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The World of Arowana

The keeping of dragon fish in aquariums in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia began in the early '70's and gained quickly in popularity during the '80's. This interest then spread to Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan in spite of the fish being listed as an endangered and protected species and prohibited from trade worldwide by the Convention in Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna CITES; only allowing limited trade of an allocated annual quota from Indonesia. However, Singapore's success in documenting the breeding of this fish in captivity caused CITES to approve worldwide trade of such Singapore captive-bred dragon fish in August, 1994.

Dragon Fish are found in S.E. Asia where it is popular and expensive. Each has its unique feature and color, for example, Malaysia has her Gold Dragon Fish and Green Dragon Fish whereas Indonesia has her Red, Red-tail Gold and Green Dragon Fish.

We can classify them according to these 4 species:

  1. Indonesian Red-tail Gold Dragon Fish
  2. Malaysian Gold Dragon Fish or Malayan Bonytongue
  3. Indonesian Red Dragon Fish
  4. Green Dragon Fish

The Dragon Fish from S.E. Asia as compared to the South American Arowanas have rounder and broader bellies. When young, their back portions are horizontal. When fully grown, their backs become slightly arched. The depth of their body - 4 to 5.5 inches. Scales are coarse and big. Pelvic Fin and Anal Fin are of the same length. Caudal Fins have 2 shapes - Pear and Fan; 3 back fins (tail, anal, dorsal) are not joint; Mouth extremely big and slanting, the slit extends beyond the eyes, teeth tiny, closely packed and sharp, mouth is rectangular in shape when open. Eyes are big. A pair of mandibular barbels grow out of the tip of its lower mouth. This fish can grow up to 30 inches weighing 7 kilos in an Aquarium.

Breeding is not easy. Each time, approximately 40 to 70 eggs are laid of diameter about 1.72 cm. This fish is a mouth brooder. When hatched, the baby fishes cluster within the male Dragon Fish's mouth for protection. Normally, it is the male fish's duty to protect the babies in its mouth but when the number gets too big, the female does help.

In the wild, the fish lives near the surface of clean, standing or slow flowing shallow waters in blind arms of inland rivers and lakes in dense jungle. Water temperature of about 27°C, pH of 6.5 to 7.0 and water hardness of H8 are the characteristics of the water it thrives in. It is aggressive in nature and very defensive about its habitat.

Red Tail Gold Dragon Fish

The back portion is dark green, including the dorsal fin and upper half of its tail fin.

The color of the scales are gold. A good fish has 1/2 of each scales glittering. Its gill cover does not have any red color. The whole gill cover is a glittering gold color.

This attractive specie is found in Kalimantan and Sumatra. It is reasonably priced.

Malayan Bonytongue

Characteristics similar to the Red-Tail Gold Dragon Fish, except for its golden scales overlapping the dark greenish back causing the whole body to shine.

This breed is in great demand because of limited supply. Hence, it is more expensive than the Red Tail Gold Dragon Fish. Sometimes it is even more expensive than the red variety.

Red Dragon Fish

The gill covers have unique red coloring. All the fins and the edges of the scales are in the following colors: apricot, pink, deep red, blood red and even brown or liver colored.

Green Dragon Fish

Green scales. Body shape is shorter and smaller. Its lateral line is very prominent.

Its natural source is in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Burma. It can be easily captive-bred. The more expensive breeds have scales that are purplish-spotted in color. Others are more ordinary and not so costly.