View Full Version : Arowana basics

08-15-2012, 12:13 PM
Arowana basics:

The most common arowana you will encounter is the silver arowana. While many suggest silvers as a 'beginners' arowana, this is only the case because they are the cheapest and easiest to obtain. These beasts can exceed 3 feet long in captivity, making them a less than ideal choice for home aquariums. That cute baby aro in the shop might seem like a good idea for your 55g, but they grow extremely quickly. In my opinion, a proper growout tank for silvers is 90g when small (under 12") and 180g (6'x2') for juvies (under 24"). A proper aquarium for keeping a silver arowana for life should have a 9'x3' footprint and is not practical for most aquarists.

All arowana are jumpers. They will break glass tops, lights, and the number one cause of arowana deaths is finding them on the floor. A very heavy lid with no gaps is a MUST. I use plexi tops (to protect the lights and 'cushion the blow') with a very heavy wood canopy ontop. I cannot state enough that every arowana will jump. Some more than others, but they ALL jump. Jumping will lead to wounds, so heavy filtration is also a must. Arowana heal very quickly with good filtration and clean water. Even damaged or lost barbels will heal in most cases with optimal parameters.

Filtering a large tank is not an easy and/or cheap task. I will say 8x turnover rate minimum, but 10-15x optimal. This will mean multiple large filters pushing alot of water through your system. Filtering aquariums is always debateable as to which filters work best, so I will simply state that you will want loads of mechanical and biofiltration (usually large canisters and sumps). The extra water volume of a sump help dilute ammonia and nitrate. New arowana are almost always a bit skittish. Some more than others. High-traffic areas, wearing red, and tankmates can easily spook arowanas and cause them to jump, hide, or swim around very erratically. Arowanas can easily break any glass heaters in the tank. Try and avoid these factors when introducing arowana to your aquarium.

Arowana diet:

Feeding your arowana a good variety of foods is key to a healthy diet. In the wild, arowana diet consists of insects, fish, shrimp, small amphibians and lizards. The following is good for all types of arowana:

Baby arowana (2"-10") - 3x per day. The hardest size to feed a variety since most small arowana are fed feeder guppies or other small live fish before ending up in your aquarium. Feeder fish are usually kept in deplorable conditions which run rampant with disease and are not recommended for any small predator. If you can breed your own, fine. If not, I suggest bloodworms, blackworms, small crickets, mealworms, krill, and a quality pellet which is proper size for the aro to eat. Some arowana won't accept pellets right away, but live foods are rarely turned down. Getting your arowana on a quality pellet is great, but not all will accept them. Make sure to get rid of any uneaten food from your aquarium promptly.

Juvenile arowana (10"-18") - 2x per day. You should have a good feeding regimen going by now, but some of the above foods will be too small to fill up a larger juvie. Now you can introduce cut up raw shimp, prawn, superworms, earthworms, and cut fish fillet. Avoid any red fillets like trout/salmon because they are very oily and will leave an oilslick ontop of your water cutting down on oxygenation. If your arowana still refuses pellets, you can stuff some inside some chunks of shrimp or fillets.

Larger arowana (18"+) - once a day, once every other day for larger adults. Same foods as juvies but now you can introduce whole shrimp/prawn (shelled, tail removed), smelt/silversides, oysters/mussels, small frogs, and small lizards.

***Keep in mind to make sure foods are sized so they are easy to swallow. Some chopping will be required to make foods bite-sized. All foods should be fed raw. Your arowana will let you know what it likes, but it's always good to introduce new foods. Once again, be sure to remove any uneaten foods immediately.

While all of the above foods applies to all types of arowana (except african aros), there are differences between the species.

08-15-2012, 12:18 PM
Some notes about the different species of arowana:

Silver arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum): From south american amazon tributaries. The biggest and most common of the arowanas. Max size 3'+. These aros will jump the most, are prone to drop-eye, but most tolerable of other tankmates.

Black arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai): Also from south america, very similar to silvers, but stay a bit smaller and less prone to drop-eye. Max size 28".

Pearl arowana/Jardini (Scleropages jardini): From australia. The most aggressive of the arowanas and least likely to tolerate tankmates. Best left alone. Max size 28"-30". Many places try to sell 'gold jardinis' or other types, but there is only one species. Almost never get drop-eye.

African arowana (Heterotis niloticus): Max size 28". A rare oddball arowana which is a filter feeder when small. Needs to have small food available at all times. Extremely hard to find and keep, but not impossible. I will not go into detail about this arowana because it is in a whole other league of it's own. Can be trained to accept prepared foods when larger.

Asian arowana (Scleropages formosus): Max size 30". This species is considered endangered in the wild, but asian farms have been breeding them for years now. They are protected under CITES (convention on international trade of endangered species) and illegal in the USA. Countries who do allow asians to be imported require them to be microchipped and have CITES certification showing where and when they were born to make sure wild caught specimens are not taken. There are 3 main 'variants' within the formosus genus. Greens, reds, and golds. There is also a natural green/red hybrid called a banjar or 1.5 red. They are now finding a newer 'naimi snakeskin green', but they are very rare. I will stick with the main aros you are most likely to see. Greens are the easiest to breed and are the least colourful of the species, hence the greens are the cheapest asian aro. Reds and golds are much more expensive, very colourful and the most sought after. They cost thousands of dollars and this is why they are not recommend for beginners. Asians rarely get drop-eye, but it is possible. With the exception of african aros, the same feeding requirements are required for all other arowana species. Minimum tank size for asian aros is a bit smaller than its south american cousin and you can get away with keeping one in a 6'x2' 180g. 6'x30" would be best though.

