How to Keep Arowana Fish

Keeping an Arowana has certainly been a learning experience. I bought this fish not fully realising what I was getting myself into. This isn’t a bad thing mind you. It's just that owning one of these guys is a lot more hair-raising than I had anticipated. I’ve heard this fish mentioned here by a couple of you guys. I’ve had mine for over two years so… Why not write a little article about them?!

silver-ArowanaThe Silver Arowana is a truly Jurassic fish. It looks like a dinosaur and sometimes acts like a dinosaur. They reach ridiculous proportions in the wild, however, aquarium specimens are said to rarely reach three feet. Mine is just less than two feet and its growth has certainly slowed, I’m not quite ready to say it has stopped, though. If you are considering getting one of these fish then its length needs to be taken into consideration. My aquarium is six feet long and it seems sufficient. I would never consider putting one in anything shorter. This fish needs room to swim. Despite its size, however, mine has a turning radius of no more that eight inches. I’ve read other owners say that if the Aro is forced to swim backwards too often (from lack of swimming space) its gill covers can begin to curl outward. I’ve never seen this but I can imagine that it's possible because the Aro’s gill covers are very delicate.

Feeding the Arowana is very straightforward. They are filter feeders by nature, but they have all the tools to be absolute killing machines. My Aro eats anything that floats including; pellets, bugs, freeze dried worms and algae discs (so long as you float them or they sink slowly). The Aro also loves feeder fish, however, he bores quickly of chasing them if they are really small. When my pond fish turned cannibalistic last winter I began feeding the nastiest of them to the Aro one by one. He had no trouble eating a pair of five-inch comets a day. My Aro is a very clean eater. It is rare that anything makes its way out of his gills when he swallows. He doesn’t “chew” on his prey like a cichlid, he swallows them whole.

My Aro is not aggressive toward his tank mates, only his dinner. He chomps at any type of food with tenacity. It's a good idea to put the food in when he’s on the other side of the aquarium, otherwise, I’d probably get wet. In contrast, this fish will take down a good sized goldfish, yet has never even nipped at my three-inch Silver Dollars. I keep thinking that one day they will start disappearing but it hasn’t happened. Sometimes my Aro gets picked on my Oscar, he never fights back. Arowanas are definitely jumpers. Mine has been on the floor twice. He didn’t need any kind of running start to get 15 feet away from the aquarium. Both times he jumped it was during water changes. I think this fish is claustrophobic. The tube from the syphon can seriously limit the swimming space and if I don’t keep it out of his way he gets nervous. Picking this fish up off the floor is no picnic. They have razor sharp teeth and powerful jaws, in that sort of panic, they will try to bite you. Be very careful. I once read online that it's a good idea to “pet” your Aro from time to time so that it becomes used to your hand in the aquarium. This is ridiculous. My Aro is a runner, not a fighter. If I agitated him in this way I am sure that he’d take off. Just by my own observation, I’d say that these fish need to be swimming to breathe properly. My Aro NEVER stops moving.

My Aro is at least as susceptible to disease as my Oscar. Shortly after I got him he developed fin rot. With a week he had no fins at all. One month of Melafix had him back to normal, though. When my Oscar got HITH, my Aro got HITH. After treatment, my Oscar's hole healed up nicely. The Aro still bears the scars. Arowanas are also very likely to get Drop Eye. This is a condition where one or both of the fish’s eyes turn a few degrees downward and become fixed there. There is some controversy as to whether or not this is indeed a disease. Arowanas caught in the wild never have this condition; however, it is very likely (better than 50% likely) to show up in the aquarium. It does not affect the fish’s overall health and therefore is in no way life-threatening. It's very likely to be a genetic issue from inbreeding at fish farms. My Aro has one drop eye. It hasn’t impacted his ability to see and swim gracefully so I’m not worried about it. Of the “cures” you may see on the internet for drop eye, I’ve found them all to be bogus.

Are Arowanas suitable tank mates for Oscars? Yes and No. Ok... mostly no. These fish get HUGE. Mine is two feet and may or may not get much bigger. They produce at least as much waste as an Oscar. Heavy filtration is a must. As for all Oscar tank mates, you’re going to have to try it for yourself. I keep a vigilant eye on mine to make sure that he isn’t getting bullied. My Aro has never stood up for himself. He just needs to be able to keep his distance if he needs to. If you are going to keep one of these amazing fish, prepare for a lot of work, on a large aquarium. You want a tank that’s at least 6 feet long with a heavy lid or something you can strap down. They appreciate strong currents near the surface and plenty of oxygen in the water. This fish isn’t at all picky about the water he is in as long as it is clean. Keeping one with less aggressive fish wouldn't probably be all that difficult for the seasoned aquarist. Keeping one with an Oscar is a delicate balancing act. If you're the type of person who's new to keeping fish, I'd leave this monster at the store.

Article by MNielsen