Caring for Your
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Appeal: These scaly, underwater dragons look great undulating thru their aquaria in search of prey or an argument with another dragon. Most Asians highly regard any dragon-like fish -- especially arowanas. Many Asian restaurants display these “lucky dragons.”
Keep Covered: Arowanas leap from the water and can make tremendous jumps. As they increase in size, their ability and likelihood to leap increases. Use a strong lid because they can easily knock a lid loose and bail.
Gary Davis, May 26, 2007
I claim no expertise in this matter, but a couple of decades of raising and
observing these fish have led to conclusions that are not offered at your
Young arowanas like still water. When there are no ripples, they will cruise
with the tips of their barbels gliding at the surface. It may hold no
significance, but in this posture, the second or third dorsal spine also grazes the surface. When swimming like this, they are very sensitive to disturbances, and will turn toward the source -- like a fruit fly dropped into the water -- showing some directional acuity. Their preference for swimming at the surface, their sensitivity to slight surface ripples, and their superior positioned mouth, combine to indicate that they eat what alights on the water.
Shortly before their yolk sacs are fully absorbed, they will readily accept small insects like young crickets and wingless fruit flies. When fed insects, they often ignore feeder fish. This tendency continues through adulthood. They will eat fish if you don't give them a choice. The barbels-on-the-surface behavior diminishes quickly. At four/five inches, arowanas are visual hunters, with their barbels having no obvious use. I've read speculation that their barbels have an olfactory function.
In a tank where pump and filter effluence ripples the water's surface, young
arowanas will not exhibit the barbels-on-the-surface behavior, and they can
be raised in small groups. In a tank with still water, they are very territorial, and one dominant fish will kill its siblings or drive them to lower depths to starve, if they are not removed.
Adults seem to eat anything (other than amphibians) that will fit in their
cavernous mouths: whole shrimp, crayfish, mice, earthworms, chunks of raw
fish, mealworms, crabmeat, but their staple is always bugs. For laughs,
rinse some live brine shrimp, and watch a two and a half footer pick them
off one by one.
These comments apply to silver, black and jardini arowanas, except I have
not raised more than one jardini at a time.
I concur with Kevin Parent's assertion that nothing less than 180 gallons
will suffice for an adult. Also, I tried large fish, aggressive fish, fast
fish, and nocturnal fish as tank mates for my jardinis, but none lived to
tell the story. Jardinis also objected to rooted plants. My advice is: bare
tank for jardinis, well-planted tanks for silvers and blacks, well-covered
tanks for all. Good luck,
A: Thanks for the very useful info. I'm adding it to my web page with your name on it, of course. I've always had problems with the little guys. You've encouraged me to add a half dozen of the little cruisers this week. I should have known they prefer bugs after seeing all those oriental paintings of arowanas leaping out of the water to snag dragonflies. LA
Size: South American arowanas (silvers) start out as cute little two-inch, fork-tongued dragons dragging a large orange egg sac from their belly. At this stage, they succumb to many problems usually initiated by improper and insufficient foods. We prefer to start with the larger guys well past this delicate stage. Beware. They all grow to at least two feet long and eat ever-increasing amounts of food.
Foods: Start baby arowanas on feeder white clouds. Feeder guppies make a poor second choice because they die so easily. Also, guppies like to pick at other fishes, even larger ones. Many arowanas will convert to live worms and frozen foods as they grow. Once an arowana reaches four inches, you’ll likely have few feeding problems.
Housing: Arowanas can
start out in a 10-gallon tank. As
they grow, they need a 100-gallon tank. You
can keep them in a 70, but this really cramps their style. As they grow,
they get along together less and less. They get along better in
larger groups than in couples.
