Delve into the mysteries of the tropical freshwater habitats. The flooded forests of the Amazon are incredibly productive yet vulnerable environments. See the Black pacu, an enormous vegetarian relative of the piranha and three different types of catfish; the Red-tail catfish, Ripsaw catfish and Tiger shovel-nose catfish.
Equatorial freshwater habitats are home to thousands of diverse species and are considered to be one of the most productive environments on the planet.
It is estimated that the Amazon basin is home to more than 3,000 species of freshwater fish. It is the second largest river in the world (after the Nile) but the largest by volume, containing 20% of the world’s freshwater fish. It starts high up in the Andes flowing all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Every year during the rainy season, the Amazon River rises more than 9 metres and floods surrounding forests. These ‘flooded forests’ form important habitats for fish which move into the newly accessible areas to feed and reproduce. These rising waters also replenish nutrients in floodplain areas.
The river is murky with silt, and its inhabitants generally blend in. Bold body colour is of no use to the fish of the Amazon. Instead of signalling to each other with colour and pattern (as reef fish do), they find their way, catch prey and communicate using sensory barbels (whiskers) and even electrical signals.
Many of the animals you will see in here have been rescued from unsuitable homes as part of the Big Fish Campaign.
Back to The Deep Tour
Feeding the fish
Our dive show takes place here at 2pm on a Sunday. See our divers enter the water and feed magnificent Black pacu, an enormous vegetarian relative of the piranha and three different types of catfish; the Red-tail catfish, Ripsaw catfish and Tiger shovel-nose catfish.
Pacu is a common name used to refer to several species of South American freshwater fish which are all related to piranhas. In fact they are often referred to a vegetarian piranha. Pacu have crushing jaws used mainly for eating seeds and nuts that fall into the water from the trees above.
Tiger Shovelnose catfish
This catfish spends a lot of time swimming near the river bed looking for foods such as crabs, shrimps and fish. When it is very small, its tiger stripes are not easily visible – their pattern develops as the fish grows reaching a metre in length.
These long-whiskered catfish are named for their red or orange caudal (tail) fin. They are well known for their huge mouths and appetites and can reach weights in excess of 44kg. Our Redtail catfish is commonly known by our visitors as 'Gabriel'.
Geoffroy’s side-necked turtle
The Geofrroy's side-necked turtle likes to take an occasional dip here. When he's not swimming, he is basking on his island at the top of the water. This species is named for its ability to sweep its neck sideways before drawing into its shell.