Exotic Arowana: Dragons of the Aquarium

Aquariums are not only windows into underwater worlds but also showcases of nature’s most fascinating creatures. Among these, the Arowana stands out as an emblem of grace and power, earning it the title “Dragon Fish” in various cultures. If you are an enthusiast looking to venture into the realm of owning these majestic fish, you’re in for an adventure into the mysterious and coveted world of Arowanas. This post is a comprehensive guide for aquarium aficionados who are captivated by the allure of these ‘dragons’ and want to provide the best environment for their new finned friends.

Origins and Significance in Aquarium Culture

Before we plunge into the depths of Arowana husbandry, it’s essential to understand the roots of Arowanas in Aquarium culture. Arowanas have a rich heritage traced back to the ancient waters of the Amazon River and various Asian river systems, where they held cultural and symbolic significance. In Chinese culture, the Arowana is a symbol of good luck, prosperity, and vitality, and its majestic appearance is often likened to the mythological dragon, an auspicious and powerful figure in Eastern traditions.

In modern times, Arowanas are prized for their beauty and behaviors — their ability to leap out of water has led them to be associated with strength and boldness. Similarly, the species is a clarion call for aquarists who seek uncommon and exotic species for their living art installations. Despite being challenging to maintain, Arowanas remain at the top of the list for those seeking a unique addition to their aquatic world.

The Various Types of Arowanas and Their Unique Features

Arowanas are not a monolithic group; they come in various species and subspecies, each with its own distinct characteristics and native habitats. The most commonly found types are the Silver Arowana and the Asian Arowana, which are further divided into color varieties, such as the highly coveted “Red” and “Golden” types.

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Silver Arowana

The Silver Arowana originates from the waterways of South America and is known for its sleek silver body and large scales that give it a metallic sheen. It is one of the largest known freshwater fish and can grow up to 47 inches in the wild. When kept in captivity, it’s crucial to provide a tank large enough to accommodate this notable size.

Asian Arowana

The Asian Arowana, also referred to as the “Dragon Fish,” is a collection of several species native to the freshwater habitats of Asia. This Arowana species is particularly prized for its vivid and fascinating color patterns, the most sought-after being the Red and Golden varieties. Due to their popularity and protected status, owning an Asian Arowana can be a significant investment and responsibility.

Setting Up the Perfect Aquarium for Arowanas

Creating an ideal environment for Arowanas is critical for their well-being; a properly designed aquarium mirrors the natural conditions of their riverine homes. Here’s a breakdown of key aspects to consider when setting up an Arowana tank:

Tank Size and Shape

Arowanas need a substantial amount of space to thrive. For a single adult Arowana, a tank with a minimum capacity of 250 gallons is recommended. Due to their large size and leaping nature, the aquarium should be long and wide, not tall, to prevent injury from jumps.

Water Conditions

Arowanas are sensitive to water quality, which makes a robust filtration system a must. A pH level between 6.5 and 7.5 is ideal, alongside warm water maintained within the 75-86°F range. Regular water changes are crucial in maintaining these water parameters.

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Decor and Substrate

The aquarium decor should include a mix of live and artificial plants to create a natural habitat. The substrate can be sand or fine gravel, replicate riverbeds, and allow for easy cleaning. Ensure that the tank environment doesn’t impede the natural behavior of Arowanas, which includes swimming and exploring.

Arowana Feeding and Health

Arowanas are carnivorous and should be fed a diet rich in protein. Live food like crickets, earthworms, and shrimp are excellent treats, while high-quality pellets and finely chopped meat can be staples. It’s advisable to feed them twice a day, with quantities that they can consume within a few minutes.

Health Management

Regular monitoring for signs of stress or illness is crucial. Look out for changes in coloration, cuts, or changes in behavior. If you notice anything unusual, consult with a veterinarian experienced in fish care. Arowanas are also prone to ich and fin rot, conditions often brought upon by poor water quality.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

The appeal of Arowanas has led to overfishing and illegal practices in the wild, which have decimated wild populations. It’s paramount to purchase Arowanas from ethical breeders who support conservation and sustainability. Many countries have strict regulations concerning the export and ownership of Arowanas; it’s the aquarist’s responsibility to adhere to these laws and promote ethical sourcing.

Arowana Breeding

Breeding Arowanas can be a rewarding experience for enthusiasts. However, due to their specific breeding requirements and the premium put on their offspring, it’s not for the faint of heart. Breeding tanks should be even more extensive than typical tanks, with specific water conditions to induce spawning.

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Females lay eggs, and males fertilize them before taking them into their mouths to care for and guard against predators. Once the fry are free-swimming, they can be raised on a diet of zooplankton and later transitioned to other foods.

The Future of Arowanas in the Aquarium Hobby

The Arowana’s popularity has brought about significant changes in how we view and keep freshwater fish. The new interest in large, predatory fish can lead to more research and conservation efforts directed at their native habitats. However, this popularity also necessitates responsible management to ensure the survival of the species and their ecosystems.


Owning an Arowana is more than acquiring a pet; it’s taking on the commitment to provide an exceptional life for a remarkable creature. With attention to detail in their tank setup, feeding, and overall care, these Dragon Fish can live for up to 10 to 15 years in captivity, becoming timeless companions in your aquatic haven. Remember, in the world of aquariums, every creature has a role to play, but few will captivate the imagination quite like the Arowana, reminding us that the most beautiful and powerful things in life deserve the utmost respect and care.

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