Thailand is filled with exotic wildlife, many of which roam its richly diverse river basins. The Mekong River is home to record-breaking species, including huge stingrays. Read on to discover 7 spectacular fish found in Thailand!
1. Mekong Giant Catfish
The Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) is endemic to the Mekong River, which runs through Thailand. It is one of the most spectacular fish found in Thailand, famous for its massive size. In fact, it shares the record for the largest freshwater fish in the world with the giant freshwater stingray, also from the Mekong River. The record-setting catfish specimen weighed an astounding 646 pounds and measured eight feet eleven inches long. It set the record in June 2005 with its capture.
Despite its impressive size and fighting spirit, the Mekong giant catfish has no teeth in adulthood. It is grey to white in color without stripes. Unfortunately, the IUCN lists this incredible species as Critically Endangered due to its decreasing population.
2. Climbing Perch
The climbing perch (Anabas testudineus) is a freshwater fish common to Thailand’s lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, and swamps. It also goes by the name “Walking Fish” due to its ability to “walk” with its fins on dry land. Because of an accessory air-breathing organ, it can survive out of water for days or even weeks at a time as long as the organs remain moist.
The maximum recorded length for the climbing perch is 9.84 inches, though a length of around 4.9 inches is more common. The species is greenish or brownish in color with a pale underbelly.
3. Alligator Gar
Although the alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is a remarkable-looking fish found in Thailand, it is not native to the country. Rather, sport fishers from the USA introduced it as a sport fish, upon which it quickly became popular. This remarkable species gets its name from its alligator-like snout and teeth. As a freshwater fish, it inhabits pools, swamps, bayous, lakes, and the backwaters of large rivers. Sluggish waters are its preference.
The alligator gar grows to a maximum length of 120 inches, though most specimens hover around 78.7 inches in length. The maximum reported weight for this species is 302 pounds. Its dorsal region is olive-brown with a yellowish or white ventral area.
4. Giant Snakehead
The giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes) is a predatory freshwater fish inhabiting Thailand’s Mekong and Chao Phraya basins. It derives its name from its snakish head and elongated body. It prefers slow-moving or standing bodies of water such as lowland rivers, swamps, streams, and canals, especially those with deeper waters. One of its alternate names, the “giant mudfish,” comes from its ability to crawl out of the water into muddy or swampy areas and breathe air.
The giant snakehead typically grows to about 19.7 inches, with a maximum recorded length of 51.18 inches. The heaviest specimen on record weighed just over 44 pounds.
5. Giant Freshwater Stingray
One of the most spectacular fish found in Thailand is the giant freshwater stingray (Urogymnus polylepis). Guinness World Records lists it as one of two contenders for the title of the largest freshwater fish in the world, being only slightly heavier than its rival, the Mekong giant catfish. Both specimens came from the Mekong River, with the giant freshwater stingray weighing a whopping 661 pounds. It measured 13 feet in length, including its tail, with a disc width of seven feet two point six inches.
In Thailand, this species inhabits the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins. It is brownish or greyish in coloration with a long, whip-like tail. Its preferred haunts are the sandy bottoms of rivers or estuaries. Though the idea of eating a stingray may seem unusual to some, fisheries occasionally catch these fish and sell the meat.
6. Giant Pangasius
The giant pangasius (Pangasius sanitwongsei) is a freshwater fish found in Thailand in the Mekong and Chao Phraya basins. It also goes by the dubious name of “dog-eating catfish.” This comes from the fact that some fishers use fowl or dog meat as bait. A commercially important fish, the giant pangasius currently faces the threats of overharvesting, pollution, and habitat loss.
The giant pangasius is true to its name, growing up to 118 inches or 9.8 feet long. Its maximum recorded weight is 661 pounds, as heavy as the largest freshwater fish in the world. It prefers large rivers, with juveniles inhabiting larger tributaries.
7. Jullien’s Golden Carp
Jullien’s golden carp (Probarbus jullieni) is a freshwater fish inhabiting Thailand’s Mekong and Chao Phraya basins. Its name derives from the man who collected the type specimen, J. Jullien. The IUCN lists this fish as Critically Endangered due to the severe decline of its population.
This species grows to a maximum length of 59 inches with a maximum weight of 154.3 pounds. Its body is brownish or reddish in color, with five dark stripes above its lateral line. Both its flesh and eggs are highly valued and exorbitantly priced due to low stock.
Although these are some of the most spectacular fish found in Thailand, there are many more species both in its waters and on its landmass. Check out this article to discover even more amazing wildlife in Thailand.
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