Beginner's Arowana Guide
1. What is an Arowana?
It's a beautiful fish that endures. When I first saw an arowana, I was simply amazed by the gracefulness and seemingly dominance protracted by the fish. At that time, I was a junior officer in a bank, and my GM invited me to his house during CNY. Little did I know that years later, I would be one of the avid aro keepers and it all began in that party in Serangoon Garden. It was a silver I saw.
My second encounter with this beautiful fish is in another home, and this time, I saw a Red. It was a huge fish, and when I saw it, I knew that one day I would own an arowana just like that. It has beautiful red scales, and a body that was bigger than any fish I have ever seen in a tank. What made me catch my breath was the way the fish swam, the gracefulness, and that reminded me of the first arowana I ever saw.
2. Can I afford to own an arowana?
Yes and no.
Arowana prices range from below SGD100 to thousands. Buying an arowana is not an issue for most, the cheapest are silvers and pearls (Jardini). The most expensive arowanas are the Reds and Golden crossback arowanas. Starting price for a Red is around maybe SGD600 for a juvenile, this price changes due to market dynamics, it has dropped to a low of SGD500 or lower for wholesale prices. A crossback juvenile would cost around SGD1,000, those with connections and who can buy in bulk could probably get a lower price, a normal retail price would average SGD1,200 or so for a reasonable crossback, say from a reputable farm.
Between the cheapest and the most expensive aros (short for arowanas) is the RTG (red tail golden).
The greatest controversy one would encounter these days would be first, over the Crossback, second RTG, and lastly Red.
This is because there is a lot of hybridisation for these three. It is most obvious in the Crossback and RTG, and less so for Red. Nevertheless, the purist who are looking for closest river type aros would be very disappointed with the Crossback, RTGs currently being sold in the Singapore market. For Reds, the purist of the purist would be so too.
Now, as a beginner, one should be cognizant of the fact that the crossback currently available in the Singapore market are already very distant from the pure river fish. One might argue the pure bred is non existent, but decades of hybridisation in Singapore has caused the crossback to be way out of focus than those crossback that are bred in Malaysia. If one is keen on this topic, it will be discussed sometime in the future. It is something that has split the aro community, and due to ignorance or "loyalty" to certain "camps" (vested interests), very diverse and extremely "aggressive" views has emerged. However, we need to give due recognition to all views, but at the same time would not lose our focus on what is evident before our eyes.
The author believes that Singapore crossback breeding can be broken into phases, accidental hybridisation, followed by the rise and fall of the TY, and the emergence of the Hi-back RTG.
Aro keepers need tank space because arowanas grow big, for the Red it can hit max maybe 28 to 30 inches. Preferably a four feet tank would be the minimum space required for an adult fish, and this would be at the back of one's mind. Keeping a small juvenile aro in a 2 feet tank is alright, but do note that they grow fast and quickly outgrow the tank.
As aros has a preference for meat (as opposed to a vegetarian diet), market prawn, bullfrog, superworm are some of the common food fed to aros in captivity. They don't take pellets easily although in some instances, aros can be trained to do so. Just note that there is a food cost to take into account.
3. What kind of filtration do I need?
Arowanas are very easy fish to keep as they are extremely hardy. However, as with all fishes, one has to ensure that the basic water management principles are adhered to. Ph wise, if one can maintain it below 7 and not let it go down too low into 4.5 and beyond it should be comfortable enough for the arowana. Ideally a ph of 6.5 to 7 is recommended. Stability is very important, more important than the actual ph level.
OHF, Cannister filter, or sump are all acceptable, get a suitable pump with appropriate output to match your tank size. Eg a 6X4 feet tank with about 700litres would do well with a pump output of about 2100 litres per hour (3 times) or more. Now if you keep a lot of high bioload fishes, either tankmates or an arowana community, you need to upzise the pump output. I use an Ocean Runner (OR3500) pump which is rated at 3500 litres per hour, in my sump to filter my 6 feet tank as I have several adult arowanas in the tank.