Other facts and myths surrounding arowanas:

Arowanas carry a great superstition in asian culture. They are considered living dragons and commonly called 'the dragon fish'. Golds are said to bring great wealth and success to it's owner while greens are said to lose money for the owner (lose money until you're green in the face is a popular asian saying). An arowana who jumps out of the tank is said to have protected it's owner from something bad in his/her life. While these are very open to interpretation and beliefs, it is said to be very good luck for anyone who can keep any arowana happy and healthy. Dropped scales that are recovered from the tank are thought to bring good luck to the keeper of the scale while the arowana is still alive.

Drop-eye: There are many theories as to why arowana get drop-eye. Fact is that drop-eye is caused by a fatty tissue build-up behind the eye that causes the eye to 'look down'. Some cases are more extreme than others. Adult silvers almost always have some degree of drop-eye. the main theories are head trauma, fatty foods, inbred genes, and the arowana looking down in the aquarium. This has been highly debated and noone knows the exact cause. There is no reflection from a barebottom tank from a fishes point of view. Some say to put floating balls in the tank to keep the aro looking up, but this is proven worthless because 30 seconds after realizing the ball is not food, they could careless about it. The only time I have seen drop-eye even minimally reduced is either surgery or putting the arowana into a pond. This is a subject best left to debate all on it's own.

Tankmates: Most keepers don't want a large tank with a single fish and tankmates always come into question. This is a hit-and-miss subject since all arowana have their own personalities. Some being more aggressive than others. In all cases, I don't recommend any tankmates until the aro is 12"+ (best to keep them alone and get them on a good varied diet first). Even when ready, tankmates should be smaller, but not too small to be considered food. They do well with most larger bottom feeders or bottom dwelling fish (knifefish, rays, large loaches, catfish, plecos, etc). There are no set rules for tankmates and caution should always be used. Anything that could possibly eat the aro (large cats, other predators) should always be avoided and vice versa. Some aros will do well in a community tank setting, and some won't. It's always a gamble. Jardinis are the most aggressive and will rarely tolerate any tankmates except maybe a large pleco. In any aro tank, you will be stocking at your own risk. Always be sure your tank is large enough and has enough filtration for your stocking. big fish = big bioload.

Hope I covered the basics of owning an arowana. There is no other fish in my opinion with the graceful elegance of such a beautiful monster in your aquarium. Best of luck with your arowana! :fish:

08-15-2012, 12:24 PM
Great Post Crispy!! thumbs2: I vote for it being a sticky!! thumbs2:

Goes to 11!
08-15-2012, 12:27 PM
Great write up Crispy, This has sticky written all over it. thumbs2:

08-15-2012, 01:04 PM
Nicely written!

08-15-2012, 01:08 PM
Very nicely written and informative. Another vote for a sticky!

08-15-2012, 03:17 PM
Great writeup

08-15-2012, 04:15 PM
I wish the average person that wants one of these fish would read info like this.

There is a silver on my local craigslist and I feel bad for it because who knows if it will get a good home.

Great write up!

08-15-2012, 05:30 PM
Nice write-up. There are a few things I personally have a differing opinion on, but this is largely accurate, at least as far as we (arowana keepers) are concerned. I agree it's sticky worthy!

08-16-2012, 11:41 AM
Nicely Done Crispy !!!

I've only read about these fish, but you certainly have wrote this in a easier to read and understand format than what I had found.

08-17-2012, 02:58 PM
thanks guys! it's been stickied and I hope to add pics and additional info in the future. now go hug an aro today! :11:

Goes to 11!
08-17-2012, 08:36 PM
Asian arowana . . . illegal in the USA.

Legalize Arowana. http://www.nme.com/boards/images/smilies/eusa_shifty.gif

Indian Woods Angels
08-18-2012, 02:02 AM
So...just wondering if any of you guys realize how Arrowana are caught in the wild, especially the juvenile form.

I'm willing to bet most folks would not support the capture of juvenile arrowana if they researched this. I stopped carrying them in my shop when I found out.

The juvies with the attached yolk sac usually die.

08-18-2012, 02:27 AM
juvies are much larger and do not have eggsacks. the arowana fry have the eggsack. arowana are still juvies after a couple years!

to get baby aros from the wild they will catch a holding male and strip the fry from his mouth. most arowana are farm bred, and the south american aros have good numbers in the wild.

I do not recommend buying such a small arowana. they are very fragile when small and need pristine conditions and a good appetite to survive.

08-20-2012, 12:51 PM
Yes, I am well aware of how wild fry are captured. Our Aro did have a yolk sack when we purchased her. As stated though...Most are aquacultured/farm raised these days.