An introduction to fish in Mekong river

The Mekong River flows through many Asian countries, descending into Vietnam with the name of the Mekong River. The river provides an endless source of cool water for fields, which is a source of alluvial deposits year after year. Moreover, as among the richest rivers in the world, Mekong river is the habitat of hundreds of aquatic species, including giant and rare fish, so-called “freshwater monsters” types.  Let’s find out some unique marine animals in this river.


Mekong river
Beautiful Mekong river is the living place of many unique freshwater species in the world.

Mekong river catfish

With a length of up to 3.2 m and weight up to 300 kg, catfish is one of the largest freshwater fish species in the world. Scientists have only known this fish since 1930 when it was discovered at a fish market in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and so far there has not been much research on fish.

Catfishes in Mekong have large and flat heads, wide mouth with two long antennae in the upper jaw, pelvic fins long to the caudal fin, small dorsal fins in the front. The back of the fish is in dark brown and the color of the abdomen and the fins is a bit lighter.

The main food for catfish is zooplankton, juveniles, fibrous algae, and accidentally some ingest larvae. Because these fish do not have teeth, they are capable of obtaining food from algae grown on submerged rock surfaces.

Catfish naturally lives in the Mekong basin in Vietnam to the north of the river in China’s Yunnan province. However, due to many different threats, catfish have migrated and lived in wider dispersion. Now people only see them appear in the middle of the Mekong River. They often gather at the beginning of the rainy season and migrate upstream to breed, and often live in the main river branches with a depth of 10 m or more. For now, you might be amazed at how big and special Mekong river fish species are, right? Wait for the next giant fish instructed following.


Mekong river catfish
Giant Mekong river catfish

Mekong freshwater stingrays

Among the most unique type, you can have Giant freshwater stingrays with its’ scientific nomenclature being Himantura polylepis. It is a species of freshwater stingrays setting in the Indochinese peninsula and Borneo island of Indonesia. Many giant size fish have been recorded in the Mekong river and recognized as one of the largest freshwater fish species in the world.

People used to catch a giant stingray on the Mekong River with a fishing rod. Weighing nearly 363 kg, 2.4 meters wide and 4.3 meters long, this giant stingray on the Mekong River in Thailand may be the largest freshwater fish caught by fishing rods and strings. It took 2 hours for Thai fishermen taking a turn holding the fishing rod to pull the fish to shore.

In Vietnam, the biggest stingrays are found in Mekong part belonging Tien river, Tan Hoa B hamlet, Tan An commune, Tan Chau town, An Giang. The stingray is 220 kg in weight, more than 4.5 m long including the tail, and over 2 m in width.

These fish are often caught in flooded areas. You can easily catch the fish of over 1.5 m long and more than 45 kg in weight as the large fish are now very rare.  Next up is another Mekong river giant fish, being carp.


freshwater stingrays found in Mekong river
One of the biggest freshwater stingrays found in Mekong river

Mekong freshwater carp

The small carp you find in the supermarket can be super in the Mekong River. It is one of the largest carp species in the world. Their maximum length and weight of this fish can reach 2.4 m and 250 kg.

You can find this giant carp in Mekong section from Cambodia to Vietnam, and very rare in the section above Khone Falls.

This fish mainly eat plants like algae, phytoplankton. During the flood season, they can eat fruit, trees, and grass on land.

During the dry season, Mekong carp seeks refuge in deep pools on the mainstream of the river, which is mainly the section from Kratie to Stung Treng. What else can you expect from the Mekong river? Here is another impressive fish that you can luckily get once you fishing in the Mekong.


big freshwater carp
Catching a big freshwater carp might be a great experience for you in a Mekong fishing tour

Flagfish in the Mekong

Flagfish or Pla Thepa fish can reach a mass of 200 kg, while their greatest body length is 3 m. Distributed in the lower Mekong River, flagfish can be found in China and Myanmar regions. You can find both groups of young and adult fish remain in the Mekong mainstream and possibly in large tributaries without any of them in flooded areas. Although in 1996, scientists stated that these species live commonly in the middle of the Mekong River; now this fish is quite rare in all the river. They are even listed as a rare species in the IUCN Red List.

This fish is a meat-eater type with its food mainly being fish and crustaceans. It is believed that they live all year round in the Mekong mainstream because their food sources are aquatic animals living in the bottom water.

According to the fishermen, during the dry season, adult fish will usually stay in the deep part of the river. They only move out from these part during short hunting times when other small fish migrate through its area.


flagfish found in Vietnam
One of the biggest flagfish found in Vietnam

These are most special fish species in Mekong river. Catching them is a matter of mere luck. Yet it’s good to know that these giant fishes are somewhere underneath the Mekong water, just like the river itself hiding many charms for travelers to explore.


Phuong Dao – Travel Lover

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