Arowana The Most Expensive Fish in The World

Arowana The Most Expensive Fish in The World
The Arowana is the world’s most costly aquarium fish. It is a tropical freshwater fish from the brackish swamps of Asia, the river basins of South America, and the pools and billabongs of Austrailia.

The Osteoglossidae are the main freshwater fish family found on both sides of the Wallace Line, an imaginary dividing line in the ocean between Asia and Australia that very few freshwater or land species cross. This rare occurrence might be explained by the hypothesis that Asian Arowanas (Scleropages formosus) separated from the Australian varieties (S. jardinii and S. leichardti) around 140 million years ago (Mya), making it likely that Asian Arowanas were conveyed to Asia from Australia via the Indian subcontinent before these continents split apart.

While Arowana classifications are a continuing subject of debate among researchers and aquarium hobbyists alike, there are generally thought to be ten types of Arowana commonly kept as pets: four from Asia, three from South America, two from Australia, and one from Africa (although the African Arowana is not part of the Osteoglossidae family).

The Asian Arowana is common in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Borneo and Sumatra. It is found in blackwater lakes, swamps, flooded woods, and other waterways with overhanging vegetation. There are several regional variations of the Asian Arowana. The most famous of these is the Super Red variation, which is found only in a few small areas of Western Borneo. The numbers of wild Asian Arowana are consistently diminishing, and as a result, the importation and ownership of Asian Arowanas is restricted in the United States and Australia. Special permission is often required to own these fish in the United Kingdom, China, or Asia.

All members of the Osteoglossidae family are predatory. They are great jumpers; Osteoglossum species have been seen launching themselves more than six feet from the water to pick off insects and small birds from overhanging branches in South America, thus earning them the moniker “water monkeys.”

The silver Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum) from South America is the most common type of Arowana. Young silver Arowana fry ordinarily retail cost for $10 or more in most locations, while healthy adults commonly retail for $250 or more. Only the silver and the black Arowana (O. ferreiral) can be transported in the United States and Australia. The most sought-after varieties, including the red and golden Arowanas (Scleropages formosus) are endangered and cannot be legally imported or owned in most localities. A flourishing black market exists for these fish in some Asian countries; a solitary golden Arowana has a market value of about $1,400 in Indonesia.

The Arowana has a unique reproduction process. In order to reproduce, the Arowana takes part in a two-month courtship and incubation process that results in somewhere between 30 and 80 fry. Many types of Arowanas show an unusual degree of parental care, particularly the males. All species of Arowana are mouthbrooders; the parents sometimes hold hundreds of eggs in their mouths while their young develop. Once hatched, the fry may make several exploratory trips to investigate the surroundings before finally giving up the safety of their parents’ mouths for good.

Arowanas are known to be aggressive, and caution must be taken if they will share an aquarium with any other fish. Depending on the temperament of individual fish, many aquarium keepers have had success pairing Arowanas with clown knifefish, pacu, oscars, cichlids

Arowanas benefit from a diet featuring a combination of frozen, pellet, and live foods. For most species of Arowana, an aquarium of no less than 250 gallons is a requirement, while tanks upwards of 400-600 gallons are preferable.

Arowana Myths and Legends

The Asian Arowana (Scleropages formosus) is known by many in China and other Asian countries as the “dragonfish.” These truly unique aquarium inhabitants are coveted by fishkeepers throughout the world. In numerous legends, the Arowana is considered a symbol of luck, riches and success. Owners of the fish believe that if the Arowana is well cared for, it will protect the owner and their family against hardships and misfortune.

The name “dragonfish” stems from the Asian Arowana’s likeness to the mythical beast of Chinese lore. Because the coin-like scales and elegant swimming pattern of the Arowana seem to invoke a dragon, which is itself a symbol of good fortune, the Arowana is viewed as one of the best fish for Feng Shui in the home. It is widely believed that the fish brings a benevolent, nurturing “yang” quality to the residence it inhabits.

