Silver Arowana Care Guide

The silver arowana, also known as the osteoglossum bicirrhosum, is a metallic hued predatory fish native to South America. Their scientific name, osteoglossum bicirrhosum, quite accurately describes its appearance. Osteoglossum translates to “bone-tongued” and bicirrhosum is “two barbels”. Where are silver arowanas from? This tropical fish can be found swimming in basins and certain rivers near the Amazon.

In the aquarium world, the silver arowana is also known as the Monkey Fish or Dragon Fish. We assume they are named after the fierce mythical creatures due to their appearance and they are pay homage to monkeys by the way they jump out of the water to catch their prey at times. Since they are predatory, they do require a large tank and extra thought into suitable tankmates. They aren’t the easiest fish to handle which is why they are less recommended for beginners.

They might not look like much to the untrained eye, but for many aquarists around the world, the silver arowana osteoglossum bicirrhosum is a coveted and beautiful fish that many would love to add to their tank.

Information Chart
Care Level:
Difficult
Temperament:
Semi-aggressive
Color:
Silver
Lifespan:
10 to 15 years
Size:
3 feet maximum
Family
Osteoglossidae
Diet:
Carnivorous
Minimum Tank Size:

250 gallons

Temperature:
75-82 ºF (24-28 ºC)
Water Conditions:
pH 6.5-7.5
Tank Mate Compatibility
Peaceful fish that can be aggressive when necessary

Care Level

Their predatory nature makes them difficult to care for at times. They show aggression and are very powerful swimmers. If you intend on keeping a silver arowana, get ready to compromise on space. Aside from being powerful in water, the silver arowana can also survive for brief periods out of their element by utilizing their swim bladders.

To really understand the amount of work that goes into taking care of silver arowanas, just think about their size, temperament and their susceptibility to poor water quality. You need to be on your toes quite a lot to ensure proper care for silver arowanas. This means a lot of tank maintenance.

If you have other fish in the aquarium, especially small species, it would be a good idea to understand whether or not they would be a good match first. How much is a silver arowana? They usually come at around $40, with the silver arowanas being the cheapest of all the arowanas. Is the silver arowana a lucky fish? Well, in Chinese culture, the arowana species do bring some luck!

Temperament and Behavior

We mentioned that the silver arowana fish is very powerful and fierce, but what’s funny is that they do scare more easily than you think. Think of them as scared little children that startle each time you make any sudden movements. Even turning on the light suddenly or any jerky movements can be enough to give them a scare.

Being constantly on-edge will do no favors for your silver arowana’s well-being, and this is why we recommend placing their tank in a place that’s out of the way and sees less traffic. Even when someone just walks by the aquarium can be a problem, so really put some extra thought into where you place them.

You should probably think about having your aquarium covered. Like we mentioned before, silver arowanas are quite the jumpers. This is due to their natural behavior of jumping out of the water to catch insects and other prey. Some have even said they can jump as high as a couple of meters! As you can see, this can be a problem in domestic environments.

It’s worth it to note that even with a lid, the silver arowana osteoglossum bicirrhosum will still try to spring free in an aquarium that’s too small. This may result in them injuring themselves against the lid. The best way to avoid this behavior is to make sure you provide them with an aquarium of a suitable size.

This will happen even more so if the aquarium is too small. They will feel trapped and try to jump closer to the surface. Speaking of the surface, silver arowanas are surface swimmers, meaning they spend most of their time close to the surface.

Appearance

The silver arowana is considered a real prize in the fish keeping world. Their large size and silver-colored scales make them a real beauty. One of the most defining features about the silver arowana osteoglossum bicirrhosum is the almost vertical mouth. This makes it seem like they are perpetually unhappy about something, which is quite an amusing feature.

They possess dorsal and anal fins that are small that extend down the entire length of the bottom half of their body and almost fuses with the caudal fins.

Size

In the wild, these amazing beauties can grow to be about 4 feet! That’s why they need plenty of room to swim in their aquarium. However, in captivity, they grow up to about 3 feet, which is still exceptionally large. Sexing them is also not very difficult since the females are more voluptuous compared to the males who are generally thinner. One other distinguishing feature is the larger anal fin on a male arowana.

They start out quite small but grow about 2 inches every month for their first year, which is why you need to account for their fast growth rate when picking out a tank.

Color

The silver-colored wonders earn their name with their silver scales. However, before maturity, silver arowanas will have more of a bluish hue to them.

Lifespan

Sadly, the lifespan of these domesticated arowanas are no match for the ones in the wild. However, even then they can still live for a pretty long time, ranging anywhere from 10-15 years! There are a lot of elements that contribute to whether they are on the lower or higher end of the spectrum, and those elements include diet, aquarium conditions, and care.

