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What is an Arowana?

By Deneatra Harmon
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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An arowana is a large, sleek tropical fish that fits into any large aquarium. It features whiskers called mandibular barbels that help with swimming along the water's surface. The freshwater bony fish goes by other names, and several varieties come from around the world. This type of fish thrives on a carnivorous diet and lives for up to 10 years in a healthy environment.

Most arowana fish are often streamlined, with the reputation for growing up fast and acting aggressively. The average size ranges from 2 to 4 feet (approximately 60 to 120 cm)in length even when housed in an aquarium. As for aquarium size, it is more important to focus on tank width rather than height. For instance, a baby arowana should be housed in a 20-gallon-long tank, while the adult fish should be placed in at least a 180-gallon-long tank to allow room for swimming. Covered aquariums are also a must because the freshwater bony fish loves to swim to the surface and may even jump out of the tank.

Besides being labeled as a bony-tongued fish, the arowana is identified by other names. Coming from the Osteoglossidae fish family, it may also be referred to as a dragon fish or a baramundi. Its other names include Kelesa and Saratoga.

Different varieties reside in various parts of the world. They are kept as aquarium pets in North America and live in the waters of South America, Africa, Australia, and Asia. Variants include the Asian or golden arowana, believed to bring good luck, or the silver, which originates from the Amazon basin, and the spotted version, which swims in temperatures between 75° and 85° Fahrenheit (approximately 24° to 29° Celsius). The Northern Saratoga variety from Australia tends to be less aggressive than the others, while the African arowana also prefers to swim in warm water temperatures.

Regardless of variety, the arowana prefers a steady and carnivorous diet of shrimp, worms, insects, and smaller frozen fish. When kept in an aquarium, they will also eat fish pellets or flakes. Pet experts recommend feeding young fish up to three times each day. The adult fish need to be fed only once per day. Overfeeding should never occur; the leftover food taints the aquarium's water quality.

As long as the aquarium tank provides healthy water quality and temperatures, this type of fish can live up to 10 years. Experts recommend changing tank filters every day as well as the water to ensure a temperature range of 72° to 82° Fahrenheit (approximately 22° to 28° Celsius). At least 25 percent of the tank's water should also be changed weekly to keep the fish healthy. Lack of care, and even tank overcrowding, can result in stress and disease for the arowana.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Arowana and where can it be found?

An Arowana is a freshwater fish known for its unique metallic sheen, elongated body, and the ability to leap out of the water to catch prey. Native to South America, Southeast Asia, Australia, and Africa, these fish inhabit slow-moving waters of rivers, lakes, and swamps. They are often found in the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco River.

Why are Arowanas considered lucky or auspicious?

Arowanas, particularly the Asian variety, are considered symbols of good luck, wealth, and prosperity in many cultures. According to Feng Shui principles, they are believed to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune to their owners. This belief has contributed to their popularity in the aquarium trade, especially among those who follow these traditions.

What do Arowanas eat and how should they be fed in captivity?

Arowanas are carnivorous and in the wild, they feed on insects, small fish, and even birds or bats that they catch by leaping from the water. In captivity, their diet should be varied and include live or frozen foods such as shrimp, mealworms, and feeder fish to ensure proper nutrition and to mimic their natural hunting behavior.

How large can Arowanas grow and what size tank do they require?

Arowanas can grow quite large, with some species reaching up to 3 feet in length. Due to their size and active nature, they require a spacious tank; for an adult Arowana, a tank of at least 250 gallons is recommended. This allows enough room for swimming and reduces stress, promoting better health and longevity.

Are there different types of Arowanas, and if so, what are they?

Yes, there are several types of Arowanas, each with distinct features and originating from different regions. The most well-known include the Silver Arowana from South America, the Asian Arowana, the African Arowana, and the Australian Arowana, also known as the Jardini Arowana. Each type has its own coloration, scale patterns, and body shape.

What are the conservation statuses of Arowanas and are they endangered?

The conservation status of Arowanas varies by species. The Asian Arowana, for example, is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss and overfishing for the aquarium trade. Conservation efforts are in place to protect these species, including captive breeding programs and trade regulations under CITES.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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