The breeding of asian
wild, arowana pair themselves up by natural selection. They spend weeks to
months courting, and when they are ready, the female will lay eggs on a
slow stream riverbed and the male will fertilize them
Fertilized eggs are then scooped up by the male
arowana and the eggs will hatch in his mouth. The eggs hatch in
about two months. The fry then leaves the father's mouth, initially
for a brief time only and slowly increase the duration.
father arowana will signal his fries when there is a sign of danger and
the fries will swim back immediately for refuge. The fries will leave the
father when they are capable to survive by themself.
Arowana are usually breed in a
earth pond. Breeding arowana in a tank is possible but much harder.
breeding, tens of matured arowanas (half males, half females) are put into
the pond and a natural selection of pairs are allowed. The arowanas are
observed carefully. When a pair is formed, they will chase the others away
and will start laying eggs. A net is then put in to separate the pair
from the other arowanas. When the fries are free swimming, they are netted
and kept in grow up tanks.
Asian Arowana are hard to sex,
especially when they are young. Generally, males are larger in size
and have bigger fins then the females. They also have wider and deeper
jaws (to hold the eggs and fries). Females, on the other hand are
smaller in size and have a more rounded body. It takes a lot of
experience to sex mature asian arowana. Only when they started
breeding, you can be 100% sure which one is male and which is
The time for
arowanas to mature depends on the condition they are growing in. The
better the care, the earlier they will reach maturity. Generally a female
takes 2-3 years and a male 4-5 years to reach maturity.
are different types of Arowanas, classified into Asian, South American,
Australian and African.
Red Arowana(Chili and Blood)
Grade Red Arowana(xbreed between Red and yellow tail Arowana)
(c). Malaysian Crossback Arowana
(d). Green Arowana
Tailed Golden Arowana
(a). Pearl Arowana
Pearl Arowana (very rare)
Araipaima Gigas(not suitable for aquarium tank rearing)
difference between the Asian Arowanas and the rest are the scales! Asian
Aros have 5 steps of scales comparing to their counterparts which are
having 7 steps of scales.
RTG = Red Tail Golden
YT = Yellow Tail
YTL = Yi Tiao Long ( straight line scales on 6th level
TKL = Tikum Leng
Protruding Lower Jaw
SR = Super Red ( Grade 1 Red
CR = Chilli Red
BMB XB = Bukit Merah Blue
PG = Panda Gold
PHG = Pahang
PR = Purple Red
Electric Blue Crossback
VFSR = Violet Fusion Super
BB = Beneficial Bacteria
SABF = Singapore Arowana Breeding Farm ( Farm based in
DFI = Dragon Fish Industry ( Farm based
in Singapore )
QH = Qian Hu ( Farm based in
Asian arowana refers to
several varieties of freshwater fish
in the genus Scleropages. Some sources
differentiate these varieties into multiple species while others
consider the different strains to belong to a single species, Scleropages formosus. They have several other
common names, including Asian bonytongue, dragon fish, and a number of names specific to
Native to Southeast Asia, Asian arowanas
rivers, slow-moving waters flowing through forested swamps and wetlands. Adults feed on other fish,
while juveniles feed on insects.
These popular aquarium fish have special cultural significance in areas
influenced by Chinese culture. The name dragon fish stems from their resemblance to the Chinese dragon. This popularity
has had both positive and negative effects on their status as endangered
Evolution and taxonomy
Like all members of Osteoglossidae, Asian arowanas
are highly adapted to fresh water and are incapable of
surviving in the ocean. Therefore, their spread throughout the islands of
southeast Asia suggests they diverged from other osteoglossids before the
breakup was complete. Genetic studies have confirmed this hypothesis,
showing that their ancestor of the Asian arowanas diverged from the
ancestor of the Australian arowanas, S. jardinii and S. leichardti, about
140 million years ago, during the Early Cretaceous period. This
divergence took place in the eastern margin of Gondwanaland, with the ancestors of
Asian arowanas carried on the Indian subcontinent or
smaller landmasses into Asia. The morphological
similarity of all Scleropages species shows
that little evolutionary change has taken place
recently for these ancient fish.
