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Temporal range: Miocene - recent
Schwarzer Pacu Colossoma macropomum Tierpark Hellabrunn-1.jpg
Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Serrasalmidae
Genus: Colossoma
C. H. Eigenmann & C. H. Kennedy, 1903
Species: C. macropomum
Binomial name
Colossoma macropomum
(G. Cuvier, 1818)
  • Myletes macropomus Cuvier, 1816
  • Myletes oculus Cope, 1872
  • Myletes nigripinnis Cope, 1878
  • Melloina tambaqui Amaral Campos, 1946

The tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) is a freshwater species of serrasalmid. It is also known by the names black pacu, black-finned pacu, giant pacu, cachama, gamitana, and sometimes as pacu (a name used for several other related species).


The tambaqui is the largest characin of South America, found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins in its wild form. However, its pisciculture form is widely distributed in South America.[1]

Distribution in Brazil[edit]

The tambaqui is located all throughout Brazil and even though they can be found in different locations in Brazil, all of the tambaqui do not have a genetic diversity.[2]


It may reach more than 1 m (3 ft 3 in) in total length and 40 kg (88 lb) in total weight.[1]

It is similar in shape to the piranha and is sometimes confused with the carnivorous fish; the tambaqui is tall and laterally compressed with large eyes and a slightly arched back. Body color is basic black to gray with spots and blemishes in its midbody. All the fins are black and the pectoral fins are small. Around 10% of a tambaqui's weight is fat. The world record recognized by IGFA belongs to the Brazilian Jorge Masullo de Aguiar with 32.4 kg (71 lb).


This species is usually solitary.[1] Adults stay in flooded forests during the first five months of flooding, and consume fruits and grains. Young and juveniles live in black waters of flood plains until sexual maturity. The tambaqui feeds on zooplankton, insects, snails, and decaying plants.[1] The species plays an important role in dispersing seeds from fruits.[3][4][5]

Tambaqui is a fish that lives in freshwater. Salinity up to 10gL causes an effect in their hematological parameters. Their freshwater cannot have more than 15gL of salinity before tambaqui start to die. Salinity above 15gL causes there to be a change in weight, consumption, and growth rates.[6]

When there is not enough oxygen in the river or lake, tambaqui obtain oxygen from the air. They are able to do this by their physical and inner body parts, such as their gills and swimbladder vascularization.[7]


Tambaqui consume fruits and seeds. 78-98 percent of their diet consists of fruits such as woody angiosperms and herbaceous species. Depending on the quantity and food quality of these foods, it causes the fish to decide on their location of their habitat. The continued destruction of the Amazon flood plants habitat is destroying the tambaqui's food source and leading to the death of more tambaquis.[8][9]

Seed Dispersal[edit]

The fruit seeds that fall in the water are consumed by Tambaqui and the seed is dispersed somewhere else; this is similar to what birds do. This consumption includes about 35% of the trees and lianas during flood season and these seeds can grow after the floodwater calms down. Compared to the younger and smaller tambaqui, larger and older tambaqui are able to disperse the seeds in a faster rate.[10]

Low pH Resistance[edit]

In an experiment, tambaqui had the pH of their water changed. No deaths occurred to tambaqui fishes if the pH did not reach 3.0. The only internal difference that was noted in tambaqui fishes, when the pH was being altered, was a change in the acid-base of the plasma and red cells.[11]

Relationship to humans[edit]

The tambaqui is used in aquaculture because it can live in mineral-poor waters and is very resistant to diseases.[12] This species is marketed fresh and frozen.[1]

