Silver Arowana, scientifically known as Osteoglossum bicirrhosum, is a freshwater fish that originates from South America. This species is also known as Monkey Fish or Dragon Fish. They are popular due to their large size and their ability to hunt. It is one of the most iconic species in the aquarium industry, and having it in your aquarium is a great experience. This species is not recommended for beginners, but it can make a perfect addition to an experienced aquarist.

Cliff from Arlington, Virginia, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Silver Arowana is a strong swimmer and can be fairly aggressive. Generally, they are predator fish that grow to a fair size of about 4 feet and can weigh up to 6 kg. In the wild, this species has a distinct way of hunting, and you will mostly notice it. This species has a big leap that helps them in hunting animals on low-level branches.

This species has a swim bladder that helps them survive for a while out of water. As an aquarist, if you are looking for an Arowana, the Silver Arowana has the least import regulation, and they are the cheapest variety available, and therefore you should consider going for them. Some of the aquarists in the United States are not aware of whether it is legal to keep this species. At the federal level, this species is not illegal, but some of the states have banned the keeping of this species, and therefore it is important to do research from your local authorities.

Despite being a good choice, there are some of the guidelines that you need to follow as an aquarist so as to ensure your fish thrives. This guide seeks to give you extensive information about the care and maintenance of the Silver Arowana.


Scientific NameOsteoglossum bicirrhosum
Size36 inches
Lifespan10 to 15 years
TemperamentSemi aggressive
Care LevelDifficult
Tank size250 gallons
Freshwater or saltwaterFreshwater
Temperatures75 to 82 degrees F


The main thing that you need to note about this species as an aquarist is the fact that they are predator fish. This has a great effect on which type of tank mates they can be able to share a tank with. When the fish are in the juvenile stage, they are prone to get attacked by the bigger and more aggressive fish, and therefore you should figure that out before putting them in the tank.

When the Silver Arowana are young, they can be kept in one tank and co-exist well. The recommended group should be of 6 or more of them together. This protects the small ones from excessive bullying from the bigger ones. For the adult ones, it’s somehow hard to find the right tank mates for this species. This is because they are mainly targeted by the big aggressive fish due to their size. On the other hand, if you keep them with the smaller species, they will end up eating them since they are predators.

However, this does not mean that they cannot live in the same tank with other species entirely. Therefore as you look for the ideal tank mates, you should meet the following conditions;

  • They should be peaceful yet slightly aggressive.
  • The Silver Arowanas should be introduced to the tank first.
  • The fish should be large enough so that they cannot be eaten by Silver Arowana.

Some of the ideal tank mates include;

  • Parrot Cichlids
  • Green Terrors
  • Oscars
  • Large Plecostomus
  • Knife fish
  • Angelfish
  • Catfish


If you are planning to keep a number of these species in the same tank, you can do it but with a lot of caution. This is because they do not get along in most cases. If you must keep them, ensure that you do so in a group of at least six, and they should be kept in a large tank to reduce confrontations.


This species is a member of a species group popularly known as band fishes. You will quickly know where the name Silver Arowana comes from by just looking at this fish. Their bodies are long and slender. Their bodies usually tapper off towards the tail fin, but it is not as extreme as it is in other species. This s why they take a band-like shape. When you look at these fish from the side, they look very flat, but if you do so head-on, you will notice they have a considerable girth.

The fins of this species are one of the most defining characteristics. Both the anal and dorsal fin stretches down to the tail fins. The tail fin is very small than the size you would expect from any fish of their size. Most people do not get to notice the size of the tail fin since the anal and dorsal extend down most of the body. At first sight, you will think they are connected. However, after a close look, you will notice that there is a very small gap separating the tailfin from the others.

This fish’s pectoral fins and pelvic are thin. They also have two unique barbels on the head. The barbels are found at the mouth’s tip and they are the ones that give the fish the name Dragon Fish. This fish mouth is another feature that stands out. It is vertical and operates like a drawbridge. This fish is able to efficiently and quickly sneak up on prey due to the shape of its mouth.