The first description of these species was
published between 1839 and 1844 (1844 is the date commonly cited) by
Müller and Hermann
Schlegel, under the name Osteoglossum formosum, although
later this species was placed in Scleropages
with the name S. formosus.
Several distinct, naturally occurring colour
varieties are recognised, each found in a specific geographic region. They
include the following:
- The green is the most
common variety, found in Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia.
- The silver Asian (not
to be confused with the silver arowana, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum) is considered part of
the green variety by some. It has two subvarieties, the "grey tail
silver" or "Pinoh arowana," and the "yellow tail silver," each found in
a different part of the island of Borneo in Indonesia.
- The red-tailed golden
is found in northern Sumatra,
- The gold crossback,
blue Malayan, or Bukit
Merah blue is native to the state of Pahang and Bukit
Merah area in Perak, Malaysia.
- The red, super red, blood red,
or chili red is known only from the upper
part of the Kapuas River
in western Borneo, Indonesia.
In 2003, a study was published which
proposed breaking S. formosus into four
separate species. This classification was based on both morphology and genetics, and includes the following
- Scleropages formosus
was redescribed to include the strain known as the green arowana. The gold crossback, which was not part of the study, was
included in this species by default.
macrocephalus described the silver Asian
- Scleropages aureus
described the red-tailed golden arowana.
- Scleropages legendrei
described the super red arowana.
Other researchers dispute this reclassification,
arguing that the published data are insufficient to justify recognizing
more than one Southeast Asian species of Scleropages.
arowana scales are large (most over 2 cm
in length) and have a delicate net
Asian arowanas grow up to 90 cm (35 in)
length. Like all Scleropages, Asian arowanas have long bodies;
large, elongate pectoral fins; dorsal and anal fins located far back on the body;
and a much larger caudal fin than that of their South American relative, the silver arowana, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum. The mouth is oblique
with a very wide gape. The prominent lower jaw has two barbels
at its tip. The gill rakers are stout. Asian arowanas
bear teeth on many bones of the mouth, including the jaws, vomer,
palatines, pterygoids, parasphenoid, and tongue.
Asian arowana scales are large, cycloid, and,
in some varieties, metallic coloured, with a distinctive mosaic pattern of raised ribs. The lateral scales are
arranged in horizontal rows numbered from the most ventral (first level)
to the most dorsal (fifth level), with dorsal scales designated the sixth
Asian arowanas are distinguished from Australian
congenerics S. jardinii and S. leichardti by having
fewer (21-26) lateral line
scales (versus 32-36 for the Australian species), longer pectoral and
pelvic fins, and a longer anterior snout.
Green arowanas are dark
green on the back, silvery or golden green on its sides, and silvery or
whitish on its ventral surface, with dark greenish or bluish patches
visible through the lateral scales. In mature fish, the top of the eye and
the head behind the eye are bright emerald.
Both grey-tailed and yellow-tailed silver Asian arowanas are dark grey on the back
and silver on the sides, with dark ring patches on the lateral scales and
a silvery or whitish belly. In yellow-tailed specimens, the fin membranes
are yellowish with dark grey rays. In grey-tailed specimens, the fins are
uniform dark grey.
golden arowana. Although the scales are golden, the anal and caudal fins
Mature red-tailed golden
arowanas have brilliant metallic gold lateral scales, gill
covers, bellies, and pectoral and pelvic fin membranes, although the
back is dark. In juveniles the areas destined to develop golden colour
start out metallic silver. The anal fin and the bottom portion of the
caudal fin are light brown to dark red.
Mature gold crossback
arowanas are distinguished from the red-tailed golden arowanas by
having metallic gold crossing the back completely. This variety also lacks
the reddish fins of the red-tailed golden.
In mature super red
arowanas, the gill covers, lateral scales, and fin membranes of these
fishes are metallic red, with the exact hue varying from gold-tinged to
deep red. The back is dark brown. In juveniles, the darker the dorsal
colouration, the deeper the red will be on maturity.
Asian arowanas are paternal mouthbrooders. They are slow to
reach sexual maturity and difficult to breed in captivity, with successful
taking place in large outdoor ponds rather than in aquaria.
