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Red Arowana Overview, Types, Care & Breeding Guide

Are you eager to house some colorful fish in your tank? Then Red Arowana is the perfect one for you.

This large fish comes with its unique feature and temperament, which sets it apart from any other fish in the world aquarium trade. So, in this article, we will provide you with adequate knowledge about these species.

Red Arowanas are large and reach up to 35-inches in length. They are usually hardy and live for 20+ years. However, these fish are pretty territorial; hence, they do not do well in a community tank. Also, these fish are sold at high prices and are too difficult to care for.

Species Overview

Level of CareDifficult
AppearanceThey come with bright red rims with a golden base color and large black eyes.
TemperamentAggressive and territorial
Life Expectancy20+ years
Tank Size250-gallons
Tank EnvironmentSoft acidic water with minimal decoration
Tank MatesLarge and aggressive

Red Arowana or Scleropages Formosus is a trendy aquarium fish that hails from the Osteoglossidae family. They are easily found across South East Asia in the slow-moving streams and rivers.

These are also much famous in the Chinese trade. So, you can also find them with the common name Dragonfish.

These exotic fish usually come in large sizes and dazzling colors. They even share a very similar look to the Silver Arowana which is an inhabitant of South America.

These fish species usually come with a nice jawline, which is a distinctive feature of their appearance. They have a drawbridge, which comes as a unique trait about their mouth. Since Red Asian Arowana possess many bones and teeth in their mouth, they are also known as bony tongue fish.

Their bodies are covered with large scales arranged in 5 horizontal rows. Each of the rows of their scales comes in three different colors. There is a base gold color and two other red-colored rims, which renders them a unique look.

Another distinctive feature of Red Arowanas is their large black eyes, which can be spotted just next to their mouth.

Their long pectoral fins typically join behind their head. Also, these fish have broad anal and tail fins. There is even a dorsal fin near the rear part of their body. Their fins usually work in sync with their muscular body to create more powerful movements in the water.

Red Arowanas are a very popular variety of Asian Arowana, which comes with other varieties, like gold, green, and different colored tails.


Scleropages formosus come in too large sizes compared to any other tropical freshwater fish. A Red Asian Arowana usually grows up to 35-inches as they become mature. They are too big for any regular aquarium.


When it comes to the lifespan of Red Arowana, they are incredibly hardy. Usually, these fish live for almost 20 years. Also, there are reports that some specimens can survive up to 60 years, which is too strange but true.

However, with proper care and enough diet, Scleropages formosus of large sizes can easily last for a much longer time, which pays back your investment.

Behavior & Temperament

They usually tend to swim around the middle area of the aquarium. However, they strive to venture through the lower and higher area of the tank from time to time.

These fish are highly territorial. They usually tend to fight with any other nearby fish. However, they can be occasionally found with placid personalities.

Red Asian Arowanas are best kept in a species-specific aquarium, which prevents them from indulging in any type of fighting.

Types of Arowanas

Red Asian Arowana is not the only type in the large group of Arowanas. Some others are as exotic as these fish.

So, here’s the list of other varieties of Arowanas.

Chili Red Arowana

Chili Red Arowanas are one of the most exotic variants, which are found in the Kapuas River. The adult fish usually have more depth of color on their body than usual Red Arowanas, which enhance their overall beauty.

Their base color ranges from orange, purple, or green, along with orange or red-colored rims, which makes them a great addition to the aquarium.

Super Grade Red Splendor Cross Back Arowana

This is a hybrid of Red and CrossBack Golden Arowana. Owing to its cross-bred origin, this fish acquires a stunning look showcasing mixed colors of both Red and Golden Arowana breeds.

These species come with a more prominent scale, brighter colors, and a magnificent body.

Violet Fusion Super Red Arowana

Violet Fusion Arowanas are brighter in appearance with their purple base color in their scales and a great shape. Also, they have a larger tail, along with a pair of longer pectoral fins, which adds to their beauty and style while swimming in the water.

If provided with optimum growing conditions, the perfect shape and color of this fish can be easily accomplished. The adults are predominantly available in the fish trade.

