6 fishy facts about our new River Giants
This October marked the opening of our amazing new River Giants exhibition, bringing together tank-busting fish from rivers as far away as the Amazon – so not the kind of thing you could ever spot in the Tyne, Wear or Tees!
If you’ve not been to see the River Giants yet (and you really should!), we’ve put together these mini-profiles, each containing a fishy fact about these freshwater giants, to help you get better acquainted ahead of your visit.
What’s scarier than a piranha? How about a 70cm piranha?! There’s no need to worry, though. While the Black Pacu might be in the same family as their nibbly neighbours, these guys are mainly vegetarians and live on a diet of fruit and seeds… phew! They’re described as gentle giants who like to live solitary lives, moving between their main river home and flooded forests during the rainy season.
Fishy fact: These huge fish are in the family characin; its close relatives include Piranha and the tiny Neon Tetra – which are only around 3cm long!
These residents of South American rivers get their ‘leopard’ name from their distinctive markings – they have a chocolate brown body with lighter coloured spots over the top and on the fins, hence the name. They also have long barbells, which look like whiskers, and can live for up to 20 years.
Fishy fact: Leopard Catfish can fast for up to 4 weeks after having a large meal!
The first of our rays on this list hail from South America and bring with them a fearsome reputation, with many locals thinking of them as deadly – they have a strong sting which they use as a defence against predators. These stingrays – from the family Potamotrygon, often called big-eyed rays – can be found in rivers in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina.
Fishy fact: Its exact colour, and the arrangement and size of the spots can vary significantly, both from individual to individual and depending on location.
While the Pangasius Catfish is not a shark, its significant size and large, ominous-looking dorsal fin have earned it the nickname Iridescent shark. But it’s definitely not a shark. Sadly, this river giant is classed as endangered in the wild, with pollution and damage to its natural habitat having caused numbers to decline. These fish are found in Southeast Asia and move upstream during flooding season.
Fishy fact: Although native to Asia, Pangasius Catfish have been found in South America after accidentally being introduced from illegal farms.
The second ray on our list also hails from South America, although this one is native to the sandy and muddy river beds of Central Brazil. They use the river beds as camouflage during the day before coming out to hunt at night. You’ll see straight away where these guys get their name – they have a very distinctive appearance, with a black body covered in bright white spots.
Fishy fact: Polka-dot stingrays have keen eyesight. Their protruding eyes allow them to see what is above them, while they are on the river bottom.
Red Tailed Catfish
We’ve saved the biggest of our River Giants until last. This huge catfish is native to the river basins of South America, such as the Amazon, and while they generally grow to around 135cm in length, some species over 180cm have been documented in the wild! Like their other catfish friends, their ‘whiskers’ are actually barbels, which they use to detect prey lurking in the muddy river beds where they hunt.
Fishy fact: Young Red Tailed Catfish are known as kittens!
We can’t wait for you to see you new River Giants exhibit, which will transport you away to a tropical rainforest (again, a far cry from the cold North East during winter!), where you can meet these magical megafish and experience the sights and sounds of a flooded forest. Plan your visit and buy discounted tickets on our site today!