Two breeders reported success using a garden pond
measuring 18 feet by
18 feet by 3.5 feet deep (5.5 metre by 5.5 metre by 1.1 metre
deep), with pH maintained between 6.5 and 7.0. The fish
were over five years old. The successful harvest took place after the
third spawning; in the first two spawnings, the male swallowed the eggs,
possibly due to improper water quality.
Relationship with humans
Asian arowanas are considered "lucky" by many
people, particularly those from Asian cultures. This reputation
derives from the species' resemblance to the Chinese dragon, considered an
auspicious symbol. The large
metallic scales and double barbels are features shared by the Chinese
dragon, and the large pectoral fins are said to make the fish resemble "a
dragon in full flight."
In addition, positive Feng Shui associations with water and
the colours red and gold make these fishes popular for aquariums. One
belief is that while water is a place where chi gathers, it is
naturally a source of yin energy and
must contain an "auspicious" fish such as an arowana in order to have
balancing yang energy. Another is that a fish can
preserve its owner from death by dying itself.
The Asian arowanas are listed as endangered by the 2006 IUCN Red List, with the most
recent evaluation taking place in 1996. International trade in
these fishes is controlled under the Convention
on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and
Fauna (CITES), under which it was placed on Appendix I, the most
restrictive category, in 1975. S.
formosus is one of only eight fish species listed on Appendix I. There are a number of
registered CITES breeders in Asia and the specimens they produce can be
imported into several nations. Other nations restrict or prohibit
possession of Asian arowanas; for example, the United States has listed this
species under the Endangered Species Act,
and therefore it cannot be possessed in that country without a permit.
Declining habitat is a major threat.
For example, Asian arowanas are now uncommon in the Malay Peninsula, where they were
once widely distributed, due to environmental destruction. Inclusion in the IUCN Red
List was originally based not on biological reasons but on practical ones:
though widely distributed throughout southeast Asia, they have been
harvested heavily by aquarium collectors. However, habitat loss is likely
a greater threat than aquarium collecting.
There is no recent evaluation of conservation
status by IUCN.
Additionally, considering the current confusion as to number of species as
well as the wide distribution, conservation status needs to be
reconsidered. All strains are probably endangered, but some more
critically than others.
The Asian arowana's high value as aquarium fish has impacted its conservation. Its popularity
has soared since the late 1970s, and hobbyists may pay thousands of U.S.
dollars for one of these animals.
Beginning in 1989, CITES began
allowing Asian arowanas to be traded, provided certain criteria were met,
most notably that they were bred in captivity on a fish farm for at least two
The first of these farms was in Indonesia. Later, the Singapore government's
Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (then called the Primary Production
Department) and a local fish exporter collaborated in a captive breeding program. Asian
arowanas legally certified by CITES for trade became available from this
program in 1994.
Captive-bred arowanas that are legal for trade
under CITES are documented in two ways. First, fish farms provide each
buyer with a certificate of authenticity and a birth certificate. Second,
each specimen receives an implanted
microchip, called a Passive Integrated
Transponder (PIT), which identifies individual animals.
has been used to assess the genetic diversity of a captive
population at a Singapore fish
farm in order to improve the management of this species. DNA markers that distinguish
among different strains and between sexes have been identified, allowing
aquaculturists to identify these characteristics in immature animals.
Because they can grow up to 90 centimetres
(35 inches) long, Asian arowanas require a large aquarium. They are
territorial and may be
kept with other Scleropages only in a very
large aquarium, provided all fish are of similar size. Like other arowanas, they need a
tight-fitting cover to prevent jumping. The water should be
well-filtred, soft, and
slightly acidic, and maintained at a temperature
between 24-30° C (75-86° F).
Asian arowanas are carnivorous and should be fed a
high-quality diet of meaty food, such as shrimp and crickets. They are surface
feeders and prefer to take food in the upper parts of the water column.
Aquarists recommend live foods and meaty prepared foods. Examples of
appropriate live foods include mealworms, crickets, shrimps, feeder fish, small frogs, and earthworms. Prepared foods include
prawns (shrimp), lean pork, frozen fish food, and pelleted food.
