How to distinguish Arowanas?

Arowana has large scales, flat and long body, a sharp beveled head with a pair of antennae at the tip of the lower jaw that is always pointing forward, which are said to have the function of sensing changes in the water surface.

Arowana are primitive freshwater fish and have not evolved much since the time when dinosaurs existed on earth! The Osteoglossidae family includes two genera Osteoglossum (South American Arowana) and Scleropages (Asian and Australian Arowana).

Arowana is suitable for a warm environment, tropical climates, temperatures from 23 to 30 degrees C, pH 6-7 (6.5 is most suitable). Their mouth structure indicates that they are surface predators. Arowanas are powerful and very active predators that are capable of bouncing out of the water to catch prey.

Arowana is a mouthbrooding species which means that a male or female fish will suck on and incubate the fertilized eggs into the mouth to incubate until the eggs hatch into a fry. The fry can still return to hide in the brood’s mouth when in danger. In the Asian and South American Arowana, the males do the hatching duties, while in the Australian Arowanas, the females do this. The incubation process takes place from 4 to 8 weeks depending on the species.

Arowana classification topics are quite common on aquarium forums, however, we have 2 main reasons to mention them here:

– First: African giant fish (Heterotis Niloticus) and South American giant fish (Arapaima Gigas) are now classified in a separate family – giant fish family (Arapaimidae). So when we mention the Arowana family (Osteoglossidae), we wouldn’t list giants as we did in the past. To distinguish, just remember that the Arapaimidae family does not have the beard of the Arowana.

– Second: the results of scientific research in 2003 by French scientist Pouyaud and colleagues on Arowana in Indonesia have isolated a number of new species compared to the only known species is Scleropages Formosus. They include the Red Arowana, the cross-back golden, and the HighBack Golden. We will update this information here.

We also map in detail the natural distributions of Arowana around the world, hoping that they will partially fulfill your Arowana understanding needs.

Asian Arowana:

The Asian Arowana is one of the top aquarium fish because of its reputation, value, and natural beauty. Considered to have the same shape and swimming form as the legendary dragon, it is believed that the Arowana symbolizes luck, prosperity, wealth, and health. Therefore, they are raised with the desire to bring positive feng shui effects. In addition, the colors of some Asian Arowana such as red Arowana and cross-back golden are also the most beautiful in the Arowana family in general.

The Asian Arowana is distributed in the countries of Southeast Asia and has a closer relationship with the Australian arowana than the South American Arowana. Their pectoral fins and anal fins are receded far back but the Asian Arowana only has 5 rows of scales on each side of the body compared to 7 scales in the Aussie Arowana. Surprisingly, despite being very famous, the scientific research related to the Asian Arowana is quite small. The evidence is that for a very long time all Asian Arowana were grouped together under the scientific name Scleropages Formosus even though they were very different in appearance.

The Red Arowana (Scleropages legendrei):

The Red Arowana is a species of Arowana distributed in the upper reaches of the Kapuas River and Lake Sentarum, West Kalimantan Province, Borneo Island, Indonesia. Sentarum Lake is a collection of countless small lakes connected by interlocking canal systems and flowing into the Kapuas River.

The area is covered with mud generated by the leaves of the trees and rotten wood to create a wild habitat for this primitive fish, and the black water flow and diverse food sources have a positive effect on their color and shape. . This diversity of ecological environments can be responsible for the numerous differentiation characteristics of the Arowana. For example, some individuals have a broad body, others have a spoon head, some are very red, or some have a very dark background color.

Research by scientists at the National University of Singapore in 2005 on 41 wild Red Arowana showed that the genetic difference between individuals is quite large. This proves the existence of different strains of Red Arowana. However, scientists did not mention anything about their superficial features. Further research in the future is likely to be difficult as the Arowana population is being severely reduced due to environmental changes, mainly forest exploitation.

In fact, the Arowana traders in the past divided the dragon blood into two categories based on their color, the “chili red” distributed in the south and the “blood red” distributed in the northern area of ​​Sentarum Lake. The “chili red” has a bright red color, the body is broad and thick, while the “blood red” is a dark red color with a long, thin body. “Chili red” is evenly thick from head to tail while “blood red” is tapered towards the tail. The “chili red” has a green-based “green-based” base, spoon head, and a diamond-shaped tail while the “blood red” is dark red, with a “dark-based” black-brown, and a bullet-shaped head (bullet head) and fan-shaped tail.