Just as the name suggests, this fish is silver in color. The whole body is covered by large scales and takes on a somewhat pearlescent finish. The scales have a slightly bluish tone when they are young though the difference is minor. The male and female Silver Arowanas are similar in appearance, but there are a few subtle differences that can be used to distinguish them. The females are plumber compared to the males, and the males tend to have a longer anal fin.


In captivity, the Silver Arowana is typically 3 feet long when fully grown. They are generally big compared to common fish. In the wild, they grow larger, and some can grow up to 4 feet. This fish has a high rate of growth, and therefore they can easily outgrow a small tank. It’s therefore advisable to go for a big tank from the start to avoid constant changes.


This species is a native of the Amazon Basin in South America. They can also be found in Africa, Australia, and Asia. South America is the most popular with fish keeping across the world. You are likely to find them in the river basins of Peru, Fresh Guiana, and Brazil. This species prefers living in slow-moving waters as a result of their inability to navigate the rapid and torrential flows. This species will be found in shorelines, black water lagoons, and littoral areas of rivers and lakes.

This species has spread to large areas and niches due to limited food resources, and they are only found in shallow waters. These species cannot live in deep waters since they mainly hunt from the water surface or above the water.


In captivity, the average lifespan of this species is between 10 to 15 years. This means that before getting this fish in your tank, you should be ready for a long-term commitment. Mostly the lifespan of a fish is determined by factors such as water conditions, diet, and the general environment in which they are living. These factors are more critical in this species, and if they are exposed to poor conditions, they are likely to experience developmental issues that can shorten their lifespan drastically.


The Silver Arowana is one of the most predatory fish in the aquarium trade. They must be handled with a lot of caution since they will bully and eat any fish that can fit in their mouth. These species can be surprisingly skittish when they are not searching for predators. They are usually aware of their surrounding environment and will immediately get scared and run into the hiding spots if you suddenly walk up to the tank.

They will finally become comfortable with you visiting the tank. They are still recommended that you keep the tank in low traffic area so that you do not surprise the fish every time you walk by.


As mentioned earlier, this species is big in size, and therefore the tank should be big also to give them enough space. The minimum size is 250 gallons for the adult fish but for the young ones, and you need at least 60 gallons. If you keep this species in a small tank, the body will get deformed, and the lifespan will be reduced significantly. Below are some of the fish requirements that you should keep in mind.


This species is large than the ordinary fish and it needs a big tank with a minimum size of 250 gallons. To stay healthy, you must provide this fish with a big tank. The juveniles have a high rate of growth, and they are capable of growing for up to 2 inches every month; therefore, you need to consider the tank size to avoid unnecessary changes every now and then.

When you fail to provide your Silver Arowana with a big tank, it can lead to a number of problems. The fish feels crowded and starts getting uncomfortable. This leads to stress and ends up becoming aggressive. Sometimes they may even start to jump out of the tank. If the tank is too small, they can experience some mental development issues, and the body experiences some deformities.


You will need as the aquarist to bring in a strong filter that will create strong water flow in the aquarium since large size fish like the Silver Arowana love living in high flowing waters. The tank also helps in filtering some waste from the tank.

  • LID

As we have said, this species may sometimes attempt to jump off the aquarium when they are stressed or when they feel overcrowded. It is therefore critical to provide a lid in the tank so as to prevent them from falling off from the tank. Ensure there is a safe distance between the water surface and the lid to protect them from getting injured by hitting the lid when they jump.


You can add some decorations in your tank so as to provide more hiding spots in your aquarium. You can add some driftwoods, rockwork, and study plants. The decorations should not have sharp edges or rough surfaces, which can injure the fish as they swim.


This species needs some substrate in the tank. As mentioned earlier, they thrive in a planted tank, and therefore a tank needs some substrate to support some of the live plants. The substrate can consist of sand or fine gravel.


