HO­PLAS AI­MARA

THE BIG BAD WOLF

Animal Scene - - FISH IN YOUR TANK - Text and photos by AN­GEL L. AMPIL

A BRU­TAL FISH

As I was about to write this ar­ti­cle, I turned on the TV and tuned in to An­i­mal Planet, where by co­in­ci­dence, River Mon­ster was com­ing on. In this episode host Jeremy Wade trav­eled to Broko­pondo Reser­voir in the re­mote jun­gles of Suri­name where he in­ter­viewed a diver who was bru­tally at­tacked by a fish. The vic­tim claimed the fish was the much-feared “An­ju­mara,” a lit­tle-known fish that is even more vi­cious and ag­gres­sive than the sup­posed flesh-eat­ing pi­ranha.

The An­ju­mara is the wolf fish. It is one of the more pop­u­lar fishes that mon­ster fish col­lec­tors all over the world as­pire to own. Wolf fish are South Amer­i­can fresh­wa­ter fishes be­long­ing to the genus Ho­plias (H).

Q: WHY ARE THEY CALLED WOLF FISH?

A: Be­cause of the for­mi­da­ble teeth that are set in their mas­sive jaws. And just like wolves, wolf fish are nat­u­ral born killers. For­get pi­ran­has; the wolf fish has ac­quired the monikers “Pi­ranha Killer” and “Pi­ranha De­stroyer” among fish­keep­ing cir­cles be­cause of its rep­u­ta­tion.

Cur­rently, there are eleven species of wolf fish: H. ai­mara, H. aus­tralis, H. brasilien­sis, H. cu­rupira, H. in­ter­medius, H. lac­er­dae, H. mal­abar­i­cus, H. mi­cro­cephalus, H. mi­crolepis, H. patana, and H. teres.

The most pop­u­lar among them is the H. mal­abar­i­cus since it is the most com­monly avail­able in the mar­ket. But the big­gest and bad­dest among them all is H. ai­mara. When the na­tives re­fer to the “An­ju­mara,” which evokes fear in them, with­out a doubt, they are re­fer­ring to H. ai­mara. The H. ai­mara is more com­monly called the Gi­ant Wolf fish or Gi­ant Trahira (as Trahira is another lo­cal name for Wolf Fish). The word “Gi­ant” is em­pha­sized since H aimaras are known to reach over a me­ter in length with the largest ever cap­tured at 1.2 me­ters long and weigh­ing 40 kilo­grams. First de­scribed by French zo­ol­o­gist Achille Va­len­ci­ennes in 1847 from spec­i­mens col­lected in French Guiana, the H. ai­mara is present across most of the north­ern parts of South Amer­ica, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana and Suri­name, in­clud­ing Rio To­cantins, Rio Xingu, Rio Ta­pa­jos, Rio Jar, and Rio Trom­be­tas, and is also found in coastal drainages in the Guyanas, Suri­name, and state of Amapa, Brazil. H. ai­mara lives in habi­tats that range from large rivers, rapids, wa­ter­falls, and flooded for­est floor en­vi­ron­ments.

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