9 Facts About the Arowana aka The Dragon Fish

The arowana is a stunning, bony fish with very large scales and long barbels that stick straight out on its chin. Its head is fairly large and features a strong jaw which can open pretty big in order to catch its prey.

Arowana with its mouth halfway open – Image Source: Build Your Aquarium

The arowana has 3 main color variations: Silver, Gold, Red and Green. These 4 colors can be mixed and matched giving this species even more to be desired by aquarium hobbyists. Here is an example of the silver, red and gold colored arowanas:

Silver (C), Red (B) and Gold Arowana (A) – Image Source: Zijun Xiong

Here is what a green arowana looks like:

Green Arowana – Image Source: Unknown

These 4 base colors can manifest into some really amazing variations! Here is a video that showcases some rare color combinations by YouTuber Think About:

Let me know in the comments section below which color combination is your favorite. There is so much to learn about this amazing species! So in this blog post, we are going to learn 9 facts about the arowana a.k.a. The Dragon Fish.

1. Where Does The Arowana Come From?

The arowana is found in a number of different habitats in South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. 

2. Arowana Natural Habitat

In South America, the arowana is found in the Amazon basin. They are found in both white water and black water habitats. The coloration of the habitat is classified by the color of the sediment in the body of water. Depending on the color of the environment will determine which color arowana resides there. So for example, the silver arowana is found in white water environments and the black arowana is found in the blackwater environments.

The African arowana is found in freshwater ponds, rivers, river basins and lakes. They tend to prefer the shallow rivers or stream banks close to reeds and a variety of other types of vegetation.

African Arowana – Image Source: AquaBid.com

In Asia the arowana is found in blackwater rivers and slow moving water that flows through the swamps and wetlands. These environments feature heavily forested terrain which is perfect hunting grounds for this species.

Asian Arowana – Image Source: Aquarium Nexus

The Australian arowana is typically found in slow moving to sill bodies of water ranging from streams, creeks, billabongs and swamps.

Australian Arowana – Image Source: Kaivalaya’s Ani-Mall

3. How Does an Arowana Hunt?

Aside from their absolutely stunning looks, this species has a really cool hunting ability! They spit water in order to knock their prey down from low lying vegetation in order to catch them. They also can fly out of the water and catch their prey mid air! Watch them in action in the video below:

4. Why Does the Arowana Yawn?

When the arowana yawns it is because it needs to increase the amount of oxygen in it’s system. Fish extract oxygen from the water with their gills. If their environment is lacking oxygen, they will exhibit this behavior. In the aquarium if you witness this behavior, your aquarium might be overstocked, the temperature is too high or you need to add more aeration to your aquarium.

5. Is the Arowana Endangered?

In 1975, 183 countries signed a treaty which added the Asian arowana to the endangered species list. It has since been protected by the Endangered Species Act and is banned fromĀ certain countries, like the United States, in an effort to help preserve this species in the wild.

Arowana – Image Source: FishSubsidy.org

6. Is the Arowana Illegal in the US?

The Asian arowana is illegal to own in the United States without a permit. In 1989, CITIES started to allow the trade of the species under a very specific guideline: The Asian arowana needed to have been bred in captivity on a licensed fish farm for at least 2 generations. In 1994, the captive bred Asian arowana, from specific fish farms, were legally certified for sale. If this species is legal in the country that you currently reside in, here is how these captive bred arowanas are considered to be legal for trade under CITES:

  1. The fish farm selling the species is required to provide each buyer with a certificate of authenticity and a birth certificate.
  2. Each captive bred arowana receives an implanted microchip, called a passive integrated transponder, which identifies individual animals.

So be sure to do your research thoroughly if you are looking into acquiring one of these species in a country where they are legal.

7. Are Arowanas Aggressive?

Yes, in fact they are highly aggressive. They are territorial and will take out their tankmates. This is why most arowana in captivity are in a species only aquarium – usually by themselves.

8. How Do You Care for an Arowana in Captivity?

Depending on the species will determine the specific type of care that they will need. This is typically determined by the region of the world that the arowana comes from. The following 2 videos contain advise and drawbacks from experienced keepers of the species. I highly recommend that you watch both of them as they will help you to determine if this species is even the right one for you to keep in the first place. Once you have watched the videos, check out the recommended care guides that I have linked for you below the videos.

South American Arowana Care

South American Arowana Care Guide

African Arowana Care

There is not a lot of information on the African arowana as far as fishkeeping goes, however, I was able to find the video below on the MonsterFishKeepers.com website from YouTuber Josh’s Fish. Monster Fish Keepers is a great resource and discussion forum for large, uncommon fish in the aquarium trade. So if you are looking into keeping this species, that website is a great place to start for research and advice from other African arowana keepers.

Asian Arowana Care

Asian Arowana Care Guide

Australian Arowana Care

Australian Arowana aka Jardini Arowana Care Guide this video by YouTuber Palmer Aquatics gives some really good pointers on this species:

9. Arowana Relatives

The Arapaima is a large species of bony tongue fish that is native to South America in theĀ Amazon river basin. This species is among the largest freshwater fish in the world! They are mouth brooders, which means that the male carries the fertilized eggs in his mouth and even – some species – the baby fish or fry for part of the time that they are newly hatched for protection. Here is an excellent video of some young arapaima:

Unfortunately, this species is endangered and on the brink of extinction in the wild. But thanks to zoos and aquariums, this species is thriving in captivity. So a similar scenario like the one that saved the axolotl is possible to save this species from extinction in the wild – and even bring it back to a thriving state. You can read more about how aquarists and scientists teamed up in order to save the axolotl here: The Critically Endangered Axolotl is Making a Comeback

You can learn more about this relative of the arowana fish from YouTuber StoneAgeMan here:

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