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Arowana Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

This care sheet covers a variety of arowana species, including

  • Silver arowana
  • Jardini arowana

Overview 

The prehistoric arowana is a long, sleek, streamlined fish of great beauty with a unique character. Arowanas have a distinct scale pattern and are found in an array of colors, including silver, gold and even red. They are a large, predatory species with an aggressive disposition. They have the potential to grow rapidly, up to 2 inches per month. Many believe that arowanas bring good luck and fortune.

Typical arowana appearance and behavior  

  • Arowanas have mandibular barbels or whiskers that are used to sense movement on the water’s surface 
  • Known for jumping out of tanks that do not have a secure top; in nature, they will jump out of the water to grab prey 
  • Arowanas are aggressive feeders, feeding on most foods that will fit into their large mouths 
  • Some arowanas tend to become solitary as they mature

 

Characteristics

Care difficulty Intermediate to advanced
Average Life Span 10–20+ years when properly cared for
Average Adult Size 3+ feet, depending on species
Diet Carnivorous
Minimum habitat size 150+ gallons, depending on species
Water temperature 72–82°F

 

Habitat

Habitat size

Keep your arowana in an appropriately sized aquarium; the arowana is a surface-swimming fish, so your tank’s width and length are more important than its height. Because arowanas grow quickly and are large adults, a 150-gallon aquarium is the minimum size recommended to help keep them healthy.

Building your pet’s habitat 

  • Habitat: Arowanas are avid jumpers, so be sure to have a tight-fitting aquarium cover 
  • Water health:  
    • Provide proper filtration to ensure optimal water quality to help maintain health; moderate to strong water circulation should be provided to mimic water currents and high oxygen levels found in the arowana’s natural habitat.  
    • Stable water quality (pH, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite) and water temperature are critical to your aquatic life’s health. If you are unsure of your water quality, bring a sample to Petco for free testing.  
    • An aquatic heater should be used to stabilize water temperature, ensuring it does not fluctuate more than 2 degrees in either direction in a 24-hour period.  
    • The addition of aquarium salt can support your arowana’s gill health. The specific gravity should be kept at 1.004; do not allow specific gravity to fluctuate more than 0.001 in either direction a 24-hour period 
  • Décor: Although they are top dwellers, arowanas benefit from the addition of plants and driftwood

Feeding 

Arowanas are carnivores, and a well-balanced arowana diet consists of:

  • Floating pellets designed for surface-feeding carnivorous fish
  • Live, frozen or freeze-dried fish and insects, krill, worms and shrimp (avoid insects or invertebrates with sharp or very hard shells for juvenile arowanas)

Things to remember when feeding your arowana:

  • These fish are surface feeders, often gliding just below the water’s surface
  • Feed young fish 2–3 times a day and adults once a day; feed only what they can eat in 1–2 minutes
  • Thaw frozen foods before feeding

Arowana care 

  • Water care: Arowanas are more sensitive to nitrites than other fish, so provide proper filtration and perform water changes as needed to provide optimal water quality 
    • Daily: Check filter, water temperature and other equipment 
    • Weekly: Test water quality at least once a week 
    • Weekly to monthly: Change 10–25% of the total volume of water every 2–4 weeks, or as needed; change filter media monthly  
  • Avoid overcrowded conditions, which are a major cause of stress and disease 
  • Turn on ambient lighting in the room before turning on aquarium lighting to avoid startling your arowana, which could cause them to jump

Where to buy 

Arowana are available at select Petco stores; availability varies by location. Call ahead to check availability of the fish you are interested in.

Arowana supplies 

Tank mates

Adult arowanas are best kept alone because of their size and requirements. If you house your arowana with tank mates, the other fish must be large enough so your arowana can’t swallow them whole, and they and must not occupy the upper section of the tank, like pacu; most bottom dwellers, like large catfish species and plecostomus are tolerated, but other aggressive fish may ruin your arowana’s long, flowing fins by nipping at them.

Health

Signs of a healthy fish 

  • Clear eyes 
  • Eats vigorously 
  • Swims at the top of the aquarium 
  • Colors are bright and shiny 
  • Free of parasites or disease 

Red flags (if you notice any of these signs, contact your local aquatic specialist or veterinarian) 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Spots or fungus on body or mouth 
  • Listlessness or bottom dwelling 
  • Cloudy eyes or pop-eye 
  • Elevated scales 
  • Frayed or discolored fins 
  • Labored breathing 
  • Erratic swimming 
  • Weight loss 
  • Bloating 

Common Health Issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Fin rot Symptoms or Causes Frayed or disintegrating fins; the base of the fins usually reddens Suggested Action Improve water quality; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health Issue Fungus Symptoms or Causes White cottony growth and/or discoloration of the eyes Suggested Action Quarantine fish; use a commercial antifungal remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health Issue Bacterial infections Symptoms or Causes Cloudy eyes, open sores and/or reddening of the skin Suggested Action Improve water quality; use a commercial antibacterial remedy as directed; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment
Health IssueIch Symptoms or Causes White spots appear on fins and body; fish rubs against hard objects or swims erratically; fish respires rapidly Suggested Action Quarantine fish immediately; use commercial ich remedy as directed; add freshwater aquarium salt; consult your local aquatic specialist or aquatic veterinarian for treatment

 

FAQs

  • How big do silver arowanas get? In nature, silver arowanas can grow up to 47 inches.  In an aquarium, they can grow up to 36 inches. 
  • What do arowanas eat? Arowanas eat floating pellets designed for surface-feeding carnivorous fish, as well as live, frozen or freeze-dried fish and insects, krill, worms and shrimp. 
  • Can arowanas live with koi? It is not recommended to keep koi with arowanas; they may have different temperature requirements, depending on species, and arowana are very sensitive to water quality. 
  • What is an arowana? Part of the Osteoglossidae family, the arowana is a prehistoric, elongated, bony freshwater fish covered with large scales.  
  • How do I set up an arowana fish tank? Arowanas grow to be large, and an adult arowana will require a long, wide habitat. Depending on species, you will need a minimum of 150 gallons of water volume with good filtration and heater to maintain stable water quality. As a top-dwelling fish, arowanas do not require a lot of décor items but will benefit from the addition of some plants and driftwood to mimic their natural habitat. 
  • How long do arowanas live? Arowanas can live 10–20+ years with proper care. 
  • Where are arowana fish from? Arowanas are found in South America, Asia, Australia and Africa.  
  • How many arowanas can live together? As juveniles, two arowanas can be kept together, but as they mature, they tend to become solitary and are best kept by themselves.  

 

Additional care sheets

Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all aquatic life are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as atypical Mycobacterium and Salmonella, always wash your hands before and after handling your aquatic life or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for aquatic life and should consider not having aquatic life as a pet.

Go to cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about aquatic life and disease.

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.