Arowana Fish – Types, Care, Feeding, Tank Mates & Full Details!

Arowana, belonging to the ancient family osteoglossidae, are fascinating creatures with unique characteristics. Their toothed bony plate, intriguingly placed on the lower part of their mouth, earns them the quirky nickname of “bony tongues”.

Found predominantly in the freshwater bodies of South America, Southeast Asia, and Australia, Arowanas are renowned for their elongated bodies adorned with large scales and a distinctive pair of barbells sprouting from their lower jaw’s tip.

In many Asian cultures, these fish, resembling the traditional Chinese dragon, symbolize good fortune. Arowanas’ longevity is another noteworthy feature, with a well-cared-for Arowana potentially living beyond twenty years in captivity – a lifespan rivaling many domesticated pets.

It is crucial to understand that caring for an Arowana is a long-term commitment, considering its lifespan and unique care requirements. However, the reward is having one of the most coveted freshwater fish gracing your home aquarium.

Arowanas, colloquially known as Dragon Fish, are magnificent freshwater creatures, celebrated not only for their striking appearance but also their unique behaviors. Proper care is integral to nurturing these aquatic wonders.

This comprehensive guide will educate you on how to achieve just that.

Quick Stats About Arowana

Family Osteoglossidae
Origin Columbia, Peru
Social Aggressive
Tank Level Top-dweller
Minimum Tank Size 300 gallons
Diet Carnivore
Breeding Mouth brooder
Care Advanced
pH 6.0-7.0
Hardness dGH 1-8
Temperature 75 to 85 F (24 to 29 C)

Arowana Appearance: The Majestic Dragon Fish

Arowanas are an embodiment of beauty and grandeur. Often called “dragon fish” due to their dragon-like scales, barbels near the mouth, and a body shape that closely resembles the mythical creature, Arowanas are a sight to behold in any aquarium setting.

Arowanas display elongated, streamlined bodies covered in large, shimmering scales that reflect light, adding to their mystique. These scales vary from species to species and can have colors ranging from silver, gold, and red to shades of green and black.

Their large, wing-like pectoral fins add to their dragon-like appearance, while their dorsal and ventral fins, running almost the entire length of the body, contribute to their graceful movement in water.

One of the Arowanas’ most distinguishing features is their large, upward-facing mouths. This is a classic trait of surface feeders, hinting at their natural feeding habits.

A pair of barbels protruding from the lower jaw’s tip adds a further layer of intrigue to their appearance. Each species of Arowana carries its unique charm, making these fish a fascinating addition to your aquatic family.

Natural Habitat of Arowana

Arowanas are freshwater fish, predominantly found in the quiet waters of river basins, swamps, and flooded forests. They are well adapted to environments with slow-moving or still water, with plenty of vegetation and cover available.

The natural habitats of Arowanas vary widely based on their species. South American Arowanas, including Silver and Black Arowanas, are commonly found in the Amazon River basin’s quiet waters.

In contrast, Asian Arowanas thrive in the murky blackwater streams and peat swamps of Southeast Asia, including regions of Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. Australian Arowanas, like the Australian Arowana and Saratoga, inhabit the water bodies of Northern Australia and Southern New Guinea.

African Arowana, a unique and separate group of the Arowana family, are native to the Nile River and other water bodies across Africa.

Origin and Distribution

Arowanas belong to the ancient family osteoglossidae, which is among the most early groups of teleost (bony) fish. Fossils of these majestic creatures date back to the Jurassic period, revealing that their lineage has existed for millions of years.

Their distribution across the globe is as fascinating as their origin. While the majority of Arowana species are spread across South America, Southeast Asia, and Australia, there’s an interesting tale of distribution within these regions.

The South American and African Arowanas, despite being geographically distant, are closely related, suggesting a shared origin dating back to when these continents were part of the supercontinent Gondwana.

Meanwhile, Asian and Australian Arowanas have evolved separately, exhibiting differences in their behavior and appearance.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Arowana

Arowanas are notable for their considerable size and impressive lifespan. On average, depending on the species, Arowanas can grow between 2 to 4 feet in length in a suitable environment, with the African Arowana even reaching up to an astounding 4 feet.

An Arowana’s growth rate is influenced by factors such as diet, water conditions, and space available for movement. Arowanas are voracious eaters and require a varied diet rich in proteins to support their growth.

