- Asian Arowana: Origin and Classification
- Price & Value
- Aspects of the Arowana
- Care & Ownership
- Feeding Information
- The Breeding Process
Asian Arowana: Origin and Classification
The Asian Arowana (Scleropages formosus) is a freshwater fish indigenous to Southeast Asia where it inhabits slow moving waters, rivers and streams. Entirely carnivorous it has become an icon of cultural significance for its grace, longevity, incredible color and stature and has earned the name Dragon Fish referencing the Chinese Dragon.
Currently an endangered species, it is bred under license and close monitoring by the Asian agricultural authorities, and each fish exported outside of Asia is micro-chipped (certified and licensed for transport).
Asian Arowana can be categorized in the following varieties:
- Green Arowana
- Banjar Red (Red Grade 2, Red Grade 1.5, Yellow Tail Green)
- Red Tail Golden Arowana
- Golden Cross back Arowana
- Tong Yang
- Red Grade 1 Arowana (Super Red, Chilli Red)
Each of these varieties has developed completely independently from the others, with each colour originating from a different location in Asia.
- Green Arowana – Indonesia
- Banjar Red – Banjar Nasin
- Red Tail Golden – Sumatra
- Golden Crossback – Malaysia
- Tong Yang – Hybrid between Golden Crossback and Red Grade 1
- Red Grade 1 – Kalimantan (Kapaus River, Sentarum Lake)
For prices please visit our Online Shop also read How to Value an Asian Arowana.
You will not find a Green in the same river or lake as a Grade 1 Red, and there is no recent connection between the lineages of the fish. As one of the oldest tropical varieties in the world the Asian Arowana takes us back many millions of years through time.
Price & Value
Arowana can range in price from a few hundred dollars up to in excess of $300,000. The value of the fish is determined by a number of factors:
- Colour the definition and contrast of the colour increases the value, the more unusual combination and the more striking the colours the greater the value.
- Depth of colour, the more of the body that is coloured the greater the value.
- Dimensions, as always the proportions and size of the fish effect the value.
- Blemishes, sunburn, marks, cuts, bites etc reduce the price of the fish.
- Uniqueness, this takes many forms, if it is through deformity but a completely unique event, the price of the fish can be hugely elevated. Missing tail sections or deformed jaws that occur in a visually appealing way can make the fish very valuable to someone seeking something unusual. If the deformation is irregular it can completely devalue the fish.
- Personality, due to the uniqueness of each fish and how they interact, their personalities and the connection a potential buyer has with the fish can set the value.
- Age, although this does not directly effect the price, many of the above cannot be determined until the fish is approaching 24 months old. This means that although juvenile fish are significantly cheaper, they are a gamble as to the older fish you are purchasing. To guarantee elements the fish must be much older, by which time a higher price will be set. (Even with super red fish, one can not necessarily say if it will be red or orange if purchased below 12 inches).
Visit our Online Shop to give you a feel for the value of different types of fish.
Aspects of the Arowana
Growing to 35 inches in length it is not a fish for the small aquarium, requiring generally as an adult a 5ft x 3ft x 3ft tank as a minimum.
This image gives an overview of the features of the Arowana.
The most notable being:
They have large distinct scales arranged in 5 horizontal rows. The scales themselves contain several bandings colours with the most intense and appealing contrasts fetching the highest prices.
Distinct barbells protrude from the lower jaw and the large number of teeth and presence of bone in the mouth lead to the common name Bony tongue.
Long flowing pectoral and pelvic fins add to the graceful impact of the fish, and their powerful motion allows them to jump in excess of 6 feet from the surface of the water.
The Asian Arowana is considered auspicious by many, as well as being a symbol of wealth and stature. They embody several Feng Sui concepts of the Dragon complemented by Water bringing luck and tranquillity to the owner.
The Dragon Fish in Feng Sui
The Fish itself has a number of characteristics that fit within the principals of Feng Sui. The large scales and their colouring of Red or Golden demonstrate the existence of wealth and success. Being such a noble and dominant fish it also presents the character of strength and success which can be reflected on the owner. The large mouth that only collects food from the surface show how the fish can engulf success from above and draw it in for the owner.