The “chili red” has large red eyes while the “blood red” has smaller, lighter eyes. The “chili red” eyes are so large that sometimes its outer edges “touch” the head and lower jaw. The fan-shaped “blood red” tail looks better than the diamond-shaped tail of “chili red”. This feature develops when the fish is young, making it easy to distinguish 2 types of fish.

Despite their differences, they both turn true red as they reach adulthood. “Chili red” turns color 1-2 years later than “blood red” but beautiful color with thin “thin frame” scales. The coloring of the two is very similar.

Orange is usually an intermediate color before the fish turns red. Especially, having a child up to 8 years old, but still pale, but suddenly a bright red color in a short time makes the farmer surprised. Evaluation of red Arowana can sometimes be difficult, requiring a lot of effort and patience to discover the true potential of a young red Arowana.

“Chili red” and “blood red” are the names for the wild Arowana. Keep in mind that wild animals are forbidden to trade because they are protected animals. The aquarium farms often cross these two types of fish to produce the “super red” blood, so in fact, the true purebred bloodline does not exist in the aquarium market even if it does. individuals with the characteristics of “chili red” or “blood red”.

High-quality red Arowana usually has a dark red fin color and is even from an early age. They also have striking colors and a very dark back. Beautiful fish also have a variety of iridescent colors on the body. This feature is evident when observing fish in natural light. When the fish reaches 25-30 cm, the gill cover and the rim of the scales must be purple or reddish-brown.

Second-class blood-red Arowana such as the “Banjar red” is also commonly sold interchangeably as genuine red Arowana but is recognizable because their scales and fins are always paler.

Other commercial red Arowana such as “golden red” and “orange-red” are also hybrids and never reach true red color. However, if poor quality fish are fed with pigments it is difficult to distinguish because they are as red as red Arowana. Farmers should not be cheap, it is best to buy fish from a reputable source, fish with chips and certification.

Crossback golden:

The cross-back golden, also known as the “Malaysian golden dragon”, is one of the two most beautiful and expensive Arowana on the aquarium market (the other is the red Arowana). Unfortunately, the study of scientist Pouyaud et al in 2003 ignored the breed on the grounds that there were not enough specimens for study.

Therefore, cross back golden is still classified with green Arowana under the scientific name Scleropages Formosus, however, based on the appearance, they are very similar to the high back golden, which helps to speculate that both the two are closely related. Crossback golden is distributed in the state of Pahang and Lake Bukit Merah, state of Perak, Malaysia (there are documents also list the states of Johor and Trengganu).

They have a large head and relatively short body compared to other Asian Arowana. Compared to high back golden, the cross back golden has a brighter yellow color and always grows up to the fifth row of scales.

In general, a quality Arowana should have a bright and even color on the scales, gill covers, and around the eyes, and the color to develop up to the back, especially near the dorsal fin when the fish is very young (less than 15 cm).

Golden Dragon is divided into several categories including “blue-based”, “purple-based”, “green-base”, “gold-based” and “silver-base” depending on the viewing angle. The “Blue-based” and “purple-based” varieties are the same because blue or purple is dependent on the viewing angle, and when young the fish is usually dark. Those with a bright dark green color spread over the scales and raised gill covers as they grow very beautiful. With this type, the bluish color at the center of the scale is often widespread, causing yellowing on the thin-frame edge of the scale.

The “gold-based” type, when young, is usually pale yellow, its color develops on its back sooner than others. This looks very attractive because when it comes to maturity, the full golden body looks like a mobile 24K gold bar! With this, a deep yellow in the center of the scale often shrinks, resulting in a yellowing over the thick-frame border.

In fact, sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish between the aforementioned cross back golden because today people crossbreed types with each other. Crossbreeding also helps to create special types of cross-back golden such as “platinum” and “royal blue”. These new types are so beautiful that the prices are also very high.

Scleropages aureus (HighBack Golden):

This species is also known as “Spotted Barramundi Indonesia”. They are distributed in Sumatra Island, Indonesia in ponds and small lakes along the Siak River, the section flowing through the Pekanbaru region, Riau province, and along the Batanghari River, the section flowing through the Berbak Reserve, Jambi Province.

This species has dorsal and 1/3 dorsal fins (apical part) dark in color, residual dorsal fin, caudal and anal fins red or brown. When young, the fish has a slightly yellowish color, but when mature, reaching about 28-34 cm in size, their color will maximize and the fish has a dark yellow color.

Like the cross back golden, this species is also divided into several categories including “green-based”, “blue-based” and “gold-based” depending on the color in the center of the scale.

However, HighBack Golden are underestimated because their yellow color is not as bright as cross back golden, on the other hand, the color usually develops only to the fourth row of scales as the fish matures.