Remarkably, Arowanas also have a long lifespan, which is yet another reason they are highly prized by aquarists. In an ideal environment, with proper care and diet, Arowanas can live between 10 to 15 years, with some individuals even reaching the ripe age of 20 years.

In conclusion, Arowanas, with their impressive appearance, ancient lineage, and remarkable growth traits, truly stand out among the diverse world of aquarium fish.

Their adaptability to different habitats, growth characteristics, and rich symbolism make them a fascinating subject for aquarists, researchers, and fish lovers alike.

Arowana Behavior and Temperament

Arowanas, as impressive as their physical attributes are, display equally intriguing behaviors and temperaments. These fish are known for their hunting prowess, engaging in a surface-feeding lifestyle that involves leaping out of the water to catch prey.

This predatory behavior is one reason they need tanks with secure lids!

As for their temperament, Arowanas tend to be territorial and can exhibit aggression, especially towards similar-sized fish or members of their own species.

They are relatively solitary creatures, generally preferring to live and feed alone. However, they can coexist peacefully with certain species under the right conditions.

Types of Arowanas

There exist six primary species of Arowanas, with multiple geographical variants to explore. Let’s delve into the fascinating world of these ‘true’ Arowanas.

South American Arowanas

Silver Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum)

Arguably the gentle giant of the Arowana family, the Silver Arowana boasts a remarkable size, growing up to 3.5 feet. Its metallic silver hue, along with elongated dorsal and anal fins, contributes to its distinct and striking appearance. This particular species is common and relatively affordable compared to other Arowanas.

Pro Tip: Within their first year, a Silver Arowana can grow anywhere between 16″-20″ in length.

Black Arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai)

Black Arowanas, sharing the Silver Arowana’s shape and size, start life with a distinct black band along their body length. As they mature, this band gradually fades, replaced by a subtle purple tint, predominantly near their anal fin. Despite their similar appearance, Black Arowanas grow considerably slower and have a more slender body than their silver counterparts.

Australian Arowanas

Australian Arowana (Scleropages jardinii)

Endemic to Australia and South Central New Guinea, the Australian Arowana displays copper-colored scales accented with small pink edges, sometimes manifesting as pink spots on the fins. This species, though similar in size to the Silver Arowana, is known for its fiery temperament, making it a challenge to keep with other tank mates, especially when it reaches 12-14 inches in size.

Saratoga (Scleropages leichardti)

The Saratoga resides in East Central Queensland, Australia’s Fitzroy River. Despite being lesser-known, this species shares many similarities with the Australian Arowana in terms of size and appearance. A distinguishing feature is the prominent pink coloration along the scale edges and a more slender body. The Saratoga’s barbells are noticeably shorter compared to other Arowanas, adding to its distinct appeal.

Asian Arowanas

Green Arowana (Scleropages formosus)

Native to the Nami Dam in Malaysia, the Green Arowana showcases a pale gray color with a subtle green tint, particularly towards the fins’ edges. They exhibit shorter dorsal and anal fins than South American Arowanas and can reach a size of up to 3 feet.

Banjar / Yellow Tail Arowana (Scleropages formosus)

Originating from Banjarmasin, Borneo, the Banjar Arowana displays a distinctive look. Its dorsal, caudal, and anal fins are yellow, with the rest of its body showcasing a yellowish/greenish tint.

Red Tail Golden Arowana (Scleropages formosus)

Indigenous to the Siak River system in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, the Red Tail Golden Arowana is one of the most sought-after species. It boasts a beautiful combination of deep red fins and golden scales, covering more than half its body. A unique feature is that its golden scales never grow past the fourth row from the belly, with the scales without shine typically showing a dull, dark gray color.

Golden Arowana (Scleropages formosus)

Native to Bukit Merah in Indonesia, the Golden Arowana is perhaps the most celebrated Asian Arowana. Its shine extends up to the sixth row of scales, and those with a fully golden head are known as ‘golden head full helmet crossback’. The intensity of the gold coloration adds to its desirability among aquatic hobbyists.

Pro Tip: You may come across a hybrid of the Red Tail Golden and Crossback, known as the High Back Red Tail Golden Arowana (HBRTG).

Red Arowana (Scleropages formosus)

Found in Lake Sentarum in Kalimantan, Borneo, the Red Arowana is one of the world’s most valuable ornamental fish. Its coloration transitions from predominantly red lips and fins as juveniles to an overall red body upon maturity. This spectacular change occurs around three years of age, given proper care and diet.

