Arowana fish - Care, Breeding and Tips
This page explains how to care for Arowanas when kept in fish tanks. It also contains forum for sharing experiences, however you are welcome to visit the following pages too: Silver arowana - Osteoglossum bicirrhosum profile with forum and Black arowana - Osteoglossum ferreirai profile. We'd love to hear about your Arowana fish, so once you've finished reading this article leave a message at the bottom of this page, please!
Arowana fish are regarded my many fish keepers as the ultimate fish to add to their aquarium. They display beautiful markings, become very tame in the tank and can become a very close pet for many people. Often these fish are kept in unsuitable conditions due to the lack of knowledge available so hopefully this article will enlighten anyone who wishes to keep these fish and ensure that the fish leads a long and happy life.
The Asian Arowana originates from South East Asia where it inhabits slow moving waters ,they have collected several common names including Asian bony-tongue, Chinese dragon and Asian dragon fish. They belong to the family Osteoglossidae, and have been placed in the genus Scleropages. It is believed that all of the strains, this has yet to be fully proven, have derived from Scleropages formosus. They play a large part in Chinese culture as they are supposed to closely resemble the Chinese dragon that plays such a large part in their myths and folklores.
Australian Arowana are believed to be the forefathers of all Arowana species, they are also found in quiet waterways in Australia, the Arowana cannot survive in salt water so the Asian and Australian species must have split when the land masses moved apart millions of years ago, these fish are often known as living fossils as they still have many features of ancient fish that lived in our waterways millions of years ago. Due to the immense popularity of these fish they are now classed as endangered species and any specimens exported for trade have to be registered and all specimens should be micro-chipped to prove that they have come from a reliable and certified supplier.
The natural habitat of the fish are slow, moving waterways that are very similar to the parameters of the Amazonian black waters, they are soft and acidic. They swim at surface level looking for prey, adult fish will eat any frogs, other fish small enough for them to swallow, juvenile fish tend to prey on any insects that land on the water surface.
Caring for your Arowana:-
These fish need space and lots of it. The minimum size tank would have to be at least 120 gallons, preferably a tank of 180 gallons should be used. Depth of the tank is not important, the width and length of the tank play a larger part in the well being of the fish. The width of the tank should be at least the same as the length of the fish, this will give the fish room to turn and manoeuvre without feeling cramped, the length should be 3 times the length of the fish, they are constantly on the move so need space to swim about. Many keepers I know keep there Arowana in tanks that are 6’x2’x2’ with great success. For the substrate a fine gravel can be used but make sure that there are no sharp edges it must be well rounded and rocks or driftwood can be added for décor but keep these minimal as too much décor will hamper the swimming space available. Often these fish are kept in bare bottomed tanks, this can be detrimental to Australian Arowana as they will spend a lot of time looking down at their reflection and this can bring on a case of drop-eye or bulging eye. Plants can be added, often Vallisneria is used but the plants may get attacked, especially at feeding time, hardy plants should survive this onslaught but never add delicate plants.
A big must is using a secure and tight fitting lid, these fish are excellent jumpers, this is a trait from the wild species that use this method for catching prey, any lid that isn’t secure can be knocked off and the fish will escape from the tank, this is the last thing you want with these expensive fish. Water quality is paramount, if the quality drops the fish may stop eating and waste away, never add these fish to an uncycled tank, perform regular water changes of at least 10% weekly. The temperature should range from 27°C to 30°C and a pH of around 7.0 is fine. These fish are also high waste producers so ensure that the filtration system can cope with this and maintain your filters to prevent them from clogging.
Feeding your Arowana:-
Arowana fish are carnivorous and require a high protein diet. Feed these fish small amounts 2-3 times per day, this will give the fish the chance to digest the food properly rather than trying to intake a large amount in one go, this can lead to digestive problems. They will accept crickets, meal worms, blood worms, beef heart, pieces of filleted fish or prawns. Commercial foods such as Hikari or Tetra floating sticks will also supply any minerals and vitamins that they need to maintain a steady growth rate and overall general health. Make sure that the fish are ready to accept the food every time that you offer it, if they slow down on their eating it could be a sign of the fish having some kind of problem.
Breeding the Arowana is usually out of reach for the average fish keepers, the size of the tank required would be extremely large so breeding normally occurs in heated ponds.
These fish are difficult to sex, normally visible differences are noticeable when the fish reaches 3-4 years of age. The male will be slimmer than the female with larger mouth parts and display a brighter colouration. They are paternal mouth brooders, when ready to spawn the male will chase the female in circles, this can last up to 2 weeks but just prior to mating the fish will swim side by side for s few hours and then mating will take place. The female will lay the eggs which are then fertilised immediately by the male. The male will pick up the eggs and incubate them for up to 8 weeks. During this time the eggs will have hatched and the fry will have absorbed their yolk sac. Once the fry have been released by the male they will be free swimming and will accept small live or frozen foods.
Tips on keeping Arowana:-
When purchasing your Arowana try to get a fish that has reached 6” in length, at this size the fish will be more settled and should start to feed quicker once placed in your tank.
Patience is require when you start feeding, the fish may be timid until it gets used to you, be patient and keep offering food. In time the fish will learn to trust you and will even become tame enough to accept food from your hand.
Regular water changes will aid in the growth of your fish, if the water quality is high and new minerals are replenished on a regular basis the fish will benefit.
The highest factor in Arowana mortality is the fish jumping out of the tank, make sure that the fish tank has a secure lid, it may be required to add a small weight to keep the lid in place.
Always ask the supplier if the fish has been micro chipped and the correct paper work should be supplied with the fish, if the supplier cannot provide this do not buy the fish.