Exotic Leather Blog

What is Arapaima Skin, and What’s It Used for?

Posted by Abram Mendal on Jan 12, 2017 2:58:50 PM

An arapaima skin has a shape similar to a pair of trousers, and provides about 8 square feet of useable material.If you’ve never heard of Arapaima skin before, don’t worry, not many people know about this exotic leather. This fish skins is a truly exotic skin choice that many don’t even think about. However, this is one exotic skin that you might want to consider for your next exotic leather project.

What is an Arapaima?

The Arapaima is a large freshwater fish native to the Amazon basin of South America—where it shares living space with the infamous piranha. The arapaima is one of the world’s largest freshwater fish—according to data cited by National Geographic, “these giants can reach 9 feet (2.75 meters) long and weigh up to 440 pounds (200 kilograms).” The fish are both wild-caught and farmed by Amazon natives for the meat. The skin is a by-product. 

What are the Characteristics of Arapaima Skin?

Arapaima fish have a long, wide, scaly body and a tapered head. The body is covered in a series of large, thick scales, and is naturally gray in color. The skin as used for leather has a shape roughly similar to a pair of trousers with a large, square-shaped body connected to two rear flanks.

The average arapaima skin yields about 8 square feet of material to work with—roughly 36” x 24” in the body, and 6” x 12” in each of the two rear flanks. It has a plush and full body which gives it a beautiful hand feel.  

A close-up of the Arapaima's scales.But what the arapaima skin is best-known for is its scales, especially their size, unruly appearance and durability. Scholarly articles on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health about the arapaima note that “each scale is composed of two layers: a laminate composite of parallel collagen fibrils and a hard, highly mineralized surface layer.” In other words, each scale has a hard, armor-like surface and a soft, gel-like layer underneath that can absorb the force of an impact without breaking. 

This makes for an incredibly durable, yet flexible leather when the hide is properly tanned.

What is Arapaima Skin Used for?

Because of its large size, toughness, and flexibility, arapaima skin is well-suited for a number of different applications. Common uses include:

  • Large unstructured handbags. The large, wild scales of the arapaima skin and its plush body drape beautifully over the shoulder of a fun-loving fashionite. 
  • Garments often require huge panels to reduce the appearance of stitch marks. A large arapaima hide can fill these panels with ease. It is also soft enough to bend, fold and crease where it needs to form around your body and is heavy enough that it provides reasonable insulation as a coat. 
  • Arapaima skin boots are both beautiful and practical pieces for cowboy boots. The scale pattern can draw the eye, while the scales themselves resist scratching and scuffing from everyday use.

There are many more uses for arapaima skin, but these are some of the most popular types of projects they’re used for.

Need help finding the perfect exotic skin for your next high-fashion project? Be sure to check out some of Pan American Leather’s other exotic leather resources today!

The Exotic Skin


Topics: garments, arapaima skin