Batik Arowana (Scleropages inscriptus)

Hailing from Myanmar, the Batik Arowana closely resembles the Green Arowana in color and appearance. However, it boasts unique scribble markings reminiscent of ancient Polynesian tribal tattoos, increasing its appeal among aquatic hobbyists.

African Arowana (Heterotis niloticus)

Inhabiting various locations across Africa, particularly within the Chad and Nile rivers, the African Arowana grows up to an impressive 4 feet in length. This species has unique traits that distinguish it from its relatives, making it a fascinating addition to the world of Arowanas.

Setting Up Your Arowanas Tank

Given their size, predatory nature, and specific water quality needs, Arowanas require particular tank setups to thrive.

Let’s delve into the key aspects of creating a comfortable home for these water-bound dragons.

Tank Size

Arowanas are large fish, with some species growing up to 4 feet. As such, they require a spacious tank. A tank size of 250-300 gallons is usually recommended for adult Arowanas, but remember, bigger is always better for these active swimmers.


When it comes to substrate, Arowanas aren’t picky. However, a dark, soft substrate such as sand or fine gravel often works best. These materials will not damage the Arowana’s delicate barbels and can help to mimic their natural environment.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Although Arowanas are not hide-and-seek players like some other fish species, providing some form of cover, like large driftwood or robust, tall plants, can help them feel secure. Be careful, though – avoid sharp decorations that could potentially harm these large, active fish.

Water Parameters

Arowanas require specific water conditions to thrive. They prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.0-7.0), and the water temperature should be maintained between 75-86°F (24-30°C). Regular water changes are also critical to keeping these parameters stable.

Filtration and Aeration

Strong filtration is a must for an Arowana tank, considering their large size and feeding habits. Also, although Arowanas are labyrinth fish capable of breathing atmospheric air, sufficient aeration and surface agitation help to keep the water oxygen-rich and clean.


While Arowanas aren’t particularly sensitive to lighting, subdued lighting often works best. It can help bring out their vibrant scale colors and mimic their natural, slightly murky water environments.

Tank Mates

Choosing suitable tank mates for Arowanas is crucial due to their predatory and territorial behavior. Avoid fish small enough to be seen as food, and similarly, avoid overly aggressive species that could stress or injure your Arowana.


Arowanas are carnivorous by nature, with a preference for protein-rich foods. Their diet can include fish, shrimp, insects, and occasionally, pellets. It’s crucial to provide a varied diet to ensure they receive all necessary nutrients.

Understanding Arowana’s behavior, temperament, and tank setup requirements is key to successful care. By providing the right environment and attention to their needs, you can enjoy the company of these fascinating fish for many years to come.

Tank Maintenance of Arowana Fish

Maintaining an Arowana tank is critical for the health and well-being of your fish. Regular water changes, cleaning of tank and decorations, diligent filter maintenance, and routine fish health monitoring are the keys to success.

Let’s delve into these topics in more detail.

Regular Water Changes

Water changes are crucial for maintaining a healthy Arowana tank. Over time, harmful compounds like ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate can build up in the water, posing a serious threat to your fish.

Regular water changes help to remove these toxins and replenish the water with necessary minerals.

A general guideline is to change about 25% of the tank water every week. This percentage can vary depending on the tank’s size and the number of inhabitants.

Always remember to match the temperature and pH of the new water to that of the tank to prevent any shock to your Arowana.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Algae and debris buildup are inevitable in an aquarium environment. Regular cleaning of the tank walls and decorations helps to keep the tank looking its best and prevent potential health issues.

Consider using an algae scraper or magnet to clean the inside of the glass every week. Also, remember to clean or replace the decorations as needed, ensuring you rinse them thoroughly before re-introducing them to the tank.

Filter Maintenance

Arowana tanks require robust filtration due to the large size and heavy feeding habits of these fish. Thus, keeping the filter clean and functioning optimally is a must.

Generally, it is recommended to clean the filter every month. However, this can depend on the specific filter type and the tank conditions.

Remember to replace the filter media as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Be careful not to clean all filter media at once or in tap water, as this can destroy beneficial bacteria that aid in the nitrogen cycle.

Monitor Fish Health

Routine health checks for your Arowana are as important as maintaining their environment. Observe your fish daily for any signs of illness, such as changes in color, spots or patches, lethargy, or unusual swimming behavior.

Regular monitoring allows you to catch any potential health issues early, increasing the chances of successful treatment.

