grow to lengths of 3 meters (10 feet), and the golden-scaled dourado (dorado), which is enjoyed at tables throughout Brazil.
Freshwater inhabitants you’ll want to steer clear of are arraias (stingrays), who live in still riverbeds. Their sting draws blood and can really hurt. Poraquês (electric eels) are also no laughing matter. They grow to over 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length, and a zap from one will send a 600-volt charge through your body.
© Michael Sommers from Moon Brazil, 2nd Edition