This species is peace-loving, and they love staying in not such a bright tank, and it should not be overcrowded. Therefore you can fix some subdued ceiling lights on the light to maintain the submissiveness in the aquarium.


Keeping the fish does not only involve putting them in the tank and going on, but it also requires the aquarist to keep monitoring them and ensure the environment is clean and safe for the fish. It is therefore important to do some clean-up often so as to remove any unwanted waste in the tank. You need to clean the tank and the equipment using lukewarm water and a piece of cloth. Do not use any soap-based or chemical product when cleaning. This is because some components of the chemical might be left on the tank walls and cause some serious harm to the fish health-wise.


The Silver Arowana is a freshwater fish, and this should be replicated in the aquarium. However, that does not end there, and this water should have some specific conditions it should meet in order to be deemed safe for this fish. Below are some of the conditions in which you must ensure the water meets, and they should be kept as constant as possible throughout.


In the wild, this species lives is in warm tropical water, and therefore, this should be mimicked in the aquarium. The ideal water temperature should range between 75 to 82 degrees F, and it should always be within the range. Change below or above this range might have some health implications on the fish. In case of a drop-in temperature, you can use a heater to raise the temperatures back to normal. You can use a thermometer to monitor the changes.


In the tank, the water ph. should range between 6.5 to 7.5


The water hardness in the tank should range between 1 to 8 Dkh.


Apart from cleaning you also need to check the quality of water every now and then and replace it after a certain duration. Do not keep water for a long period without replacing it since it will be unsafe for the fish as a result of waste released in the tank and the leftover foods that might have remained in the tank. You should choose an interval in which you will be replacing water, and this should be consistent. You can choose to change on a weekly or monthly basis. If you choose to change weekly, you need to change 10 percent of the water every week.

For those who choose to change on a monthly basis, you can replace around 25 percent of water in the aquarium. Do not change the water in its entirety since it will kill the beneficial bacteria. Also, the new water that you are adding to the tank should meet all the parameters such as temperature and ph. levels.


The Silver Arowanas mainly hunt their prey from the water surface. They are naturally carnivores, and their main diet consists of other fish. This fish also catches some other large insects such as crabs, spiders, frogs, snails, and some other small inhabitants of the water, such as land and tree-dwelling ones. The tree-dwelling insects are caught as they sit on the leaves and branches above the water surface, whereby these species jump out of the water and catch them.

Some of the aquarists have claimed that they have even found some snakes and birds inside the stomachs of this species, and also some plants matter which cast doubts on whether these species are completely carnivores. This will imply that they are omnivores since there is evidence of plant materials. In the wild, this species feeds on their food with a large amount of bulk, such as bird feathers, cichlids, and insects. This implies that you should feed this fish in a tank correspondingly to all those mentioned above. The diet of this species of fish should continue shrimps, insects, fish, and large species should be fed with small ones, for instance, the mice.

Sometimes you can feed this species with special commercial foods that are made for Arowanas. You should not always feed your fish with the food that drowns since it may lead to fish eye focus shifting. In the natural habitat, this species spends most of their time on the water surface scanning for food, while in captivity, they spend most of their time learning to look down if it will be fed with sinking food that eventually falls at the bottom of the tank.

In captivity, this species loves a diet that is meat-based, and it consists of food like beef heart, cricket, crab, shrimps, crustaceans, and krill. You can also give them feeder fish, and this will give you an opportunity to watch them hunt, which can be very interesting. If you decide to use a feeder, ensure that you breed them on your own so as to be sure of their health. You can also feed them on frozen foods if you find the meat-based diet so expensive. Some aquarists claim that they have trained theirs to eat pellets.

Avoid feeding your Silver Arowana too much fat since it may also cause the drop eye disease. This is because too much fat leads to skin relaxation under the diseased eye. In the wild, the eyes of a healthy fish are directed vertically, not downwards. The favorite food for this fish is the frogs, and you can buy them from local pet stores.

Also, the juveniles are fussy eaters, and therefore they should be fed fresh and live foods during that stage of life. This is because those foods are rich in nutrients that support their rapid growth. You can later introduce them to the frozen food as they mature up, when they are about 8 to 9 inches in length.