A healthy Arowana should have clear eyes, vibrant coloration, and display consistent activity and feeding behavior. If you observe any anomalies, consult a vet or aquatic expert immediately.

Maintaining an Arowana tank requires consistent care and attention. But with the right practices in place, your Arowana can thrive, providing you with years of fascination and enjoyment.

Acclimating Your Arowana to Its New Home

Introducing your Arowana to its new tank is a process that needs careful attention. The goal is to ease the fish into the new environment without causing undue stress.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Float the Bag: Once you’ve brought your Arowana home, float the sealed bag in the tank for 15-20 minutes. This helps to slowly match the water temperature in the bag to that of the tank.

  2. Open the Bag and Add Tank Water: After the temperatures have equalized, open the bag and gradually add a small amount of tank water every five minutes. This helps the fish adjust to the water chemistry of its new home.

  3. Transfer the Arowana: After around half an hour, gently scoop the fish out of the bag using a net and transfer it into the tank. Avoid adding the bag water to the tank to prevent potential contamination.

Remember to turn off the lights in the tank during the process and keep the surrounding environment quiet to help minimize stress for the fish.

Arowana Diet and Feeding

Arowana are carnivorous and require a varied diet rich in protein.

Here is a detailed breakdown of an Arowana’s dietary needs:

Live Foods

In the wild, Arowana are natural hunters, consuming insects, smaller fish, and even birds. In captivity, live foods can still be a part of their diet.

You can offer mealworms, shrimp, or feeder fish. But be cautious, as live foods carry a risk of transmitting diseases. Always source them from reputable suppliers.

Prepared Foods

Quality pellet foods made for carnivorous fish can also be an excellent choice. They are nutritionally balanced and reduce the risks associated with live foods. Choose a pellet size appropriate for the size of your Arowana.

Fresh Foods

Arowana will also accept fresh or frozen foods like pieces of shrimp, fish, or squid. These provide valuable protein and can be a good way to vary their diet.

Feeding Guidelines

  1. Frequency: Feed your adult Arowana once or twice a day, offering only what they can consume in a few minutes.

  2. Variety: Rotate the types of food you offer to ensure a balanced diet.

  3. Observation: Pay attention to your Arowana’s appetite. Changes in eating habits can be an early sign of potential health issues.

By meeting your Arowana’s nutritional needs and carefully acclimating it to its new environment, you’ll be well on your way to having a healthy, vibrant fish.

Remember, every Arowana is unique, and understanding your fish’s individual preferences and behaviors is a big part of successful fish keeping.

Arowana Tank Mates: Friends & Foes

Arowana are majestic creatures, but they can be territorial. Picking the right tank mates is key to maintaining harmony in the aquarium.

Potential Arowana Tank Mates

Here’s a list of fish species that can make suitable companions for Arowana:

  1. Oscar Fish: Oscars can match the size and temperament of an Arowana. They are tough and can hold their own.

  2. Parrot Cichlid: These fish are relatively peaceful and can handle the size and dominance of an Arowana.

  3. Large Plecos: Their armored bodies can withstand occasional aggression from the Arowana.

  4. Giant Gourami: These fish can grow quite large and are generally peaceful, making them suitable tank mates for Arowana.

  5. Black Pacu: A large, docile species, the Black Pacu can live peacefully with Arowana.

  6. Bichir: Being bottom dwellers, Bichirs can coexist nicely with the surface-dwelling Arowana.

Remember, while these species are generally suitable, individual temperaments may vary.

Tank Mates to Avoid for Arowana

Avoid pairing Arowana with the following species:

  1. Small Fish: Smaller species, such as guppies or neon tetras, will likely become an Arowana’s meal.

  2. Aggressive Species: Fish like the Red Devil Cichlid can injure the Arowana with their territorial behavior.

  3. Fin Nipping Species: Fish that are known to nip fins, like Tiger Barbs, should be avoided.

  4. Slow Moving Fish: Slow movers such as Discus fish can become stressed by the Arowana’s quick movements.

  5. Surface Dwellers: Other surface dwellers, like the Archerfish, will compete with the Arowana for space.

Arowana Breeding and Fry Care

Breeding Arowana in captivity is a challenging task, but it can be done.

The Breeding Process

  1. Sexing the Arowana: Sexing Arowana is extremely difficult, as males and females look nearly identical. The male generally has a broader head, and during breeding season, the female’s body will become noticeably rounder.

