Common Name: African Arowana
Scientific Name: Heterotis niloticus
Other Names: Nile Arowana, African Arapaima
The African Arowana is a sought-after and primitive fish that captures the hearts of serious aquarists. With its elongated body, robust and short head, large independent eyes, and thick lips, this fish is often considered prehistoric in appearance. The body is covered in large, oval, dark bronze scales with a beautiful greenish-blue iridescence, making it a striking addition to any aquarium.
Habitat and Distribution: The African Arowana is native to the African continent and can be found in all basins of the Sahelo-Sudanese region, including the Senegal, Gambia, Corubal, Volta, Ouémé, Niger, Bénoue, Chad, and Nile basins, as well as Lake Turkana. They are adapted to living in both still and flowing waters, including rivers, streams, lakes, and swamps.
Size and Lifespan: In the wild, the African Arowana can grow up to 3.2 feet in length, while in captivity they can reach up to 2 feet. Their lifespan can exceed 10 years if kept in ideal conditions.
Diet and Behavior: The African Arowana is an omnivorous fish and feeds primarily on plankton in the wild. In the aquarium, they can be fed a variety of foods, including frozen blood worms, chopped raw tilapia, protein-rich pellets, and vegetables. They are a filter feeder, and their feeding habits can be challenging to replicate in the aquarium. They also sift the substrate in their mouth, which can be harmful if the substrate is not soft. They can be sensitive to water quality when young and may not accept commercial dry foods. They can be a challenging species to keep when young, so they are recommended for experienced fish keepers.
Breeding and Reproduction: The African Arowana is an oviparous species that breeds during the rainy season in still-water environments. They build a large circular nest with an edge formed by pieces of plants, protruding above the surface. The male takes care of the fry, and they demonstrate parental care. Breeding the African Arowana in captivity is rare, and commercial breeding operations are limited.
Aquarium Care and Tank Requirements: The African Arowana requires a minimum tank size of 150 gallons and soft substrate such as fine sand to protect its mouth while feeding. They can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and do well in a well-maintained and established aquarium. Water parameters for the African Arowana should be kept between a temperature of 75-86°F, a pH range of 6.7-7.5, and a GH range of 2-15.
Ideal Tank Mates: The African Arowana is peaceful with fish that it does not see as prey and can be kept in a community aquarium with similarly sized fish. However, they show territorial behavior towards other Arowana, and they should not be kept with their own kind.
Difficulty Level: The African Arowana is a challenging species to keep, particularly when young, but it can be a rewarding experience for experienced fish keepers.
Additional Information:African Arowana are often mistaken as true Arowanas but they actually belong to the Arapaimidae family. They are commonly known as Nile Arowanas due to their resemblance to Asian Arowanas, which are also known as Dragon Fish or Asian Bonytongues.
In the wild, African Arowanas are known to live in stagnant and slow-moving waters such as lakes, swamps, and floodplains. They are usually found in areas with dense vegetation and prefer areas with a lot of organic matter in the water.
In some parts of Africa, African Arowanas are considered a delicacy and are often hunted for their meat. They are also sometimes used in traditional medicine.
Although African Arowanas are not yet classified as a threatened species, their populations in some areas have been declining due to habitat destruction and overfishing. Conservation efforts are being made to preserve their populations and prevent them from becoming endangered.
African Arowanas have an interesting and unique behavior of swimming upside down near the water surface. This behavior is believed to help them find food, as they are able to see prey swimming above them more easily.
Due to their large size and territorial behavior, African Arowanas require a spacious aquarium with plenty of hiding spots and vegetation. They are not recommended for beginner aquarists, but can be a rewarding and fascinating species for experienced fish keepers.
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