Species: Pangasianodon gigas
Common names: Giant Mekong Catfish, Mekong Giant Catfish. Thai Name: Pla buk.
Distribution: They are Native to the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia. Historically, the fish’s natural range reached from the lower Mekong in Vietnam, above the tidally influenced brackish water of the river’s delta. All the way to the northern reaches of the river in the Yunnan province of China; spanning almost the entire 4,800-km length of the river.
Giant Mekong Catfish is one of the Catfish species in the family of the shark catfish; although research projects are currently ongoing, relatively little is known about this Catfish species. The Giant Mekong catfish is in danger of extinction due to over fishing, as well as the decrease in water quality.
Habitat: Due to development and upstream damming, the species no longer inhabits the majority of its original habitat. The species is now believed to only exist in small, isolated populations in the middle Mekong region. They congregate during the beginning of the rainy season and migrate hundreds of miles upstream to spawning grounds in Thailand. The species is released in some of the largest lakes in Thailand.
This species feeds on zooplankton and it is also known to be cannibalistic. After approximately one year, the fish becomes herbivorous; feeding on filamentous algae, probably it also ingests larvae and periphyton accidentally. The fish likely obtains its food from algae growing on submerged rocky surfaces, as it does not have any sort of dentition.
Size: with recorded sizes of 300kg.(660lb) and up to 10.5 ft (3.2 m) in length The Species holds the current Guinness Book of World Records’ position for the world’s largest freshwater fish.
Fishing method: When small, Giant Mekong catfish, are filter feeders, it feeds on various forms of zooplankton. This changes when they reach about 1 year old, where the prime diet becomes, algae and plants from the bottom. It is not possible to catch them on hook and line in the wild. The reason they can be caught on hook and line in the stock pounds / Fishing Park’s here in Thailand; is because it is a farmed fish. They have learned from babies to feed on bread and fish pellets
All fishing for this species is illegal in the wild in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. But the bans appear to be ineffective; the fish continue to be caught in all three countries. However in recognition of the threat to the species and to mark the 60th anniversary of Bhumibol Adulyadej’s ascension to the throne of Thailand, many Thai fishermen, agreed to stop catching the endangered catfish in June 2006;. Thailand is the only country that allows fishing for private stocks of Giant Mekong catfish; this will hopefully help to saving the species.
Sexing: There is no visible difference between the sexes, except that the female is larger than the male.