  2. Spawning: Arowana are mouthbrooders. The female will lay the eggs, and then the male will fertilize and carry them in his mouth for about 50-60 days until they hatch. This period is stressful for the male, so extra care is necessary.

Arowana Fry Care

Once the fry have hatched, they require specialized care:

  1. Feeding: Feed the fry with freshly hatched brine shrimp or specialized fry food several times a day.

  2. Water Quality: Maintain pristine water conditions with regular changes and monitoring of parameters.

  3. Tank Setup: Provide a safe, calm environment with no sharp decorations where the fry could hurt themselves.

  4. Monitoring: Keep a close eye on the fry, as they can be prone to disease. Signs of ill health should be addressed immediately.

While breeding Arowana is not for the faint-hearted, with patience and attention to detail, it’s possible to raise these magnificent creatures from egg to adult.

Detecting Stress in Arowana

Arowana are robust fish, but like any pet, they can experience stress. Understanding these signs is key to ensuring their well-being.

  1. Loss of Color: A stressed Arowana can lose its vibrant coloration, appearing pale or washed out.

  2. Erratic Swimming: If your Arowana is swimming erratically, bumping into objects, or floating upside-down, this is likely a sign of stress.

  3. Loss of Appetite: Stress often leads to a decrease in appetite.

  4. Rapid Breathing: Quick, shallow breaths can indicate your Arowana is feeling uneasy.

  5. Hiding or Becoming Withdrawn: Arowana are generally confident fish. If they’re hiding or seem shy, they might be stressed.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Arowana

Arowana are prone to some health issues, but with good care, these can be managed or even avoided.

  1. Dropeye Syndrome: This condition affects one or both eyes, causing them to droop downwards. It’s believed to be caused by dietary deficiencies or poor water quality.

  2. Fin and Tail Rot: Poor water quality can also lead to fin and tail rot, a bacterial infection that causes the fins to fray or disintegrate.

  3. Chill: Arowana are tropical fish. If the water temperature falls too low, they can suffer from chill, which weakens their immune system.

Treatment and Prevention

Proper care is key in treating and preventing these issues. Maintain good water quality, provide a balanced diet, and monitor water temperature closely. If a health issue arises, consult a vet who specializes in fish diseases.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

  1. Regular Testing: Test your water regularly to ensure it’s free from harmful chemicals.

  2. Avoid Overcrowding: Too many fish can lead to poor water quality and increased stress.

  3. Quarantine New Fish: Always quarantine new fish to prevent the spread of diseases.

  4. Research Before Buying: Always research a fish’s needs before adding it to your aquarium.

Is an Arowana Right for Your Aquarium?

Arowana are stunning, fascinating creatures, but they require diligent care and a significant amount of space. They’re best suited to dedicated, experienced aquarium owners.

If you’re willing to invest the time and resources, having an Arowana can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Arowana Conservation Status

Arowana, sometimes known as Dragon Fish, have a fascinating yet alarming conservation status, Classified as “Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They are under threat due to habitat loss and overfishing for the pet trade. In an effort to protect these majestic creatures, many countries have imposed restrictions on their trade.

Availability & Pricing

Acquiring an Arowana can be quite a task due to trade restrictions and their high demand. They’re often available through specialist dealers or online fish stores.

Pricing varies greatly, depending on the type and size of the Arowana, but you can typically expect to pay anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars for these magnificent fish.

Frequently Asked Questions About Arowana

Let’s dive into some common queries about Arowana:

Q1: How big can Arowana grow?

A1: Arowana can grow up to 3 feet long, depending on the species and living conditions.

Q2: Are Arowana aggressive?

A2: Arowana can be territorial and may show aggression, especially during feeding times or if they feel threatened.

Q3: Can Arowana live with other fish?

A3: They can live with other large, non-aggressive species. However, smaller fish might become a snack for your Arowana.

Q4: How long do Arowana live?

A4: With good care, Arowana can live up to 15 years or more.

Conclusion: The Majestic Arowana Journey

Arowana are a truly magnificent sight in any aquarium, bringing a dash of ancient majesty and a splash of brilliant color. They require significant care, space, and attention, but the reward is a stunning pet that will captivate you and your visitors.

Whether you’re a seasoned aquarium veteran or an enthusiastic beginner, if you’re up for the task, an Arowana could be the perfect addition to your aquatic family.

Just remember, proper care and ethical sourcing are key in preserving these incredible creatures for generations to come.