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How To Raise A Silver Arowana – The Ultimate Guide

It come with a whole host of catchy names and nicknames, but the Silver Arowana is a favorite among fishkeepers regardless of what you choose to call it.

Why? This adaptive fish is easily one of the most entertaining and enjoyable fish species you can range, fitting in well in most aquariums. While it is not recommended for the beginner aquarium hobbyist, it is a great choice for fish keepers who are more advanced as well as those who are looking for a little bit more of a challenge.

If you’re ready to add a Silver Arowana to your tank, consider this handy care guide to get started today.

How to Raise a Silver Arowana

Silver Arowana Background

Silver Arowana 1
Photo by David

Native to the freshwaters of the South American Amazon River Basin, the Silver Arowana is a bony fish known by many names. Adored by aquarium hobbyists all over the world, the Silver Arowana is also known colloquially as the dragon fish, the monkey fish, arahuana, and arowana.

No matter what you like to call them, these fish are unique creatures with diverse hunting styles that allow them to adapt to a wide variety of habitats. These fish can jump high in the air, allowing them to hunt other fish as well as animals residing on low-level branches that hang over the water.

These fish also have incredibly long lifespans, with some living as long as fifteen years in captivity. As aggressive, predatory fish, they should only be kept with other large fish that know how to hold their own against aggressors.

Arowanas are easy to find in pet stores and aquarium suppliers around the country, largely because they are the least restricted for import regulations. They are also one of the least expensive arowanas you can find for this same exact reason. That being said, they are large and predatory, and so should only be kept by fish keepers who know what they are doing when it comes to raising fish.

There are other types of arowanas throughout the year. In southeast Asia, these fish inhabit blackwater conditions of rivers and wetlands, preferring soft, acidic environments. In these areas, the arowana is viewed as a symbol of good luck, prosperity, and wealth. People believe that the arowana can protect you from misfortune if you treat it well.

Silver Arowana Appearance And Behavior

Silver Arowana 2
Photo by Warrior1

Silver arowana are large in some cases growing up to four feet in size and weighing more than thirteen pounds. When you are keeping Silver Arowana in captivity, you shouldn’t’ expect them to grow quite that large – they will usually only grow to about three feet or ten pounds in captivity when they are fully mature.

These fish are large and have a vibrant silver hue that make them appear almost luminescent. They have a unique defining characteristic in the form of their jawline. This mouth is nearly vertical going across the body of the fish and is commonly referred to by scientists and fish keepers alike as a “drawbridge.”

In addition to this defining feature, Silver Arowanas also have sizable pearly scales along the length of their bodies. As young fish, juveniles sometimes have escapes with a bluish tint. When you view the body of the Silver Arowana from the side, it may appear almost flattened. The dorsal fin is fused with the caudal fin, and females tend to be fatter than males. Males are slender and have a larger anal fin.

Besides this, it can be nearly impossible to tell males and females apart. If you plan on breeding your Silver Arowana, make sure you have a good understanding of the lack of sexual dimorphism between the two genders.

Silver arowana tend to start out quite small in size, usually only about four inches in length. However, as you can likely assume, they grow incredibly fast. During the first year of growth, you can expect your young arowanas to grow about two inches every month. Therefore, don’t think that you can get away with starting out with a small fish tank and progressing slowly to a larger one – you will need a large tank almost entirely from the get-go.

In addition to their adaptive hunting behaviors, Silver Arowana are one of the few species of fish that can survive for some time out of the water. Although they can only do this for short periods of time, they are able to “breathe” above water by using a highly-evolved swim bladder.

Silver arowanas are shockingly shy. They are easily startled by sudden movements, even those outside the tank. You should therefore keep your arowana in tank that receives minimal traffic throughout the day. This will prevent them from becoming startled every time you walk by, which can stress them and make them more prone to disease.

Otherwise, these fish will spend most of their day swimming close to the top of the water column. This is because, in the wild, they spend most of their day cruising around for prey. They are notorious jumpers and can leap several feet in the air. You are most likely to witness this behavior if you have just placed your arowana in a new aquarium, or if you have it in a tank that is too small for it.

When placed in a too-small tank, your arowana will leap frequently, trying to find new places in which to live. Even if your aquarium is covered, they will still attempt to jump. This can actually be even more dangerous as they can injure themselves by trying to jump and hitting themselves off the lid. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you only purchase an arowana if you have plenty of space in which to house it.

