Red Arowana: Full Care Guide

The Red Arowana is an aquatic wonder, radiating grace and luxury from every one of its crimson scales. Found in the freshwater basins of Southeast Asia, these majestic creatures have captivated enthusiasts for generations, earning the title of “King of the Aquarium.”

This guide navigates the journey of caring for Red Arowanas, providing tips and insights to ensure a healthy, thriving environment. It’s not just about maintaining an aquarium, but about building a symbiotic relationship with one of nature’s most exotic spectacles.

General Information

The Red Arowana, also known as the Asian Arowana, is a large freshwater fish that can reach lengths of up to 90 cm. Renowned for their vibrant red scales, they’re seen as symbols of luck and prosperity in various Asian cultures.

These piscivorous creatures inhabit slow-moving rivers, blackwater swamps, and floodplains of Southeast Asia. Being surface feeders, they’re often found near the water surface, scanning for potential prey.

Their rarity and mesmerizing beauty make them highly coveted pets among aquarium enthusiasts. However, due to overfishing and habitat loss, they are currently listed as an endangered species by the IUCN.

Size Of Red Arowana

Red Arowanas are substantial in size and one of the largest freshwater fish kept in home aquariums. In the wild, these majestic fish can grow up to 90 cm (35 inches) in length, although in captivity they often reach sizes of approximately 60-70 cm (24-28 inches). Their impressive size, coupled with a vibrant red color, gives them a commanding presence and makes them a truly breathtaking addition to any large home aquarium.


Red Arowanas are renowned for their striking appearance. Their bodies are long and sleek, characterized by large, metallic scales that shimmer with every movement. These scales, arranged in a mosaic pattern, are typically a vibrant red, although hues can range from orange-red to a deeper crimson depending on diet, age, and care conditions.

One of the defining features of the Red Arowana is its barbels, which are whisker-like appendages near the mouth. These are sensory organs used for detecting food. Equally captivating are its large, expressive eyes that exhibit a rich golden color. The fish’s mouth is sizable and upward-facing, indicative of its surface-feeding nature. Its dorsal, caudal, and anal fins are well-developed, adding to its majestic silhouette. The overall physicality of the Red Arowana exudes power and grace, contributing to its regal reputation among aquatic enthusiasts.

Red Arowana Lifespan

The Red Arowana, much like its other Arowana counterparts, is a long-lived fish. Under optimal care and living conditions, this stunning species can expect to live between 15 to 20 years on average.

However, with exceptional care, it’s not uncommon for Red Arowanas to exceed this average lifespan. There have been documented cases of these magnificent creatures living up to 25 years and, in rare instances, even surpassing 30 years. This impressive longevity contributes to their status as prized possessions among many aquarium enthusiasts.


Red Arowanas demand a specific set of conditions for their thriving existence. Foremost, they require ample space for movement due to their size. For a mature Red Arowana, an aquarium of at least 250 gallons is necessary. Secure the top, as Arowanas have a propensity to leap out of the water.

Maintaining ideal water parameters is another critical aspect of their care. Temperatures should range between 75-86°F, pH between 6.0-7.0, and hardness from 5-15 dGH. Regular water changes help preserve these conditions, ensuring a healthy environment for your fish.

When it comes to feeding, they prefer a protein-rich diet comprising insects, shrimp, and small fish. However, occasional plant-based food is beneficial for balanced nutrition. Ensure the surrounding environment is calm, minimizing abrupt light changes or loud noises to reduce stress.

Tank Size For Red Arowana

Choosing the right tank size for a Red Arowana is crucial due to its impressive size and active nature. As adults, these fish can reach up to 90 cm (about 35 inches) in length, though most commonly grow to around 60-70 cm (24-28 inches) in captivity.

For a single adult Red Arowana, a tank size of at least 250 gallons is recommended. In terms of dimensions, the tank should ideally be at least 6 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet tall. This space allows the Arowana to move, turn, and grow comfortably, ensuring their health and well-being.

Remember, the tank should also have a secure cover, as Arowanas are known to be strong jumpers and may leap out if given the opportunity.

Water Parameters

Maintaining optimal water parameters is essential for the health and well-being of a Red Arowana. Here are the key parameters to keep in mind:

  1. Temperature: Arowanas are tropical fish and prefer a water temperature between 75-86 degrees Fahrenheit (24-30 degrees Celsius).
  2. pH Level: Red Arowanas thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water. Maintain a pH level between 6.0 and 7.0.
  3. Water Hardness: The water hardness should be kept within the range of 5-15 dGH, as they prefer softer water.
  4. Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate Levels: These should ideally be zero. Regular water changes and a good filtration system can help maintain these parameters.
  5. Water Changes: Regular water changes, ideally 25% every week, are necessary to ensure optimal water conditions and remove waste products.

Always remember to make adjustments to these parameters gradually, as sudden changes can stress the fish. Regular monitoring is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your Red Arowana.

Things To Put In Their Tank

Setting up a Red Arowana tank requires careful consideration to create an environment that mirrors their natural habitat and caters to their specific needs. Here are some key elements to include:

  • Substrate: A soft, dark substrate is usually recommended to mimic the dark riverbeds that Arowanas are accustomed to. Sand or fine gravel works well.
  • Decorations: Decorations like driftwood and rocks can provide hiding spots and make the tank visually appealing. However, ensure they are smoothly surfaced to prevent injuries and arranged in a way that still allows ample swimming space.
  • Plants: While Arowanas do not necessarily need plants, they can add aesthetic appeal and improve water quality. Choose sturdy plants or floating varieties as Arowanas can damage delicate ones.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting is suitable for Red Arowanas. Avoid very bright lights as these can stress the fish.
  • Filtration: A powerful filtration system is essential to keep the water clean and free from toxins. Both mechanical and biological filtration are important.
  • Heater: As tropical fish, Arowanas need a heater to maintain a consistent water temperature.
  • Tank Lid: A secure tank lid is a must as Arowanas are skilled jumpers and may attempt to leap out.
  • Tank Mates: If you wish to have tank mates, they should be similar in size to the Arowana and not aggressive. However, always monitor interactions closely to ensure compatibility.