Banjar Red (Grade 2 Red Arowana)

Grade 2 Red Arowanas are the inhabitants of the Banjarmasin river areas. This fish comes with greyish-green base color and lighter red hues on its fins in the juvenile phase.

Nevertheless, the appearance of an adult specimen of this species is immensely changed from that of their young ones. The adults come with a grayish-green body base, along with light reddish or yellowish fin colors.

Tank Requirements

Though Red Asian Arowanas are not much sensitive, they need to be taken proper care of in the aquarium.

These fish are easily found in the riverine habitat of Southeast Asia. They swim around in slow-moving rivers or streams. Thus, you need to keep them in a tropical freshwater aquarium to maintain their good health.

For better care, it is suggested to keep them in a similar tank environment where they can get the proper setup as their natural habitat.

Red Asian Arowana prefers to dwell in warm and acidic water conditions. However, in some places, you need to keep the chemistry of the aquarium slightly alkaline.

Besides, if you are thinking of petting them, you need to keep them in a large aquarium. You must provide them plenty of space in the aquarium to let them swim and jump around at ease.

Also, the substrate bed of the aquarium needs to be laid with a fine substrate, with a few plants, rocks, and tank décors.

Red arowana in an aquarium

Tank Setup

For taking the best care of your Scleropages formosus, you need to keep them in a proper tank setup, which can render them the best environment for living. You can include appropriate assortments in the aquarium for taking good care of your fish to keep them happy.

So, here is how you can ensure a proper tank setup for your Red Asian Arowana.

  • For a fully grown Scleropages formosus, you will need a 250-gallon aquarium. In case the tank is too small, they will not grow properly. Also, it can affect their lifespan. For adding each new Red Asian Arowana, you will require additional 100 gallons of capacity in the aquarium.
  • To start taking proper care, you need to use a fine-grained substrate in the aquarium. A fine-grained substrate will be pretty safe for these fish.
  • These do not require many hiding places. Thus, you can keep them in a lowly decorated aquarium. There is no need for adding a many number of plants as they will do fine with minimal adornments.
  • While adding plants to your aquarium, make sure it is deeply rooted on the substrate as Red Arowanas sometimes tend to dislodge plants and décors.
  • They prefer slightly acidic water in the fish aquarium. So, try to maintain the pH level near 6.
  • These love to dwell in a bit of warm water. Thus, you can maintain the tank temperature within the range of 75-86 ℉.
  • You will also need a powerful filter for the aquarium, as these fish are bigger specimens and can produce much debris.
  • To maintain proper warmth in the water, you can install a heater in the aquarium to keep your fish healthy.
  • At the same time, make sure to add a proper lid to the aquarium to prevent them from jumping out.

Tank Mates

Since these are territorial and aggressive by nature, they cannot be housed with all fish.

Finding a suitable tank mate is quite challenging for Red Asian Arowana, as these fish need to have the right companion, which comes with a similar temperament.

Do not keep them with peaceful or smaller fish like Guppies or Tetras, as they are easily going to fit into their mouth. Most of the freshwater invertebrates are small enough to become a snack for your large Scleropages formosus.

Thus, house them with other larger fish that will not become a victim of their aggression easily. So, here’s a list of suitable tank mates that you can house with your Red Asian Arowana.

  • Knife fish
  • Oscars
  • Blood Parrot Cichlids
  • Discus
  • Large Plecostomus
  • Catfish
  • Convict Cichlids
  • Stingrays
  • Green Terrors

Food & Diet

These fish are highly carnivorous. Thus, they prefer a meat-based diet as their regular food. Offering them a meaty diet will serve them with a proper level of nutrition, which is much needed for their proper care and growth.

When it comes to feeding Red Arowana fish, it is not at all problematic, as you can easily offer them any type of protein-rich food.

You can offer themm foods like crickets, bloodworms, shrimp, flies, tiny frogs, or mealworms for better care. They also readily accept any other small fish as their meal.

However, do you know what the most exciting part about Red Arowana is? Each specimen has its preference for food. So, you need to try a variety of foods when you first time opts for keeping them in your aquarium. Also, giving them only one type of food can make them lack the essential nutritional content.