Silver Arowana Tank And Water Requirements

Silver Arowana 3
Photo by Bri_J

Because Silver Arowanas are so large – and because they are such strong swimmers  -you need to make sure you house them in tanks that are large enough to accommodate their spacious needs. Most aquarium hobbyists simply aren’t equipped to handle the sheer size and activity of a Silver Arowana, finding that these fish rapidly outgrow their existing tanks no matter how large.

If you are considering a Silver Arowana, you must have a tank that is a minimum of 250 gallons in volume. While juveniles can thrive in tanks that are smaller – usually around 60 or 70 gallons – it won’t be long before you need to upgrade to a larger tank. If they aren’t moved in a timely fashion, you will notice that they begin to experience serious problems.

In addition to potential injury from jumping and other escapist behaviors, they may also have some deformed areas along their bodies, as they are too constricted in their current environments. They will also live much less longer, as they will be stressed and more prone to health problems.

Maintain steady water temperatures and pH values. Ideally, your tank’s water should be between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. pH should be kept between 6.5 and 7.5, while water should generally be soft or somewhat hard.

Silver arowanas are susceptible to changes in water quality, so you will need to invest in a strong, high-powered water filtration system. In addition, you must take the time to change the water every week, conducting changes of at least twenty-five percent.

While Silver Arowanas can tolerate minor changes or fluctuations in water quality, temperature, or pH, the more consistent you are able to keep your tank’s conditions, the better. This will help reduce your fish’s stress levels, as well as its susceptibility to certain diseases.

Decorating A Silver Arowana  Tank

When setting up your tank, remember that Silver Arowana prefer a substrate that is fine and comprised of small gravel. You should plant the tank, but do so sparingly. Your Silver Arowanas won’t eat your plants, but they can easily dislodge them if they so choose. Therefore, you must avoid plants with weak roots.

You can decorate your tank with other items, such as rocks and driftwood, as well. They don’t really need places to hide or escape, because they are so large and have few (if any) predators or aggressors, but decorations can help keep your tank looking nice and provide some distractions for your fish.

What Do Silver Arowana Eat?

Silver Arowana 4
Photo by Leonard Paguia

Silver arowanas are, by natural instinct, carnivores, but they will occasionally branch out and try other foods as well. In the wild, Silver Arowana eat just about anything that moves, including small fish, frogs, snakes, large insects, and even larger animals, like rabbits!

They prefer to eat fish and crustaceans, however, and hunt in a unique manner. Because of the way their mouths are shaped, they can swim just below the water line and then jump out of the water to attack their prey. They can also swim behind other smaller fish and simply scoop them up in their mouths.

While you may not have the ability to view Silver Arowanas hunting in the wild, you can mimic their natural environment by providing them with plenty of varied, nutritious foods. Preferably, you should feed your fish a meat-based diet with items like crabs, earthworms, shrimp, crickets, organ meats, crustaceans, and krill.

If you want to watch your Silver Arowana hunt, you can even feed them feeder fish. This can be quite interesting to watch, but make sure you only use healthy breeder fish. It may behoove you to breed your own, as those purchased from pet stores or online can sometimes carry diseases that can then infect the rest of your tank.

You don’t have to rely on fresh foods to keep your Silver Arowanas healthy, either. You can also feed frozen foods to lower your expenses. Some arowanas may even tolerate pellets. When arowanas are young, they will only eat fresh or live food. They need to grow much larger before they become less picky, usually about eight or nine inches in size.

Silver Arowana  Tank Mates

When you are thinking of tank mates for your Silver Arowana, the most important thing to remember is that this is not the fish to purchase if you are looking for a peaceful community fish. They are predatory fish, which has strong implications for the fish you choose to house it with.

When Silver Arowanas are juveniles, they are more susceptible to predatory or bullying behavior from other, equally aggressive fish. However, as they age, they will begin to hold their own and will become aggressive in their own right.

Silver arowanas can be kept together with other Silver Arowanas, and although this takes a lot of space, it’s actually recommended. Keeping a large group of Silver Arowana is ideal because a group of six or more will prevent smaller ones from being excessively bullied by larger arowanas.

When you’re keeping this many arowanas together, you do need to exercise some caution. This many fish take up a lot of space, and because they are naturally ornery, they will not respond well to being overcrowded with too many other arowanas. Therefore, if you want to keep multiple fish, consider housing them in a large natural pond or an aquarium of a similar size.

Besides other arowanas, there are other fish species you can house with your fish. Although difficult, it is not impossible to find tank mates for Silver Arowanas. Smaller fish tend to be poor tank mates for these fish, as they usually end up being prey to the more opportunistic arowanas. However, there are other species that can thrive when housed with your Silver Arowana.