Water is a place where chi gathers, it is naturally a source of yin energy containing an “auspicious” fish such as an Arowana e balances the yang and helps to dispel any negative energy in the household or office.
Also because the fish is so naturally effected by magnetic fields it is in keeping with the feng sui principals also based around the worlds magnetism and polarities.
Myths of Arowana
There are many stories of Arowana succumbing to ailments similar to their owners, and the owner subsequently recovering in record time. This extends to a believe that the fish may save its owner from death by dying itself. Often people who have come in contact with Arowana or the Arowana community hear stories of owners dying and shortly thereafter the fish jumping out the tank, or in a more fortunate of circumstances a miraculous escape from a car accident and on returning home the owner finds an Arowana died at around the same time as the accident.
As unbelievable as it sounds the number of stories and closeness of events does beg the question is there more to this than myth?
Care and Ownership
Often there is concern from potential Arowana owners about the investment involved and the risks associated with it. The reality of the situation is that Arowana (with a life expectancy of 20+ years) can be a long term aquatic companion with one of the lowest requirements of care of any tropical species. Well filtered, soft and slightly acidic water at roughly 28C is preferable, however, Arowana are known in captivity to be kept in a wide variety of conditions ranging from a PH4 to PH8 and KH2 to KH20. This will be reflected by the specific fish and its tolerance to the environment but Arowana themselves are very hardy.
Ideal conditions are based around sensitivity to PH and we always recommend owners keep their tanks as close to PH6.4 to PH6.8 as possible.
Arowana are exceedingly tolerant of poor conditions, they are not however tolerant at all to changing conditions. The greatest risk your Arowana will face is a change in environment such as changing the filter, or overfeeding a tank that has too weak a filter. This can cause a spike in ammonia, nitrates or nitrites. It is not the conditions themselves that can be harmful but the change which may result in losing your fish.
A clear example of this is a tank that has been poorly kept for several months. The owner decides to perform a 60% water change with the purest, most perfectly conditioned and correct water. As a result the Arowana becomes unable to swim correctly, starts to rotate in the water and over a week dies. The issue is not the condition of the water but the unexpected change. This same change could be achieved with 10% water changes per week, or even a reduction of the water level and a drip fed increase over several weeks.
Can I keep Arowana with other fish?
Arowana are also highly territorial but establish good relationships with other fish such as Barbs, Parrot Fish and Stingrays. If you desire to keep a number then as a general rule they can only be kept with other Arowana if in groups of 6 or above. As a testament to their individual personalities it is often possible to keep smaller groups of Arowana together if they are individually more sociable.
Always keep watch over your tank and fish to understand the relationship that are forming. Also remember the Arowanas primary territory is within 16 inches of the surface of the water. If you have fish that regularly swim in this zone they are prime targets for Arowana to pick on. If your tank is not deeper than 16 inches you may find keeping any other fish will be a problem.
I have heard about Droop Eye, is my Arowana at Risk?
Droop Eye is NOT caused by Arowana looking down or feeding off the bottom of the tank!
The scientific cause of Droop Eye is a fatty deposit build up behind the eyes of the fish, this is caused by over exposure to light, high stress levels, poor diet or any combination of these. To avoid droop eye, make sure you keep the fish in good condition, calm and balanced nutrition. Some fish are genetically more susceptible than others.Please see Feeding Information below for specific feeding tips.
Arowana prefer live food or at the very least floating food. They will not generally eat from the bottom of the tank. To this end keeping your arowana with a suitable bottom feeder may be a good idea to prevent the buildup of detritus in the tank.
Appropriate foods can range from:
Meal worms, crickets, grasshoppers, locus, garden worms, fly, small frogs, small fish, shrimps, beef heart, etc.
The food your arowana will like is very personal to the fish, so try lots of different things and see how they respond.
Some food help to promote color in your fish. Any food that contains ceratanoids will help develop red and gold coloring in your fish. However, it is recommended to always maintain a varied diet in your fish.
You can also feed live food on material high in ceratanoids, i.e feed carrots or shrimp to meal worms and then the meal worms to the Arowana.
Feeding patterns effect both the size and color of your Arowana. Overfeeding can make the fish grow faster but can adversely affect both the color and the long term health of the fish. Since the size, color and health is very important do not regularly overfeed any Arowana.