Diet

Speaking of diet, let’s take a look at what the arowana eats. Scarily enough, arowanas are considered to be carnivores! Since they also have a varying diet, they can be considered omnivores as well. In the wild, their diet consists of insects, smaller fish, snails, and even rabbits and snakes! We are just as surprised by the last two as you are.

However, the latter part of the list isn’t exactly part of their usual diet. In general, the arowana still prefers other fish, insects, and even small crustaceans. The unique shape of their mouths also gives arowanas an advantage when hunting.

They dwell on the surface to wait in the wings and as soon as something delicious lands on the water, they scoop it up with their mouths like a spoon.

To give your arowana the best care, you need to make sure its diet is as close to what it prefers in the wild as possible. As said, they are considered mostly carnivores, which is why you should focus their diet on a meat-based meal plan. Look at incorporating earthworms, crustaceans, and even some beef.

Breeder fish is also a great idea because this will simulate a natural environment and allow them to hunt the way they would in the wild. They like to search for insects and fish, so why not give them that opportunity? You can even consider feeding them frozen meat if you are worried about the food quality in aquarium stores.

Arowanas aren’t commonly fed pellets, but they can be trained to accept it if the occasion calls for it. Due to their type of diet, it’s not very common to be able to feed an arowana with a fish feeder. It’s also useful to note that immature arowanas can be picky eaters. It’s best to give them a varying diet of fresh food at this time.

Family

The silver arowanas belong to the Osteoglossidae family and are freshwater fish indigenous to South America.

Tank Conditions

Arowanas are amazing fish of a large size and are very powerful as well. It’s important that their aquarium setup needs to reflect that. Their tanks need to be large enough to give them free swimming space and it should also be covered to prevent jumping and escaping.

Babies can be raised in smaller tanks, but because they grow so quickly and changing the tank can be a real pain, so we suggest investing in a large tank from the get-go.

Substrate you should place in the tank include plants, rocks and driftwood. Now it’s still very important here to ensure the arowana is ale to live in an environment that reflects the Amazon. There shouldn’t be too many plants to limit their roaming space so plant everything sparsely in the tank.

Since they are such powerful swimmings, any plants that don’t hold well (have weaker roots) can be easily torn up and dislodged by the arowana.

Temperature

The most ideal temperature will also be slightly warmer, due to being from the Amazon. We’re looking at anywhere between 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit or roughly 24 to 28 degrees Celsius.

Water Conditions

Arowanas are particularly sensitive to water changes and poor water quality. This is why you need to invest in a top of the line filtration system and change 25% of the water weekly. It’s a lot of work, and the arowana isn’t easy to care for but their beauty and majesty make it worth it.

Minimum Tank Size

Depending on how many arowanas you keep, you are looking at a minimum tank size of 250 gallons for one! That will take up quite a bit of space so it’s important to make sure that you have enough space.

Maintenance and Care

The large tank size alone makes maintenance and care difficult, especially considering that you need to change the water every week. You also need to make sure you are feeding them the right kind of food and since their diet consists mainly of live food, you need to clean out the leftovers immediately. The rotting carcasses of the leftover food can really alter water conditions.

Suitable Tank Mates

They are fish that can take up most of the space in a tank, so if you are considering tank mates, you need to make sure the other fish plus the arowana itself has enough room. They are predatory creatures, which means that a lot of the smaller fish kept with them can easily become prey. As young fry, they are actually more susceptible to being bullied by other more aggressive fish than being the bullies themselves.

If you plan on adding a young arowana, then it will be the other fish you are worried about. Arowanas are also suggested to be kept in groups as well, this is to help the band together against more aggressive fish. Although, when they reach maturity, they are usually the dominant ones in the tank.

Compatibility

Think about these deciding factors when considering fish mates for your arowana. You don’t want another predatory species, but you do want them to be able to hold their own when necessary. Therefore, you should look for peaceful yet slightly aggressive fish such as angelfish or catfish.

Their tank mates also need to be large enough to not fit easily in the arowana’s mouth. Fish that they can gulp down in a single bite will definitely end up being food. Fish are individuals as well and they have their own personalities, so don’t be surprised if they don’t always become friends.

Breeding

Arowanas spawn during the colder months for us, which is December and January. Silver arowanas are what we call mouthbrooders, which means the parent (the male/the dad) takes the eggs and keeps them in his mouth. This happens after the females have laid them in the nest first.

Breeding arowanas can be difficult due to the amount of space they need and most of the captivity breeding success stories have occurred only on fish farms or places with tanks or ponds larger than 500 gallons! Think about all the space you would need after hatching. Remember that the fry grow very quickly, which is why indoor breeding is also advised against.

Conclusion

Are silver arowanas right for you? The arowana is a beautiful and unique fish that requires a lot of care. If you have the space and the time to properly monitor the tank conditions and keep them on a diet similar to their natural one, arowanas are prize-winning fish to add to your collection.

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