A better quality fish is called a “highback”, it has a color that grows up to the fifth row of scales but never exceeds the dorsal, the color on the gill cover and the border of the scales are prominent even when young fish, about 15 cm. Their fins are dark red in color.

Compared with the oversized cross-back golden, the HighBack Golden has good stamina, a small head, and a long and fierce body, so they are often raised individually. The price of the HighBack Golden is also relatively “cheaper” than that of the cross-back golden and red Arowana, so many people choose to raise it.

Green Arowana (Scleropages Formosus):

It is a low-value Arowana but is the most popular among the Asian Arowana. Green Arowanas species is very widely distributed, including the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand, Cambodia, and southern Vietnam.

Green Arowana has a maximum size of about 60 cm, dark green back, silver body or bluish-green color, purple-green fins (the main feature to distinguish from Borneo Green Arowana), red-brown fin rays. In adult individuals, the area around the eyes turns turquoise.

Their heads are usually bullet-shaped. Another thing to note is that in Borneo island there are both normal Green Arowana (Scleropages Formosus) and Borneo Green Arowana (Scleropages macrocephalus).

Australian Arowana:

The Aussie Arowana generally has smaller scales than the Asian Arowana. Each side of the Aussie Arowana has 7 rows of scales compared to 5 rows of scales in the Asian Arowana. Another feature to identify is that the Aussie Arowana beards are not pointing straight ahead like Asian Arowana but curling down like goats. Unlike the Asian and South American Arowana, in the Australian arowana, the female is responsible for sucking and hatching eggs.

The Australian Arowana is known to be the most territorial and aggressive of any Arowana, notably Scleropages leichardti.

We need to pay attention to this factor when keeping the Australian Arowana together and with other fish species, it is best to keep them separately. The Australian Arowana is not on the list of animals in need of protection. Information and pictures about them are often found on referral fishing sites in Australia! The price of Aussie Arowana is from 20-200 dollars / 1 fish depending on the size and color.

Pearl Arowana (Scleropages jardinii)

Pearl Arowana is also known under other names such as Gulf Saratoga or Northern Spotted Barramundi. This species is distributed in rivers and flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria in the states of Queensland and Northern Territory, Australia. They also recorded their occurrence in the southernmost part of the island of New Guinea. They are suitable for clear water in upstream rivers.

The maximum size of the pearl Arowana is 90 cm but when kept in an aquarium fish usually only reach about 60 cm. In juveniles, the fins are usually pink, but when mature fish the pink color will disappear, the gill cover appears a copper-red striped pattern.

The back of the fish has a bluish or brownish-gray color, the body is bronze-yellow, the colors appear on the outer edge of the scale, the dots on the face of the scale are yellow, orange, or red and lying close together to form an alternating border. The fins are black with large red or orange-yellow dots.

Especially there are very rare and expensive red-brown ones called “Banja Red” or “yellow Tail”.

Fish usually breed in October, which is the beginning of the rainy season in Australia. Each time the female lays from 50-100 eggs, the female incubates eggs for about 5 weeks.

Silver Arowana (Osteoglossum Bicirrhosum)

Silver Arowana is distributed in the Amazon river basin, river Rupununi (Guyana), and Oyapock (French Guyana), South America. This species has a maximum size of 1.2 meters, large scales, lower jaw, body pointed towards the tail, and is not on the list of fish species to protect.

When young, the fish body often has green and orange stripes, head and fins with black spots, pink fins. When mature, the fish turns silvery. Males have longer and pointed anal fins than females.

Silver Arowana are relatively inexpensive, at 20-25 dollars per fish, making them the most commonly farmed Arowana. However, recent research in Peru (Moreau & Coomes, 2006) shows that the depletion of Arowana is taking place.

The host country’s temporary hunting restrictions during fish spawning have proved ineffective. Currently, there is a campaign to include the Silver Arowana on the list of fish in need of protection similar to the Asian Arowana and the giant Arapaima Gigas. If this turns out to be true, in the future, the price of the Silver Arowana is likely to increase.

Black Arowana (Osteoglossum Ferreira):

Black Arowana is distributed in the basin of the Negro River (picture above), a tributary of the Amazon River. The Black Arowana is similar in shape to the Silver Arowana but the fins and body are black when the fish is young. When the fish mature, the body turns gray, the fins are bluish, so some people call them “blue Arowana”.

Black Arowana are slightly smaller than Silver Arowana, they have a maximum size of 1 meter. Black Arowana has a similar price as Silver Arowana but young black Arowana with blue fins can be sold for quite a high price, about 500 USD / 25 cm.

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