For small fish feeding once or twice a day until they lose interest is enough. From six to 12 inches, once per day is enough. Beyond 12 inches you can consider once every two days, or even less.
High protein foods are also often low in nutrients. Food such as Mealworms are similar to crisps for humans. They taste great but do not have high nutritional value, they provide ideal variety but are a poor stable food.
The best food is fresh fish from your local fish market cut into cubes. You may have to starve the fish for up to several weeks in order to train them to eat food that is not live. If you feed live fish then make sure they are properly quarantined and disinfected before feeding them to your Arowana. Other fish are generally more susceptible to parasites which can in turn damage or kill your Arowana.
I have heard about Droop Eye, is caused by food falling to the bottom of the tank?
Droop Eye is NOT caused by Arowana looking down or feeding off the bottom of the tank!
The scientific cause of Droop Eye is a fatty deposit build up behind the eyes of the fish, this is caused by over exposure to light, high stress levels, poor diet or any combination of these. To avoid droop eye, make sure you keep the fish in good condition, calm and balanced nutrition. Some fish are genetically more susceptible than others.
The Breeding Process
Breeding Arowana is an ongoing process there are no specific seasons when the fish breed, however, there are times of year when breeding occurs more regularly.
There is no external way to sex an Arowana, until recently all breeding was done by educated/experienced guess work placing 30 selected fish into a pond and leaving them to their own devices. Characteristically these ponds are approximately 15m by 20m with a mud or silt floor.
Over time, females will lay eggs on the floor of the pond and a male will pass over fertilizing them. Following the fertilization the eggs are collected into the mouth of the male, where they will develop for 4-6 weeks before being released as young fry into the pond.
The pond manager will maintain a constant vigil to identify the presence of “Mouth Brooding” male fish, and when he feels there is enough justification, will call a harvest.
The fish are driven in a large net to the edge of the pond where they can be caught and identified more easily.
The breeder will then identify mouth brooding males and collect them in a net.
A quick peek into the mouth will allow him to identify if the fry are old enough to be released.
If they are the male must be scanned to identify the microchip number of the parent, the fry are released into a net and collected.
The veterinary authorities watch this process and count the exact number of fry that are harvested. This is then checked against the number of microchips required when the fish reach 4 inches.
The fry are placed into special tanks which simulate the water flowing in the mouth of the adult. Here they are left to develop until large enough to swim freely.
Once the fish reach 4 inches they are ready to be micro-chipped, and only once micro-chipped are they able to be transported.
Working with the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory of Singapore to perform the first genetic research on Arowana and their breeding habits. This has huge potential for our understanding of one of the most ancient species of tropical fish and also how we produce them commercially.
Mr Alex is the primary research fellow working on the project and I had the pleasure of discussing his most recent findings with him relating to breeding.
Now with the ability to sex fish using DNA they are for the first time able to track and understand the breeding process that occurs with Arowana. Incredibly Arowana are both monogamous and promiscuous, some fish will partner for life whereas others will form lasting relationships but with four females or four males. Interesting it is also not always the same male who parents the eggs that collects them in their mouth for development. They have found often an unrelated male will collect the eggs and brood with them. There is no genetic reason for this and currently it is thought it may be a preparation for future mating or to impress females.
They are also attempting to explain the reason for Arowana breeding only being able to occur within a few degrees of the equator. It is believed that magnetic variations strongly effect the breeding of Arowana, as outside of this area they have no interest, but the same fish transported directly to the equator will breed rapidly.
This research marks a monumental occasion for Arowana breeding, allowing for specific strains or characteristics to be bred into the fish and also giving us the opportunity to learn some amazing facts about a species we truly know little about.
I am looking forward to further information from Alex as the research progresses:
Here are some pictures showing the micro-chipping process.
Firstly the fish are sedated.
A microchip that has already been assigned by the veterinary authorities to this particular group of fish is sterilized and inserted into a special needle.
The chip is carefully injected into the fish (the location varies depending on the breeder) but most commonly either through the Vent into the stomach or behind an upper scale on the side of the fish.
The fish is then placed into a recovery tank for the anesthetic to wear off. The whole process taking under a minute.