Keeping Arowana – 30 Secrets For Success
The Arowana fish, also called Monkey Fish or Dragon Fish, is one of the most beautiful and fascinating pet fish you can get. An absolute fan favorite, the Arowana does require a bit of preparation if you want your scaly pets to be healthy, happy, and beautiful. Of course, that applies to all pet fish but if you haven’t owned an Arowana before you may be surprised by some of their characteristics and requirements.
So, what do you need to know before getting your first Arowana fish? We’ll detail the 30 separate facts you need to know below and we’ll divide them into 6 distinct categories for simplicity’s sake.
Types of Arowana
In this article, we’re generally talking about all Arowana fish but there are actually several distinct subspecies, each with its own unique characteristics. There are some pretty major differences between them so you should know which is which before you make your pick:
- South American Silver Arowana – the largest and one of the most sought-after of all Arowana fish. This beast can get as long as 3.5 feet or over a meter! It has a distinct metallic silver coloring and it’s actually the most docile out of all Arowana fish.
- South American Black Arowana – about as large as its silver cousin, this Arowana is more dark-purple than black. It has a more slender body than the Silver Arowana, however, and it grows more slowly.
- Australian Arowana – this fish is significantly more aggressive than other Arawanas. It can get up to 3 feet long, it has a copper coloring with pink edges and pink spots on the fins. Aussie Arawanas can tolerate cooler temperatures but don’t like to share a tank with others.
- Saratoga Arowana – this Arowana also comes from Australia but is much less known. It’s similar to its other Aussie cousin but it has more pronounced pink coloration. It also has a more slender shape and much shorter barbels coming out of its lower jaw.
- Green Asian Arowana – native to Malaysia, it’s actually more pale grey with a slight green tint. It has shorter dorsal and anal fins than other Arowanas but can still grow up to 3 feet long.
- Yellow Tail Asian “Banjar” Arowana - coming from Borneo, this gorgeous Arowana has a yellowish/greenish tint with bright yellow anal fins.
- Red Tail Golden Asian Arowana - native to the rivers of Indonesia, this beauty is very popular among Arowana enthusiasts. It is colloquially called “RTG Arowana”.
- Golden Asian Arowana – this is likely the most famous Arowana fish because of its unique golden color. The brighter the color of these Indonesian beauties, the more sought after they are. They are also known as “Crossback Arowanas”.
What to do before getting your first Arowana?
- Research. Arowana are complicated fish to take care of even if you have experience with other fish. Due to their large size of up to 3 feet (0.9m) and their petulant character, these fish are not for new and/or uninformed owners.
Aquarium. Make sure that your home setup is completely ready and tested at least several days before you get your Arowana. As the Arowana is a large “monster” fish, you’ll need a pretty monstrous tank too. This means that the absolute minimum is: 220 gallons (6 x 2.5 x 2 feet) for a South American Arowana 120 gallons ( 4 x 2 x 2 feet) for an Asian or Australian Arowana Ideally, the tank should be bigger – as big as you can afford if you want your Arowana to have a long and happy life. And, if you want more than one fish, you should definitely up the size for each additional Arowana.
As for the tank’s glass – it should be extra thick and reinforced. Arowanas are strong enough to break glass that’s less than half an inch thick.
The next point is the aquarium’s stand – it should also be reinforced and capable of holding all the weight and then some.
The tank should also have a sturdy lid – remember, the Arowana is a surface hunter and it is used to jumping above water to catch prey. Adding a mesh cover is a good idea.
Adding substrate, plants, or decorations inside the tank is usually not recommended. Not only do you not need it as Arowanas are gorgeous but you’d be wasting some of the much-needed space the Arowanas can use to swim around.
Use good lighting inside the aquarium to maximize the beauty of the Arowana. Viewing light and tanning light can both be used in tandem to intensify the fish’s colors.
Optimize the water parameters before putting your new Arawana in the aquarium. Ammonia (NH4) and Nitrites (NO3) should always be exactly 0 ppm (part per million) while Nitrates (NO4) can’t go above 40 ppm. Temperature should be kept around 86° Fahrenheit (30° Celsius) while the hardness can vary but 6.0-7.0 Ph is usually best.
Set up an excellent filtration system. Big fish = lots of waste, it’s as simple as that. The best options here are a canister filter, a sump filter, or a trickle filter – whichever you prefer.
Basic Arowana characteristics
- Depending on its type, an Arowana can live up to 15 or 20 years in captivity. There are even reports for longer lifespans but these are usually unconfirmed.
- These fish are predators – they must be fed small fish and insects such as worms, crickets, and roaches. The size of the prey fish will depend on the size of the Arowana. Frozen foods such as shellfish, prawns, market shrimp, and other meal fish are also acceptable after the Arowana has grown a bit. Some Arowanas tolerate pellets but not all. Always make sure your Arowana is getting enough protein.
- Young Arowanas should be fed twice a day, adult Arowanas – once. This is crucial as Arowanas are very active fish, even in captivity.
- All Arowanas except the two South American variations are very territorial and aggressive with Australian Arawanas being the worst offenders. If you want to have more than one Arowana per tank you need to go with either Silver or Black Arowana.
- Arowanas of all types are best to get when they are around 6 to 9 inches long (15 to 20 cm). That’s the ideal time to start getting them used to their new environment and grooming them. You can get adult Arowanas too if you want, although they can be pricier.
How to pick a healthy Arowana?
When choosing an Arowana you should carefully inspect the fish you’re about to bring home. There are many physical characteristics you can and should check before you make a purchase:
- Head – the Arowana’s head should be approximately one-third of the fish’s whole body. There should be no visible holes and scars on it either.
- Mouth – the fish should have no trouble closing its jaws neatly with the upper and bottom ends meeting perfectly. Look for protrusions, pus, or bleeding too.
- Eyes – they should be bright and clear, never cloudy. They also shouldn’t be dented or bulging and both eyes should be identical.
- Scales – they should be shiny, bright, and there should be no broken or missing scales. Look for decaying scales too.
- Fins – the fins should be translucent and with no visible blood clotting at their base. They should also be fully stretched with no noticeable damage.
- Barbel – should have no granule-like particles on them and both barbels should be equally long, straight, pointing towards the surface.
- Vent – there should be no protrusions or swelling and no blood-red coloration.
- Gills – breathing should appear regular and not too rapid. The gills should have a clear and fresh red color.
- Gill flap – shouldn’t be curled and should stay close to the body. In red Arowanas, the flap must have a bright orange-red color. With adult golden Crossback and RTG Arowanas, the flap should be shiny and not dull-colored.
- Energy – the Arowana should always be active and alert. Never take a fish that looks tired – it has to be full of vitality and energy. This is not just an indicator of health but also of the fish’s personality. You don’t want a timid fish as they are not as interesting to look at or interact with.
- Background and authentication – always check the history of the fish you’re getting. This includes asking when it arrived at the shop (it’s better if it has settled for a few days), where it has come from, and so on. Next, you should scan the fish for its chip – there should be a chip – and you should verify with the farm whether the strain your buying is truly authentic.
And that about covers the basics. Once again, the Arowana are not just large and beautiful – they are also a carnivore, powerful, and complicated fish to look after. They also live longer than most other pets so this is a major time commitment as well. Make sure you’ve done your research and you’re ready for this challenge.
And what do you think about this stunning fish? What other advice will help to achieve success?