Look for a fish that is peaceful yet also can hold its own against an attack. It needs to be large enough that it is not considered food by your Silver Arowana, and your Silver Arowana should always be the first species introduced to the tank to avoid any issues of territorial behavior.

You might consider fish such as parrot cichlids, angelfish, catfish, plecostomus, oscars, and knifefish, although this list is by no means exclusive. Remember that individual fish temperaments can vary  -even within species –  so it may take some trial and error to find the right balance within your community tank.

Common Silver Arowana  Diseases

Silver arowana tend to be relatively hardy and resistant to most types of disease. These majestic fish rarely become ill, but it’s still important that you know the signs of various diseases so that you can treat them if necessary.

Anchor worms are some of the most common disease to befall arowanas. These are parasites, and can infect your fish no matter where you live. They typically bore into the skin, fin, or gill areas of the fish, causing inflammation and swelling. You might notice your fish rubbing against surfaces in an attempt to get rid of the worm. These parasites are usually introduced to the tank through other new fish species or through live feeds. To get rid of them, you must quarantine your new fish and reduce live feeding. You may also need to treat your feeder tank with a parasitic treatment remedy.

Cloudy eye is a disease to which practically no fish species is immune. This disease is caused by poor water quality, so maintaining good water parameters can help keep your arowana healthy. Chemicals can also cause cloudy eye, which appears as a fungal growth or an opaque coloration to the eye. Although not necessarily dangerous in itself, cloudy eye can cause a secondary infection and blindness if left untreated. You will need to clean your tank and then apply an anti-cloudy treatment to heal your fish if this condition arises.

It is also not uncommon for arowanas to physically injure themselves. Because they frequently attempt to jump or they bump themselves against rocks, driftwood, tanks, or tank equipment (and because they have a natural proclivity to fight), your arowana can easily suffer from physical injury like torn fins or scratched scales. To prevent injury, minimize handling and avoid unnecessary decorations in your tank. You may need to apply a medication to eliminate the likelihood of secondary infections. Providing your fish with plenty of space to swim about can also help reduce the likelihood of injury.

Finally, if you see your arowana not swimming or hanging out toward the bottom of the tank, you may have a problem. These fish tend to prefer swimming at the top of the tank, and are rarely inactive. A lethargic fish can be caused by a number of factors. For starters, you might have a lethargic fish on your hands if it is relocated to a new or unfamiliar environment, or if you radically change the water parameters during a water change. An abrupt change in water temperature as the result of an insufficiently-sized heater can also be to blame.

To resolve these issues, make sure you tank is properly cycled before introducing your fish. Turn the lights off when you add your fish, and conduct regular but small water changes over time, instead of those with large volumes. Use a suitably sized heater and reduce feedings of live foods to reduce the likelihood of indigestion, which is another common culprit for lethargic behavior.

Breeding And Life Spans Of Silver Arowana

Silver arowanas are difficult, if not impossible, to breed. Most of the difficulty in breeding Silver Arowana lies in the need to keep multiple Silver Arowanas to maintain a breeding population, which can be impossible if you have size limitations for your tank.

In addition, Silver Arowana can be tough to breed because it can be tough to tell the difference between males and females. However, it can certainly be done, and is a rewarding venture to attempt if you are interested and have the space to do so.

In the wild, arowanas breed at the beginning of the flooding season, which is usually December or January. They will first pair off and build a nest, after which time the female will lay her eggs into the nest. The male will then take the eggs into his mouth and carry them for about fifty days. These eggs are unmistakable, as they are quite large, visible to the naked eye, and a bright reddish orange in color.

After the male has carried the eggs around with him for about fifty days, they will mature from egg to larvae, and finally to fry. They leave their father’s mouth about five weeks after hatching, at which point they will start to look for their own home.

If you plan on breeding your Silver Arowanas, you should plan on investing in a tank that is at least 500 gallons in size. A pond or extremely large tank is ideal. A home aquarium simply will not suffice for successful breeding of Silver Arowanas.

Is A Silver Arowana Right For You?

If you are not a novice fish keeper and are ready for a challenge, a Silver Arowana could be the right choice for you. Before purchasing your Silver Arowana and bringing him home, make sure you have plenty of space to house him. You will need quite a large tank  -at least 250 gallons – and plenty of patience as you introduce your new resident to your tank.

These carnivorous fish may not get along well with your existing aquarium inhabitants, so make sure you research your other fish species to ensure you will have harmony within the tank. That being said, if you are interested in purchasing an arowana, there is no better time than today. These fish are enjoyable to watch and will live for many years, providing you with decades of entertainment and companionship.

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