Jzareau Proctor, Denver, CO, March 2, 2009
Because I use your site as one of my first researching tools I usually use yours as one to trust. But I was reading your arowana page and several others readers have said that nothing less than 180 or 150 gallons would be far to small. But several of the fish stores that I have been going to for years and have been in business for even longer have all suggest that nothing less than 100 is too small and I whole-heartedly agree. But they all agree that while all arowanas have the capability of reaching over three feet in length easily in the wild, that in captivity you're incredibly lucky to make it up to three, unless you have access to a 2,000 gallon pond. One of the store owners kept silver aros in a 450 gallon indoor pond and none of them ever reached 3 feet, and many lived over eight years. Also the same owner said they maintained and set up several Asian restaurant's tanks and in one specific case a restaurant had 4 silvers in a 150. Personally I think that is pushing it a little, but they lived in that tank over 10 years. I'm sure that there is still a risk of stunting any fish in too small of a home. But these fish store owners have been doing this for more than 20 years and I'm sure they speak from experience. I am not accusing the other readers of anything, but I thought that it was interesting and I have had a lot of luck with all of these people
A: I'll add your comments to my Arowana Page. LA
Black Arowanas. Also from South America, these guys start small but cost more. The adults stay much smaller than the silvers.
Jardini Arowanas. From Australia, these guys also stay smaller than the silvers. They also cost more.
Tankmates: You can keep arowanas with smaller cichlids too large for them to swallow -- even smaller oscars and larger goldfishes. If your cichlids get too rowdy (like when they want to breed), you may have to remove aggressors. The swifter swimming cichlids can skin your arowana’s scales right off.
Temperature: Keep your arowanas at tropical temperatures – 75o to 80o. They do not do well in cool water.
Temperament: Arowanas keep moving all the time -- possibly looking for food, possibly looking for an argument. Usually good natured, they do spaz out when startled. Avoid scaring them and keep your juvenile tank whackers away from them. An adult arowana can break a tank.
Decor: Arowanas act very uncomfortable in bare tanks. They might knock some of their decor around, but they act much calmer in a decorated tank.
Plants: Feel free to add live plants to their tank. Arowanas do not eat vegetation. They may knock plants loose, but do it by accident rather than intentionally. Put them at both ends of your tank. This keeps them from losing their fork and from building a lip callous.
Breeding: If you keep the two sexes in a seriously large tank, you could possibly spawn arowanas. They do the work. You get the credit. Wait a bit before ordering the cigars.
Last Word: Keep their water clean and large. You cannot over filter your arowanas’ water or give them too much room. LA.
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Kevin Parent, May 13, 2007
I was looking over your information on the care of Arowanas and I found some things that are incorrect. Firstly, you do not address the specific feeding habits of the African Arowana, also known as the African Bony tongue. This fish is a filter feeder and will starve to death if it does not have almost constant access to food while young, It becomes a little more hardy when it grows bigger but still should have access to food almost all the time. I also feel it is necessary to point out that both the Black Arowana and the Blue Arowana are the same species, Osteoglossum ferreirai. In regards to size all species of Arowana have to capacity to grow to at least 30" in size. For this reason a 100 gallon tank is much too small for a fully grown Arowana. The minimum tank size for a fully grown Arowana should be 180 gallons, to house it comfortably, although it could be housed in a 150 gallon. Either way your recommendation is too small and could result in stunting the fish, and/or causing it to have gill curl. A condition where the gills of the Arowana will curl outward, this results from the fish having to swim backwards due to an insufficient tank size. Also, Jardini Arowanas and the Spotted Barramundi, another Australian species of Arowana,
should not be housed with tank mates. This is due to the fact that they will kill most tank mates, and can only really be kept with other Australian Arowana species.
PS - Arowana's belong to the order Osteoglissidae, which consists of two subfamilies Heterotidinae and Osteoglossinae. Only the Osteoglossinae subfamily is regarded as the true Arowanas. The African Arowana is for this reason not regarded as a true Arowana because it is from the subfamily Heterotidinae.
A: Good info. I'll add it to my Arowana page. Thanks. LA
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