Foods that come with higher carotenoid levels will be great for feeding them. At the same time, serving this kind of food will help you offer them an appropriate diet for showcasing vibrant colors.

Most importantly, always ensure that their food floats on the upper water column, as Arowanas do not swim to the bottom level for collecting their food. If you keep smaller ones, you have to feed them at least 1-2 times a day. As they grow longer, it is better to offer them a large feeding once in 2 days.

Red arowana looking at you

Care for Red Asian Arowana

Though taking care of Red Arowana seems very difficult for beginners, they are not too tough to care for those who have enough experience in fish-keeping. You can provide them the proper care in your aquarium only if you are maintaining all the essential tank parameters and their diet requirements.

Since they are large and territorial, they will easily defend themselves against any other fish in the aquarium. Also, these fish do not pick up any disease so easily.

As these are much hardy, they are much tolerant even in poor water conditions. But you need to ensure that the tank does not have frequent water condition changes.

Any sudden change in the nitrate level or drop in temperature can lead to severe illness or even death. Thus, you have to be very much careful about fulfilling their tank requirements.

Sometimes, even overfeeding turns out to be a much bigger issue for them. In case your aquarium has a weaker filter, then overfeeding can produce excessive waste. So, maintain a steady tank condition, along with regular testing. Keeping the aquatic environment clean will ensure that they do not suffer from any serious illness.

This freshwater fish can sometimes have eye droop, which is a prevalent health hazard among them. In this condition, both of their eyes start pointing downwards. It may seem like they are looking at the bottom of the aquarium. However, that is not the case.

This condition primarily occurs due to fat build-up behind their eyes. To avoid droop eye disease in Red Arowana, you need to offer them a properly balanced diet and a healthy aquarium environment.

Breeding Guidelines

Breeding Red Arowanas in your home aquarium is not at all easy. You might not be able to breed them, as there are plenty of uncertainties associated with their breeding.

These usually bred commercially under the supervision of specialized breeders. When a Scleropages formosus reach up to 4-inches in length, they are generally microchipped with suitable equipment.

Interesting Facts

Before petting Red Arowanas in your aquarium, you need to know some interesting facts about them.

So, here are a few fun facts about these gorgeous fish, which you must know as a pet owner.

  • These are not at all suitable fish for any regular multi-species aquarium. Scleropages formosus is either best kept on their own, or they need to be kept in a group of 6 specimens in a large enough tank.
  • They can quickly jump over 6 feet of the surface. Hence, never forget to leave the aquarium uncovered.

Where to Buy?

When it comes to the availability of Red Arowanas, they may not be readily available in the regular fish trade. Though the fish is beautiful, they are quite rare to find in the world. Thus, you may not find them in any of the regular aquarist stores.

You can also get them from a hobbyist who cultivates these in fish farms. If you do not find them anywhere, then look for them in any online pet fish and animal store by their common name, Red Arowana. However, the prices of Scleropages formosus are a bit higher than any other regular fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Why are Red Arowanas illegal in the US?

Answer: These fish are classified as rare species as per the Endangered Species Act in the USA. In 1975, 183 countries signed for banning this fish in the international aquarium market while classifying it as a rare species.

Question: How much is a Red Arowana?

Answer: They usually cost around $100- $5000. Also, sometimes they are sold for $300000, which is a large whooping amount, unaffordable by many.

Question: Why are Arowanas so expensive?

Answer: Since these are much hard to find, known as a rare species in the fish trade, and also banned in many nations, it comes as a very expensive one.

Final Thoughts

Red Arowanas are pretty suitable for an aquarium. However, you need to ensure that the aquarium is large enough for carrying large Arowanas. They won’t do well if you house it at any of the random community aquariums.

You need first to introduce them to the aquarium to tame their aggressive nature. Caring for them is quite difficult, and you need to spend a lot of effort to take good care of this unique fish. Besides, as Scleropages formosus fish tend to remain hungry at all-time, you need to be always ready with meaty food to give them adequate nourishment.

Thus, caring for Red Arowana in a tank is not an easy job for a beginner aquarist. You need to have the proper fish-keeping experience to take appropriate care of these fish.