Black Arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai): Ultimate Care Guide


You may have seen a Black Arowana, or any species of Arowana, in a local aquarium or maybe even online. You may even want to add one to a tank that you own. But, that may not be the best choice. Every species of Arowanas, including the Black Arowana, can grow to impressive sizes. They also need to be cared for properly and contained in a tank large enough for them to grow. Continue reading on for more information about the Black Arowana and how to care for it.

Black Arowanas and most other species of Arowana are native to freshwater ponds in South America. They can also be found in flooded forests, lakes, and other freshwater bodies in Asia, Australia, and Africa. Arowanas are also sometimes known as “bony tongue fish.” That name comes from one of their defining characteristics; a tooth-like bone that sticks out of the lower part of their jaw. Arowanas come in a wide variety of colors, although we will be mainly focusing on the Black Arowana.

Black Arowana Care

When it comes to caring for Black Arowanas, there are a few things that you need to be aware of. They tend to start small, usually around 4 inches. But they won’t stay that small; adult black arowanas can grow to be over 30 inches in length. Their impressive size means that you’ll need to have a tank large enough to accommodate them. A tank of at least 200 gallons is the smallest size that most recommend for housing Black Arowanas.

Black Arowana Temperature

The origins of Black Arowanas trace them back to tropical waters such as those in Africa and Australia. That means their tanks need to emulate those warm waters. On average, the temperature recommended for Black Arowanas is between 75 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit or 24 – 27 degrees Celcius. Those seemingly high temperatures can easily be achieved and maintained by using a water heater. You should ensure that you maintain those temperatures as any slight fluctuations in them could cause distress to the species contained in your tank.

Black Arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai)
Black Arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai)

Black Arowana pH

pH levels or the water’s acidic levels are critical to the health of the species in your tank. Black Arowanas are no exception to that. They need the pH level of their tank to be between 6.7 to 7.5. The water levels need to be checked regularly to ensure they do not fluctuate. Fluctuations in pH levels can be detrimental to your tank’s species. Any changes can cause illness or infections that can drastically reduce the expected lifespan of your fish.

Black Arowana Size

Black Arowanas do not start their lives very large. Most young members of the species average around 4 inches, but they don’t stay that size for very long. Black Arowanas typically reach a total size of about 3 feet in length. There are reports of some Black Arowanas eclipsing that size and reaching nearly 4 feet in length. They tend to reach a larger size when in the wild as opposed to captivity.

What is the World Record for the largest Black Arowana?

The largest reported Black Arowana was nearly 4 feet in length. The exact measurement of 3.9 feet or 1.2 meters. That large size is abnormal for Black Arowana. On average Black Arowana reach around 3 feet or 0.9 meters. That is more likely to be the size you experience if you decide to add one to your own tank. They don’t tend to reach their larger sizes in captivity, only in the wild.

How fast do Black Arowana Grow?

Black Arowana can reach a very impressive size of nearly 3 feet in length. They don’t reach their max size too quickly; it’ll likely take a few years. That is because Black Arowana have a growth rate of around 2 inches a month during their juvenile stage. That growth rate means you’ll need to have tanks large enough to accommodate them and their changes in size. Making sure you can accommodate the growth rate of the Black Arowana is one of the most important aspects to consider before purchasing one.

Black Arowana Food & Diet

Black Arowanas tend to feed on other, smaller fish in the wild. That means they’re carnivores, and they need to be provided as such. You should feed your Black Arowana a varied diet. They’ll eat live or frozen food such as shrimp, krill, and various types of worms. Black Arowana can also be fed some bugs such as crickets and smaller fish or frogs. You could also provide them pellets or flakes, but if you do, you should supplement them with some vitamins to ensure they have a balanced diet.

Black Arowana Lifespan

The lifespan of any pet, fish included, depends entirely on the care they receive. Their lifespan will drastically drop should you neglect and not care for them. An improper diet can also negatively affect their lifespan. Another thing that can negatively affect an expected lifespan is too much stress in their home environment. In good conditions, if well cared for, Black Arowana can have been known to reach 20 years of age. That means that Black Arowana are a long-term commitment, and you should ensure that you are committed before purchasing one.

Black Arowana Tank Size

Black Arowana start small, but they grow pretty steadily. A fully grown Black Arowana will likely need a tank that is at least 200 gallons in size. That massive tank size is required because Black Arowana can reach nearly 3 feet in length. So they need a tank large enough to comfortably fit them and give them room to swim around. Most aquarists will likely start them in a small tank rehome them as they begin to grow out of it. They’ll keep doing that until their reach their final home tank.

Black Arowana Breeding

Black Arowana breeding in captivity are extremely rare. They likely won’t breed in the tank you have; they tend to only reproduce in massives tanks of over 1000 gallons that also simulate weather and seasonal conditions. Black Arowana will pair up and make a nest during the flood season. The female will lay a small number of eggs that the male will fertilize. Once the eggs have been fertilized, the male will take them into his mouth and keep them safe until they are ready to hatch.

Black Arowana Disease

One of the most common afflictions that can befall a Black Arowana is Arowana Eye Drop Syndrome. They are varying severities of this syndrome, the most severe drooping so much that the top of the eyeball is exposed. It tends to only occur in one eye, with the other eye seemingly ordinary. It can easily be diagnosed by the appearance of one of its eyeballs tilted downwards, making it look like it is always looking down.

Black Arowana Tank Mates

Due to the larger size of Black Arowana, they won’t mesh well with many other fish species. With enough research, you can find compatible tank mates and those incompatible. Anything smaller than it will likely just end up as a snack. Continue reading on, and we’ll highlight some potential tankmates for the Black Arowana, as well as some you should avoid.

Examples of Compatible Tank Mates

Black Arowana are large and carnivores, which means they will not hesitate to eat anything that fits into their mouths. But there are some species that Black Arowana have been known to live comfortably with. Some of those species are large Oscars and Lima Shovelnose catfish. Black Arowana also tend to be able to live with other South American species, as long as they are similar in size.

Examples of Incompatible Tank Mates

Plenty of species are not compatible with Black Arowana, such as any species smaller than them. A significant example of species not compatible with Black Arowana is more Black Arowana. Black Arowana are aggressive towards each other, which means they should not be kept in the same tank together. They are not known to be very aggressive, but that changes with their own species. You should also avoid any aggressive species as they will not peacefully live with a Black Arowana.

Where can I find Black Arowana for Sale and Price?

Black Arowana can be purchased online, but not legally. They have been banned in the United States since 1975. They are protected by the Endangered Species Act and are recognized as endangered by 183 countries. Because of this, they tend to draw a hefty price online. Some sites online sell them for around $84, but there are also some reports of them costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Are Black Arowana Legal in the United States?

In 1975, Arowana were deemed endangered and ever since have been banned for purchase in 183 countries, including America and Australia. Some loopholes allow you to import them, although that is still considered illegal.

Black Arowana vs Silver Arowana

Black Arowana are darker than Silver Arowana. They also grow smaller and tend to be more aggressive, and they can survive in colder temperatures. Silver Arowana are brighter than their black counterparts. Silver Arowana grow larger, and tend to be less aggressive. Unfortunately, Silver Arowana are also more susceptible to Arowana Eye Drop Syndrome.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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