Since the juveniles have a high rate of growth, they need a lot of food to sustain this growth. The young ones should therefore be fed twice a day with quality food. As they grow, their growth slows down the appetite drops. You can therefore feed them at once a day. You should, however, be careful not to overfeed these species.


This species starts to spawn at the beginning of floods. The female start by laying a small number of eggs, and the male carries them in their mouth. It is the male that proceeds to incubate about 40 eggs which take about 40 days before they can hatch. The eggs are large, and they are red-orange in color, drop-shaped, and with a high amount of nutrients substances. The juveniles are hatched at around 3 cm. 

After the juveniles have been hatched, they will continue to stay around in their parent’s mouth, and they will often be swimming out. They will be getting food from the York sac for that period. After around five weeks since the day they are hatched, they will leave the mouth has of their parents. They will then start to feed on the food that you feed them with.

At this point, the juveniles should be separated from the adults as soon as possible. This is because they sometimes get aggressive, and they might harm the young ones. You can force the adult fish to open their mouth and release the juveniles, or you can wait for them to leave by themselves and move the parents to another tank. It is upon the owner to decide on the method he will use.


The breeding process is very delicate and difficult, and therefore the beginners are not advised to keep this species in their tanks. Also, a fish breeder may be confused with the fast maturity process of the predator fish since it grows faster compared to other species. You also need a large tank due to its fast development, reproduction process, and jumping nature. You, therefore, need expert advice before you can proceed with the keeping of this species.


It is common for every fish breed to have some common diseases that they are prone to. This is because different fish species have different immunity power. It varies from one fish to the other, and therefore you need to learn about the prevention and intervention of various diseases of the fish you are keeping in the aquarium. The Silver Arowana is a large fish that can adjust to different conditions, but they are prone to diseases such as;

  • Ich
  • Bacterial infection
  • Parasitic infection

The best method of preventing these diseases is by ensuring the aquarium water has the best quality. This can be achieved by ensuring that you change the water on a regular basis. You should also ensure that you feed your fish with the right diet so as to give them some immunity. All the decorations should also be cleaned also to ensure they do not cause any infection to the fish. Ensure that you remove all the food leftovers from the tank to avoid rotting and affecting the water quality.

If you notice some unusual behavior in your fish, ensure that you act immediately. This is because some diseases can be fatal if left unattended. Also, the first step should be separating these fish from the others in the tank to prevent the spreading of the disease. It is important to take action immediately so as to avoid possible fatalities.


Is Silver Arowanas Freshwater?

Yes, The Silver Arowana is a freshwater fish that originates from the tropical Amazon basin in South America. They are only found in shallow waters. These species cannot live in deep waters since they mainly hunt from the water surface or above the water.

Do the Silver Arowanas need heaters?

Yes, this species lives in warm tropical water, and therefore, there is a need to have a heater so that the water remains warm all the time. You can also install a thermometer to keep monitoring any changes in the water temperatures.

Can I keep SilverSilver Arowanas together?

Yes, you can keep them together but with a lot of caution since they do not get along. You can keep them in a group of 6, but the tank should be very spacious.


Due to the large size and long lifespan of this species, this species is ideal for only experienced beginners. This species has risen to popularity among the aquarist due to its unusual appearance. To thrive, this species will need an aquarium of at least 250 gallons, and this means it can only be undertaken by someone who has enough space in their home. It also requires a lot of resources to set up such a tank. Therefore you need to put all this into consideration.

This species costs approximately 40 dollars, but this depends on the size. You should also consider the fact that their diet is meat-based, which can be a bit expensive to some. As you buy, ensure that you go for that which is at least 8 inches since by then it is hardy and can withstand most of the challenges in the aquarium.

Therefore, if you are looking for a fish with a long-term commitment, this is the ideal choice. It is our hope that this guide has given you a clear insight into all you need in taking care of the Silver Arowana.

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