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Piraiba, Laulau catfish or Manitoa (Brachyplatystoma vaillantii)

August 8, 2020

Manitoa (Brachyplasystoma vaillanti) is a freshwater species belonging to the catfish group, widely distributed in the Amazon River basin and the rest of South America.

It has several common names: manitoa, pirabutón(Colombia), piramutaba(Brazil), and blanco pobre in some parts of the Amazon.



Catfishes, which comprise about 300 species, are characterized by a depressed body, a large and long head, small and bulging eyes, spines on the fins and, their most distinctive feature, the presence of long maxillary barbels.

Brachyplatystoma vaillantii
Brachyplatystoma vaillantii
Enrico Richter / PD

It belongs to the family Pimelodidae. It is a large, tropical demersal species, with a hydrodynamic body, with a length up to 1.5 meters.

It is a bottom-dwelling fish, with nocturnal habits. It is a species without scales, which is popularly known as leather species, as catfish are generally called.

Adults have a long, well-developed adipose fin.

It has a grayish coloration on the back and whitish on the belly. Its head is long and flattened, its eyes are small and it has long, flattened maxillary beards. Its upper jaw is slightly larger than the lower jaw.

In the Amazon, the manitoa is found in large rivers, such as the Ucayali, Marañon, Amazon, Napo and Putumayo.

Brachyplatystoma vaillantii
Brachyplatystoma vaillantii

Manitoa Food

It is a very voracious, piscivorous fish that feeds on small fish, preferably those with a fusiform body.

Manitoa Reproduction

It is a migratory fish. It reproduces during the months of November and December, when the period of river flooding begins. During that time it moves in large shoals in the main channel of the rivers.

Nutritional value

Its caloric value is 69 to 141 kcal per 200 g of edible part. Its fat content is low, around 0.86 and 8 %, depending on the season, but it is a high quality fat, rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (oleic, palmitoleic) and polyunsaturated linoleic.

Although it is relatively high in protein, which fluctuates between 15.3 and 17.7%. The specimens caught in the Puerto Maldonado area have mercury values of 0.581 pp, close to the permissible limit for human consumption.

Brachyplatystoma vaillantii
Brachyplatystoma vaillantii
Loopy30 / CCbySA

Commercial importance

The list of the main species caught in commercial fishing includes the manitoa, especially in the landings of the fishing ports of the Lower Amazon and Putumayo rivers.

The manitoa, like all species of the catfish group, has a high commercial value due to the excellence of its meat, although it is also exploited as an ornamental fish in its juvenile stage.

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)