Wikimedia Commons has
media related to:
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et al., 2003
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MEET AN AQUARIST
London, UK - Richard
An interview with a
serious keeper of Asian arowana and black rays in London,
Richard "T1karmann" is an active and well known
member on internet forums devoted to the keeping of large predatory
fish. Richard lives in London, England and currently has one of the
most beautiful Asian arowana community tanks I have yet seen in
person. I was able to pay a visit to Richard's home in January 2008
to interview him and check out his fish collection.
For the past 20 years Richard's special interest
has been arowana, though he is also an accomplished keeper of exotic
freshwater stingrays and Siamese tiger fish. He kept black South
American arowana for seven years before moving on to Asian arowana.
He has never kept South American silver arowana as he finds they
always end up with drop-eye. His first Asian arowana was a banjar
red, a fish he really regrets keeping. He found the adult fish
colouration weak and nondescript. Richard's advice for anyone
starting out with Asian arowana is to purchase a red tail gold, as
they offer very good value.
In addition to
keeping arowana, Richard is also a very accomplished keeper of black
freshwater stingrays. He is one of the relatively few people in the
world to have captive bred the P.
leopoldi (P-14). Most of his current collection of cross back
gold arowanas were obtained through a trade he made with some
prestigious stingray breeders from Holland. Richard has also kept
many Siamese tiger fish over the years, along with a few flagtail
prochilodus, Metrodontous tigrinus
cats, and pig nose turtles. I am sure he has kept may other fish,
but those mentioned above are the ones I made a note of in our
lovely collection of
A fine trio of P.leopoldi rays
A fine trio of P.leopoldi rays
As already mentioned, Richard's arowana
collection is the result of his trading a pair of breeding P-14 rays
with the fellows at www.freshwaterstingray.nl. Richard
may be starting all over again with his ray breeding, since thanks
to Frank and Nico he also has a trio of young P-14's. Richard hopes
to breed these fish one day. The juvenile colouration and marking of
these rays is fantastic; vibrant blacks and whites, nice definition,
and a profusion of spots - all hallmarks of high quality
The top center arowana is missing a
scale or two. On the whole the tank seemed quite harmonious
without there being too much fighting amongst the fish
I found Richard's eight "Electric Blue
Cross Back Gold" Asian arowana from Quian Hu to be on the whole a
wonderful group of fish - especially since not one of them has any
drop eye or protruding lower jaw. Concerning the entire collection
of Asian arowana, Richard thinks he may have spoiled the fish by
overfeeding them on a diet of king worms. Too much high protein food
fed too often can lead Asian arowana to bulk out too fast. This
added size seems to come at the expense of stronger colouration.
I'll leave it to Richard to offer this critique of his fish.
Personally, I look forward to seeing how the fish look in another
few years when their final adult colours should be set.
Richard's large and striking Siamese tiger fish
(D.pulcher) was initially raised by
him, but then sold. He then bought it back, only to sell it once
more. He finally bought it back for a third (and he tells me final)
time. The price paid for the tiger fish went up from 125 to 250 to
525 pounds. Who knew that owning a fish could be such a good
investment? Richard also has a thin bar Siamese tiger fish as well
as a small New Guinea Datnoid.
D.pulcher Siamese tiger
The tiger fish
(D.pulcher) pictured above is quite
valuable now. This particular species of fish is no longer available
from its native Thailand due to a combination of over fishing and
habitat loss. Consequently the value of such fish already on the
market has sky rocketed. This fish has been trained to eat sinking
carnivore pellets - something hard to do with this notoriously
bar Siamese tiger
Richard had recently acquired the fish pictured
above and was still quite excited about him; he tells me (and I
believe him) that it is hard to find such a fish with a full collar
(bars that continue all the way around the fish). There is also a
small New Guinea Datnoid in the background of photo (blurred).
The final fish in Richard's collection is a fine
16 inch Petrochlidous. Richard raised this fish from a small size.