It’s common for business owners in Asian countries to purchase not only one Arowana, but nine. Purchasing nine Asian Arowanas is believed to ensure that the company will always remain in business. This widespread belief is tied to the fact that the Mandarin word for the number nine (“jiu”) also signifies “long-lasting.” The number nine is closely tied with a number of myths relating to dragons, including the legend of the Dragon King, who had nine children. The Dragon King himself is considered to have nine forms, and is described in nine attributes.

Another common belief relating to Arowanas is the idea that the fish will sacrifice its life for its owner. A story tells of a man who kept an Arowana in his home, who was in a serious car accident. Despite the severity of the crash, the man escaped with only a few minor cuts. When he returned home, he found that his Arowana had jumped through the covering on its aquarium and died. Stories like these emphasize the belief that the Arowana can absorb negative energy and misfortune on behalf of its owner.

Many owners of Asian Arowana are positive that the fish understands their intentions and can even influence their lives. Another story tells of a man who kept an Asian Arowana for around eight years. The man promised the fish that if he won the lottery, the first thing he would do would be to buy a huge, beautiful tank for the Arowana. He won the lottery and made enough money to buy the new fish tank two times over. Many owners feel a strong connection to their Arowana, and are certain that they fish understand them just like a human.

Arowana History

The Arowana is an exceptionally old fish. Its form is largely unchanged since the Jurassic era, more than 150 million years ago. The Arowana lived through the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, and survived with few modifications to its ancient appearance. Through millions of years of evolution, the Arowana is now available to us in pet stores looking much the same as it has for millennia.

Modern-day Arowanas can be found in three different continents: Australia, Asia, and South America. Scientists believe that Arowanas arrived in these various habitats before the continental breakup placed oceans in between the land masses that we recognize as separate continents today. Before the continental breakup, the supercontinent Pangea was the only landmass on Earth, allowing the Arowana to spread through interconnected waterways across Pangea’s vast surface.

Pangea first began to break apart 175 Mya. Arowanas have undergone such little differentiation since that time that the fish on all three continents are readily identifiable as the same species, despite nearly 100 million years of isolation.

In terms of relatively modern history, the Arowana species Osteoglossum bicirrhosum, or silver Arowana, was discovered and named by Geroges Cuvier in 1829. The Greek term “Osteoglossum” signifies “bone-tongued” (from “osteo” meaning bone, and “glossum” meaning tongue), and “bicirrhosum” signifies “two barbels” — so the scientific name aptly describes Arowanas as a bony-tongued fish with two barbels. The fish is known by several common names, including “bony-tongued fish” or simply “bonytongue,” “arawana,” “aruana,” “arrowana,” “dragonfish,” and “water monkey.”

Many individuals have an interest in owning one of these beautiful fish, but don’t realize that certain varieties, particularly of Asian Arowanas, are facing extinction in the wild. The population of Arowanas in Asia has declined rapidly over the past half century. Conservation efforts and a worldwide movement to purchase only captive-bred Arowanas (as opposed to wild-caught) are helping restore the Arowana population in the wild.

Arowana Habitat

The silver Arowana is found throughout the slow-moving and blackwater floodplains of South America. Their native habitat includes the broad region encompassed by the Amazon River Basin, as well as the Rupununi and Oyapock Rivers. The floodplains of South America often feature extremely shallow waterways that are prone to fluctuations, and sometimes these areas will dry up entirely. As a result, Arowanas have evolved the ability to survive out of water much longer than other fish. Because the Arowana is capable of breathing atmospheric air, it can easily survive on land long enough to move to a nearby waterway if it becomes necessary.

Asian Arowanas live in similar ecosystems throughout Southeast Asia, including blackwater swamps, slow-moving rivers and wetlands. Habitat loss is a serious concern for Asian Arowanas; many experts consider the industrial development of previously wild lands the main contributing factor to the Asian Arowana’s endangered status, even more so than collection of Arowanas for the aquarium trade. For example, Arowanas were once quite numerous in the Malay Peninsula, but due to extensive development in this region, their numbers have declined steeply over the past several decades.

