Fairly easy to keep and gorgeous, why not try keeping this King in your household?

Arowanas are often called ‘dragon fish’ because they greatly resemble the Asian Dragon. Their elongated body, large fins, and wing-like pectorals help them swim effortlessly in the top third of the water column, and creates the illusion that they are flying. They also have ‘barbells’ that protrude from their lower jaw, a trait found on illustrations of Chinese dragons.

Usually, they don’t seem to care about any other fish in the tank as long as they’re the only Arowana. Combine all these characteristics and you’ll notice a certain majesty in how they endlessly circle your tank. This is why most people regard the Arowana as the king of the tank. There are 7 different species of Arowana and they all belong to the Osteoglossidae family or bonytongue due to the toothed bone or “tongue” inside its mouth cavity.


• Silver Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum): From the Amazon basin; most common and usually the first Arowana to be kept by hobbyists; reaches sizes of up to 3” (feet) in the wild.

• Black Arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai): From the Rio Negro basin in the Amazon; often mistaken for the Silver Arowana but has a slimmer profile with its tail tapering to a point; juveniles start out black with vibrant yellow markings then turn an iridescent steel gray; rarity on the Philippine market means it has a much higher price tag than Silvers.

• Jardini (Scleropages jardinii): Often called the Australian Golden; second most common Arowana in the Philippines; has 7-8 rows of scales showing bright yellow to red spots at the edge; great for beginners due to slower growth rate (compared to the Silver) without the hefty price of its Asian Arowana counterparts.

• Asian Arowana (Scleropages formosus): Considered the holy grail of Arowanas; comes in a variety of colors; most common is the Green Arowana followed by the Banjar, which has a yellow to red tail; the Red Tail Golden or RTG has vibrant gold coloration up to the fourth and even the fifth row (High Back Red Tail Golden) of scales; popular variety due to the value that you get, especially since a HBRTG can be had for ₱5,000.

• Crossback: one of the most coveted Arowanas in the hobby; fairly expensive; has golden coloration up to the sixth row of scales, hence the term ‘Crossback’, meaning golden color crossing over the back of the fish; Super Red is the last variation and it is the most prized and expensive; juveniles are pale in color and as they mature, their entire body turns orange or even full red (block red).

There are also oddballs and for dedicated Arowana enthusiasts they are just as valuable as Crossbacks and Reds. The African Arowana (Heterotis niloticus) is part of the Arapaimidae family and is more closely related to the Arapaima.

Its mouth, similar to that of a goldfish, helps it feed on primarily plankton, bloodworms, and other small food items. The Saratoga (Scleropages leichardti) from Australia look similar to the Jardini but have more streamlined bodies and less pronounced spots. They are rarely seen in the local market due to the lack of demand from hobbyists.

Worth mentioning is the newly described Batik or Inscribed Arowana (Scleropages inscriptus). It resembles a Green Arowana but has beautiful markings that run along its entire body as if the whole fish were inscribed; hence its name.

After being around for millions of years, Arowanas are ancient fish and are extremely hardy, able to adapt to a number of environments.  It doesn’t take a lot to keep an Arowana alive but this does not mean you can take shortcuts on maintenance.

Always remember to keep up with your weekly partial water changes. They usually prefer more acidic water with a pH ranging from 6.5-7.0 but they can adapt to higher or lower pH levels as long as this does not fluctuate. A very efficient biological filter is needed to keep up with the waste of such big fish.

Arowanas are one of the best jumpers in the animal world, known to jump up to 6” in the air, so heavy duty lids are necessary if you don’t want to see your expensive fish on the floor. A varied diet comprised of superworms, market prawns, frogs, quarantined feeder fish and so on is best for maximum nutrition. Finally, these are huge fish so house them accordingly. 150 gallons per Arowana is a good rule to follow.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s January 2016 issue.