Species NameOsteoglossum bicirrhosum (Silver Arowana), among others
Common NameArowana, Dragon Fish
Care LevelAdvanced
LifespanUp to 15 years
Adult SizeUp to 36 inches
Minimum Tank Size250 gallons
Temperature75°F – 86°F (24°C – 30°C)
Water ConditionsSlightly acidic to neutral (pH 6.5-7.5), soft to moderately hard

About the Arowana – Species Summary

Regarded by many as the crown jewel of freshwater aquariums, the Arowana, or Dragon Fish, is a symbol of wealth and prosperity in many Asian cultures. Native to the river basins of South America, Asia, and Australia, the Arowana’s striking appearance and grandeur have captivated the hearts of fish enthusiasts for years. Their elongated bodies, large shimmering scales, and barbels on the lower jaw give them a distinct, dragon-like appearance.

Arowanas belong to the family Osteoglossidae, often called “bony-tongued fish” because of the toothed bone on the floor of the mouth. They are ancient fish, with fossil records dating back to the Early Tertiary period, making them one of the earliest groups of teleosts.

Arowana Lifespan

Arowanas have an impressive lifespan, especially when given proper care in a captive environment. On average, they can live up to 15 years, though some have been reported to live even longer, approaching 20 years with optimum conditions. Their long lifespan is a testament to their hardy nature but also poses a long-term commitment for any prospective Arowana owner.

Like all living creatures, the longevity of Arowanas is greatly affected by factors such as diet, water quality, and overall health. Maintaining a clean tank, feeding a balanced diet, and ensuring they remain stress-free can go a long way in extending their lifespan.


The Arowana’s appearance is undoubtedly what draws most to this magnificent creature. With a streamlined body that allows for quick, sudden movements, they have large, metallic scales that gleam under proper lighting. The presence of whisker-like barbels from the lower jaw adds to their unique look, often reminding people of ancient Chinese dragon depictions.

Color variations exist, most notably between the Asian and South American varieties. While the Silver Arowana, native to South America, boasts a radiant silver hue, the Asian Arowanas can vary from greens, reds, to golds.

Average Size

Arowanas are not for the faint-hearted or those short on space. They are large fish, with the potential to grow up to 36 inches (3 feet) in length in captivity. Their substantial size demands significant space and tank considerations, which potential owners must be prepared for.

Arowana Care

Tank Size

For a fish of Arowana’s size, a large tank is non-negotiable. A minimum of 250 gallons is recommended for a single Arowana, with larger tanks being even better. The tank’s length and width are particularly important given the Arowana’s roaming nature.

How To Set Up Their Tank

Setting up an Arowana tank is not just about size but also about the interior environment. Arowanas are notorious jumpers, especially when startled. A secure, heavy lid is essential. The substrate can be sand or fine gravel. Plants can be added, but they should be robust species as the powerful movement of a mature Arowana can easily uproot delicate plants.

Driftwood and rocks can be aesthetically pleasing but should be placed securely to prevent any accidental collisions as the Arowana swims around. It’s also crucial to ensure there are no sharp objects or decorations that could potentially injure the fish.

Lighting Requirements

Arowanas don’t have specific lighting requirements, but good lighting can emphasize their shimmering scales. However, avoid excessively bright lights that might stress the fish. Soft, subdued lighting, possibly combined with some natural light, works best.


Arowanas prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH levels. A range of 6.5 to 7.5 is ideal. Maintaining a stable pH is crucial to their health.


The ideal water temperature for Arowanas lies between 75°F and 86°F (24°C – 30°C). As tropical fish, they prefer warmer waters. However, consistency in temperature is essential to avoid stressing the fish.

Water Parameters

Soft to moderately hard water conditions are best for Arowanas. Regular water changes, around 25% every week, help maintain water quality. Using a good quality filter that can handle the tank’s volume is also essential.

Disease Potential

Arowanas, due to their large size, can be susceptible to diseases, especially when stressed. Common ailments include drop-eye, fin rot, and parasitic infections. Quarantining new tank mates and regular observation can help in early detection and treatment.

Food & Diet

Being carnivorous, Arowanas prefer a meat-based diet. In the wild, their diet consists of smaller fish, insects, and occasionally birds or bats they snatch from the water surface. In captivity, a varied diet of fish, shrimp, and occasionally insects or specialized pellets, ensures they receive all necessary nutrients.

Behavior and Temperament

Arowanas are solitary and can be quite territorial. Their tendency to jump, especially when young or startled, requires a secure tank lid. They are often observed swimming near the water’s surface, waiting for potential prey.

Tank Mates

Given their size and temperament, Arowana tank mates should be chosen with care. Other large, non-aggressive fish can be suitable. However, smaller fish might be seen as prey. Potential tank mates include large catfish, Oscars, or Stingrays, but always observe for signs of aggression or stress.


Breeding Arowanas in a home aquarium setting is challenging and is rarely successful. In the wild, they are mouthbrooders, with males carrying the eggs, larvae, and young fry in their mouths for protection. This behavior is fascinating but replicating the ideal conditions for breeding in captivity is complex and requires extensive knowledge and experience.

Arowana FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)