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Black Arowana

(Osteoglossum ferreirai)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Expert   • Temperament: Aggressive   • Maximum Size: 40"
• Minimum Tank Size: 240 gallons   • Water Conditions: 75-85° F, pH 4.5-6.8, KH 2-4
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Rio Negro Basin, South America   • Family: Osteoglossidae
• Species: Arowana   • Aquarium Type: New World Cichlid Aquarium

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Species Information

Black Arowana native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Black Arowana are native to both black and white water floodplains of the Amazon drainage basin (Rio Negro) in South America and can usually be found thriving in still to calm, acidic waters with plenty of vegetation. They are very similar to the Silver Arowana aside from coloration, attitude, a very high resistance to "drop-eye", and that they are a slimmer fish in relation to body depth (it's also believed that they can survive a colder temperature threshold than Silver Arowana).

They are large, highly evolved, powerful predators and can be traced back over 150 million years without many changes (earning them the title, "living fossil"). Black Arowana are also referred to as the "water-monkey", due to their unique predatory behavior; in addition to preying on smaller fish and invertebrates in the water, they will hide, stalk, and jump out of the water to ambush insects, birds, frogs, and small animals and amphibians that happen to be passing by or resting on an overhanging branch or nearby vegetation (adults can leap as high as 6 feet).

Black Arowana can often be found via online fish stores and private sellers, although they are harder to find at local fish stores than their Silver Arowana cousins and may have to be special ordered. Black Arowana are extremely popular with the more experienced to expert hobbyists due to their "fossil" status, beautiful and unique appearance, swimming habits, and the fact that they are a true "bony tongue" species (not to mention their massive adult size and rapid growth rate).

They are a long, flat, ray-finned (Actinopterygii) species with large eyes (offering them great hunting accuracy), a silvery, stream-lined body with large scales, and beautiful, tapered fins that fade from silvery to dark bluish-black with white to pale pinkish to orange edges. As evolved predators, Black Arowana have large, oblique mouths lined with small teeth rooted in their oral bones which include their jaws, tongue, pharynx and palate; they also possess forked barbels on the tip of their bottom jaw used for sensing disturbances on the water surface.

This amazing species can also obtain oxygen from air by drawing it into their swim bladder, which is lined with capillaries similar to those found in lung tissue. They are an exciting species that are constantly swimming around the aquarium, providing plenty of action and enjoyment (and they can live for 20 years!).

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Black Arowana in the home aquarium.

Black Arowana require an aquarium of at least 240 gallons (300+ gallons with at least 30 inches in width is recommended) and should be provided with a sand or gravel substrate along with driftwood (the tannins in the driftwood will keep the pH lower to help simulate blackwater conditions) and vegetation.

They will also require an enclosed top (weighted down depending on the size of the specimen) on their aquarium as they are powerful and notorious jumpers. 25% water changes (RO water is recommended) should be carried out every 2 weeks (more or less frequently, depending on aquarium filtration efficiency).

Black Arowana aren't overly aggressive (although they will hold their own and occasionally chase off other larger fish species), but can become very aggressive towards their own species. They will eat any live fish they can fit in their massive jaws (although they tend to refrain from eating plecos) and tank mates should be considered accordingly. They have been known to do very will with Lima Shovelnose catfish, large Oscars and other large South American species.

The Osteoglossidae family arguably contains the hardiest freshwater fish species' once past the juvenile stage (their first few months), which don't often get sick, although they grow to be very large and become big and messy eaters and can eventually develop health problems if their water chemistry is not properly maintained.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Black Arowana and provide a healthy diet.

Black Arowana are carnivores and are not picky; they should be provided with a variety of meaty and vitamin enriched foods such as live, frozen or freeze-dried ghost shrimp, krill, minnows, bloodworms, blackworms, mealworms, earthworms, crickets, frogs, crayfish, and Cichlid/Arowana pellets or sticks.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Black Arowana in the aquarium environment.

Although breeding is extremely rare in captivity (reported in 1000+ gallon tanks with simulated seasonal conditions), Black Arowana are brood caring, egg-layers; at the beginning of the flood season, they will pair up and build a circular nest in the mud of the floodplains where the female will lay a small amount of eggs. Once fertilized, the male will store and protect the eggs/fry in his mouth until the juveniles yolk sacs have been fully absorbed (around 2 months).

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