In Thailand, this fish, known locally as pla khu dam (ปลาคู้ดำ), was introduced from Hong Kong and Singapore as part of fish-farming projects, but has adapted to local conditions and thrives in the wild in some areas.[13] In Brazil, tambaqui is one of the main fish species that is farmed. So, tambaqui is important towards Brazil's economy.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2007). "Colossoma macropomum" in FishBase. July 2007 version.
  2. ^ Aguiar, Jonas; Schneider, Horacio; Gomes, Fatima; Carneiro, Jeferson; Santos, Simoni; Rodrigues, Luis R; Sampaio, Iracilda (December 2013). "Genetic variation in native and farmed populations of Tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum) in the Brazilian Amazon: regional discrepancies in farming systems". SciELO. 85 (4): 1439–1447. doi:10.1590/0001-376520130007. 
  3. ^ Cressey, Daniel (2011-03-23). "Fruit-feasting fish fertilize faraway forests". Nature News. Nature Publishing Group. doi:10.1038/news.2011.177. Retrieved 2011-03-23.  External link in |work= (help)
  4. ^ Yong, Ed (2011-03-22). "Vegetarian piranhas are the Amazon's champion gardeners". Discover Magazine blogs. Kalmbach Publishing. Retrieved 2011-03-23.  External link in |work= (help)
  5. ^ Anderson, J. T.; Nuttle, T.; Saldaña Rojas, J. S.; Pendergast, T. H.; Flecker, A. S. (2011-03-23). "Extremely long-distance seed dispersal by an overfished Amazonian frugivore". Proc. R. Soc. B. The Royal Society. 278 (1710). doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.0155. 
  6. ^ Siqueira Fiúza, Luana; Moraes Aragão, Natália; Ribeiro Junior, Hermano Pinto; Gazzineo de Moraes, Manuella; Castelo Branco Rocha, Ítalo Régis; Lustosa Neto, Antônio Diogo; Rocha de Sousa, Rommel; Malvino Madrid, Raul Mário; Gonçalves de Oliveira, Elenise; Farias Costa, Francisco Hiran (March 2015). "Effects of salinity on the growth, survival, haematological parameters and osmoregulation of tambaqui Colossoma macropomum juveniles". Aquaculture Research. 46: 1–9. doi:10.1111/are.12224. 
  7. ^ VAL, AL (NOV-DEC 1995). "OXYGEN-TRANSFER IN FISH - MORPHOLOGICAL AND MOLECULAR ADJUSTMENTS". Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research. 28 (11-12): 1119–1127. PMID 8728838.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Lucas, Christine M. (September 2008). "Within Flood Season Variation in Fruit Consumption and Seed Dispersal by Two Characin Fishes of the Amazon". Biotropica. 40: 581–589. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2008.00415.x. JSTOR 20492487. 
  9. ^ Reinaldo Castro, Souza; Bacconi Campeche, Daniela Ferraz; Campos, R. M. L; Figueiredo, R. A. C. R; Melo, J. F. B (June 2014). "Feeding frequency for tambaqui juveniles". SciELO. 66: 927–932. doi:10.1590/1678-41625557. 
  10. ^ Anderson, Jill T.; Saldana Rojas, Joe; Flecker, Alexander S. (August 2009). "High-quality seed dispersal by fruit-eating fishes in Amazonian floodplain habitats". Oecologia. 161 (2): 279–290. doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1371-4. JSTOR 40310200. 
  11. ^ Val, Adalberto L; Wood, Chris M; Wilson, Rod W; Gonzalez, Richard J; Patrick, Marjorie L; Bergman, Harold L (1998). "Responses of an Amazonian Teleost, the Tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum), to Low pH in Extremely Soft Water". Chicago Journals. 71 (6): 658–70. doi:10.1086/515977. 
  12. ^ Kochhann, Daiani; Jardim, Manoela M.; Valdez, Domingos; Fabiola, Xochilt; Adalberto, Luis (January 2015). "Biochemical and behavioral responses of the Amazonian fish Colossoma macropomum to crude oil: The effect of oil layer on water surface" (PDF). Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. 111: 32–41. doi:10.1016/j.ecoenv.2014.09.016. Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  13. ^ Colossoma macropomum introduced to Thailand
  14. ^ Oeda Rodrigues, Ana Paula (2014). "NUTRITION AND FEEDING OF TAMBAQUI (Colossoma macropomum)". Boletim Do Instituto De Pesca. 40 (1): 135–145. 

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