The native habitat of Australian Arowanas, including S. leichardti and S. jardinii (sometimes know as a Gulf saratoga), includes the breadth of the Gulf of Carpentaria drainage system, with the western boundary of their range at the Adelaide River. They are also found in New Guinea. These fish inhabit slow-moving sections of streams and clear, still pools. All varieties of Arowanas cannot travel upriver, as they are not strong enough swimmers to go against a powerful current.

Numerous types of Arowanas have, unfortunately, been brought into the waterways of the United States, particularly in California and Nevada. Considered an invasive species in these areas, Arowanas are not naturally found anywhere in the U.S.; instead, many of them found their way into local lakes and rivers when unprepared fishkeepers could not meet the fish’s needs and simply turned them loose.

Because of the extremely high price that Arowanas can fetch in the aquarium trade, these fish are a key economic fixture in the areas where they live. Fishermen in Asia and South America often catch these fish in the wild, sometimes defying protective laws in the process, in order to sell them locally or internationally. Sustainable Arowana capture operations and farms that raise Arowanas specifically for the pet trade provide important income for the people who share the Arowanas’ habitat.

Keeping Arowanas as Pets

As you can see, Arowanas are truly unique fish with a complex evolutionary history and an important place in the cultures of many peoples around the world. All of these aspects have helped to make the Arowana one of the most coveted aquarium fish in the entire world.

There are several distinct types of Aruana that can be found in South America, Asia, and Australia. While these varieties all have unique considerations and needs, there are some similarities across all types of Arowanas. Here, we’ve collected some of the basic information that applies to keeping any type of Arowanas as a pet.

It is imperative that the aquarium in which any Arowana is kept has a securely-fitted top that is extremely solid. Arowanas are incredible jumpers; they’ve been known to launch themselves six feet into the air to capture prey in the wild. Imagine a 30-pound, three-foot fish throwing itself against the lid of an aquarium, and it’s easy to see why a solid aquarium top is so important. There have been numerous reports of full-grown Arowanas knocking heavy glass lids off of their aquarium and onto the floor and then jumping out after it. Many Arowanas have met their untimely demise in this fashion.

Arowanas are very large fish, and that means they require massive tanks — up to 400 gallons in many cases. At the very least, ensure that the Arowana can easily turn around in the tank (they’re not very flexible and could injure themselves if the tank isn’t wide enough).

Another key requirement for keeping an Arowana healthy is excellent water quality. Like all fish, Arowanas are susceptible to infection and disease when their water is in less than pristine condition. Arowana owners are encouraged to invest in strong filtration that’s built to handle the volume of water in an Arowana’s tank (which is often up to 400 gallons). Regular weekly water changes (up to 25%) are required to keep dangerous nitrate levels low.

An Arowana’s tank ought to be set in a low-activity area of your home to keep the Arowana from getting frightened by sudden noises or movements. Whenever possible, you’ll want to change the light levels gradually in the room where the Arowana has its tank (turn off one light, then another, instead of light to dark abruptly), as rapid lighting changes can spook the fish. A frightened or disturbed Arowana can easily harm itself by ramming the top or walls of the aquarium.

Because Arowanas can be so expensive, and some types are strictly regulated, many high-priced Arowanas sold in the aquarium trade are microchipped. When you purchase an Arowana (particularly an Asian Arowana), it will often come with validation papers that state where the fish was raised (be sure that your fish was farm-raised and not wild-caught!) and that it has been microchipped.

While these considerations apply to all types of Arowanas, there are also some noteworthy aspects that are specific to Asian Arowanas. Namely, because Asian Arowanas are considered endangered, there are widespread restrictions on owning this type of fish. Asian Arowanas are listed on the CITES database of threatened species. They are not lawful to keep or import into the U.S. or Australia because of their CITES status. Check the laws in your region before endeavoring to buy an Asian Arowana.

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