Remember to balance the natural aesthetic you want with the practical necessities of caring for a Red Arowana.


Red Arowanas, like other fish, can succumb to various diseases if their care conditions are not optimal. One such common ailment is Ich or White Spot Disease, a parasitic infection that presents as white spots on the fish’s skin. It can be treated with over-the-counter medications and by raising the tank’s temperature slightly.

Another health issue that can affect Red Arowanas is Dropsy. This condition causes the fish’s body to swell due to fluid accumulation, often resulting from bacterial infections. Dropsy can be challenging to treat and may require antibiotics prescribed by a vet.

Red Arowanas are also prone to experiencing issues with their eyes, particularly a condition known as Cloudy Eye. This disease, marked by a cloudy or milky appearance of the eyes, can result from poor water conditions or injury. Improving water quality and providing appropriate treatment can alleviate this condition.

Lastly, because of their large size and active nature, Red Arowanas can sometimes suffer from physical injuries like scrapes or wounds, often caused by sharp tank decorations or aggressive tank mates. Keeping the aquarium environment safe and stress-free is essential for their overall health.

Red Arowana Diet

Red Arowanas are carnivores, requiring a diet rich in protein to stay healthy and vibrant. In the wild, their diet comprises insects, small fish, and occasionally small birds or mammals that venture too close to the water surface.

In captivity, they enjoy a similar diet. Live or frozen foods like shrimp, crickets, mealworms, and small fish like goldfish or guppies can be given. These foods not only provide the necessary nutrients but also stimulate the Arowana’s natural hunting instincts, promoting healthy activity and behavior.

However, it’s also important to provide some variety in their diet. Occasionally supplementing with high-quality pellet food can ensure they receive all necessary vitamins and minerals. Furthermore, incorporating some plant-based foods like peas or spinach can aid in digestion and provide necessary fiber.

Regular feeding intervals are also key. Most aquarists recommend feeding adult Red Arowanas once or twice a day, adjusting the amount based on the fish’s behavior and physical condition. Younger Arowanas may need more frequent feedings. Always remove any uneaten food to prevent water contamination.

Red Arowana Behavior & Temperament

Red Arowanas are known for their unique behavior and distinctive temperament. They are surface-dwellers and predatory by nature, spending a great deal of time near the top of the tank, scanning the water surface for potential prey. This hunting behavior is a fascinating spectacle and a reflection of their natural instincts.

In terms of temperament, Red Arowanas can be quite territorial and can show signs of aggression, especially towards smaller fish or those they perceive as a threat. This behavior emphasizes the need for careful selection of tank mates, should you choose to house them with other species.

Despite their territorial tendencies, Red Arowanas are also known for their intelligence and have been reported to recognize their caregivers. Some owners even observe interactive behavior, reinforcing the notion that keeping a Red Arowana is not just pet ownership, but a unique companionship.

Tank Mates

Choosing suitable tank mates for a Red Arowana requires careful consideration due to their large size and predatory nature. Ideally, tank mates should be peaceful, but large enough not to be seen as prey by the Arowana.

Fish such as large cichlids, other large catfish, or larger species of plecostomus can often cohabit peacefully with Arowanas. These fish are typically robust and fast enough to avoid any potential aggression from an Arowana.

However, it’s important to monitor the interactions among your fish closely. Even with suitable tank mates, each Arowana has a unique personality and might not tolerate others. If any signs of aggression are observed, it may be necessary to separate the fish.

Finally, remember that the Red Arowana’s primary requirement is ample space. A crowded tank can lead to stress and territorial disputes, regardless of the specific species involved. Therefore, ensure your tank is sufficiently large if you plan to house multiple fish.


Breeding Red Arowanas is an intricate task, mainly due to their specific reproductive process. They are mouthbrooders, meaning the male carries the fertilized eggs in his mouth until they hatch, protecting them from potential predators.

The process starts with conditioning the breeding pair, providing them a high-quality diet to encourage spawning. Post-spawning, the female releases her eggs, which the male then fertilizes and collects in his mouth. He then safeguards these eggs, nurturing them through the incubation period until the fry are ready to venture out.

It’s worth noting that breeding Red Arowanas in a home aquarium setting is extremely challenging due to their specific requirements. Hence, most Red Arowanas available in the pet trade come from professional breeders who specialize in replicating the natural conditions needed for successful breeding.


With the Red Arowana’s majestic appearance and intriguing behavior, it’s no surprise that they are highly sought after in the aquarist world. The successful care of this magnificent species involves dedication and a comprehensive understanding of their specific needs, from appropriate tank size and conditions to a balanced, nutritious diet.

Although the journey of maintaining a Red Arowana can be a challenging one, the reward is a vibrant, thriving, and interactive pet that can become a centrepiece in your home. Whether you’re a novice aquarist or a seasoned hobbyist, caring for a Red Arowana can offer an unparalleled, enriching experience.

About The Author

Ellie McDaniel is an experienced aquarium pet owner, whose expertise infuses her informative articles. She shares her deep understanding of aquatic pets, their care, and maintenance through engaging and insightful writings.

Ellie’s knowledge and passion for aquarium pets shine through her articles, providing an invaluable guide for fellow enthusiasts. Her practical experience resonates with readers, making her a trusted resource in the diverse world of aquarium pet care.