As many keepers of Asian arowana already know, a flagtail
prochilodus or Fei Feng (as it is known in Asia) acts a good
A beautiful flagtail
Pictured above is one of the larger Flagtail
fish (prochilodus) or Fei Fengs that I have seen. Measuring about 16
inches, it is likely full size in this tank. Richard told me the
story of another similar fish he once had with some large black
rays. The rays cornered the fish one day and sucked its eyes out!
Richard regretfully euthanised that fish, there being no real
alternative for such an unfortunate situation.
Until recently, Richard owned a 22 inch Merodontus tigrinus catfish. Although happy
with the fish, Richard found that its long tail streamers were
frequently eaten by his rays. In chatting with Richard we found that
neither of us has had much luck with young tigrinus catfish. Some
kind of "sudden death syndrome" seems to be common with these
catfish when they are bought young.
Fantastic colouration and patterns on
A large golden or yellow hued Siamese
Tiger fish (D.pulcher) is a
beautiful fish. Sadly they are very hard to come by now.
Richard's tank holds 1400 liters of water (350
gallons) and is made of plexiglass. He chose plexiglass due to its
lower weight compared to glass. Richard's tank has hard edged
corners as opposed to the rounded ones more common on plexiglass
tanks sold in North America.
philosophy for filtering is simple - you can never filter enough.
Thus, he currently runs four top of the line Eheim Pro 3 filters and an
external pond canister filter. In addition, he runs two internal Eheim filters which
together process "easily 1200 liters per hour." These two internal
filters have been running continuously without problems for 12
years. Altogether Richard reckons his filters process about 9500
liters per hour. His tank holds 1400 liters (350 gallons), so this
works out to almost an 8 times filter flow through rate per hour! In
addition, Richard told me that all this filtration adds another 200
liters of water to his tank's effective volume, boosting it to 1600
liters (400 gallons). Richard periodically uses an ultraviolet (UV)
filter as well.
Eheim Pro 3 filters and an Eheim external
pond canister filter
Richard goes through some trouble to import a
special filter wool from the USA called "Polyfilter." He has been
told the product is used in dialysis machines for filtering the
blood of kidney patients. His thinking is that if it is good enough
for this use it must be good enough for his fish too.
The temperature in the tank is kept at a
constant 86 F. Richard's heaters are 300 watt external heaters from
an Italian company.
Richard does a 25% water
change twice a week. He uses a python-like system to siphon water
out; afterwards he doses his tank with Seachem water conditioner (to
remove chlorine, chloramines, etc.), hooks a hose up to a faucet,
adjust the temperature of the tap water, and fills the tank up. I
was surprised that Richard does not treat the water before adding it
to the tank. Given the health of his fish - and that he is an
accomplished stingray breeder - I am not going to disagree with him.
As Richard and I chatted about his tank, he
mentioned that he would love to build a seven foot long planted
refugium or overhead sump filter; we agreed it would look stunning
if it was mounted to the wall above his tank, just below the
King Worms kept under the tank
Richard feeds his fish a mix of live king worms
(which he keeps fed with meal inside a holding area below the tank),
Hikari sinking carnivore pellets, and frozen market prawn. He feeds
the fish twice a day, but is now ready to move toward daily
You can read the enjoyment, pride,
care, and attention in Richard's profile as he feeds the fish. These
fish are Richard's pets and are treated accordingly.
Richard ensuring the appetites of his
fishes are met.
found Richard to have a top-notch aquarium display. All his
equipment is the best you can buy, the foods he uses are high
quality, and he maintains a tight schedule of water and filter
changes to ensure optimal water conditions. His care and attention
to detail are justifiable when you consider the retail value of his
collection. If you are familiar with the prices for the fish in his
collection you will recognize the extent of his investment.
Fish such as this beautiful black ray can
take on an added dimension when seen in such a novel way as
seems inevitable that Richard's collection will continue to change
in the future. Once his fish reach full size they will either
need to be housed in a larger aquarium or else have to be
reconfigured as a collection. I look forward to following the
development of the tank.
I'd like to once
again thank Richard for opening his home to me and sharing his
knowledge and inspiration. Seeing his aquarium reminds me how much I
miss keeping similar fish - and how much I look forward to keeping
them again in the future.