Black arowana

The black arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai) is a South American freshwater bony fish of the family Osteoglossidae. Black arowanas are sometimes kept in aquariums, but they are predatory and require a very large tank.[2] It is generally common,[3] but large numbers are caught as food and for the aquarium fish trade.[4]

Black arowana
Osteoglossum ferreira - Zoo Frankfurt 1.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Osteoglossiformes
Family: Osteoglossidae
Genus: Osteoglossum
O. ferreirai
Binomial name
Osteoglossum ferreirai


The specific name ferreirai is named in honour of Alexandre Rodrigues Ferreira, the Portuguese-Brazilian naturalist who first reported this species.[5]

Range and habitatEdit

The black arowana is native to tropical South America where restricted to the Rio Negro basin, including the Branco River.[3][6][7] Black arowanas were discovered in the 1970s in the Orinoco basins, but whether this is a natural population or the result of introductions by humans is disputed.[4][7]

It is essentially a sedentary (non-migratory) species of blackwater habitats.[4] During the dry season it mostly inhabits backwaters, marginal lagoons and small tributaries, but it is often seen in flooded forests during the high water season.[3]


The black arowana has an elongated body and a tapered tail. Their maximum total length is typically considered to be 0.9 m (3.0 ft),[6] but there are reports of individuals up to 1.2 m (3.9 ft).[4] The juveniles are black with yellow markings down the length of the body, head and the tail. Once it reaches about 15 cm (0.5 ft), the markings disappear and the fish will develop a dark iridescent steel grey to blue coloration, hence its common name. Additionally, there are yellow and red outlining or the dorsal, caudal and tail fins. In contrast to the juveniles, adults are very similar to the silver arowana (O. bicirrhosum), but the two species can be separated by meristics.[8]

Some Asian aquarists occasionally refer to arowana as dragonfish due to their unique appearance and believe they bring good luck.[2]


South American arowanas are sometimes called water monkey or the monkey fish, because they can jump out of the water to capture their prey. They usually swim near the water surface looking for food. Although it has been known to eat larger prey like small bats and small monkeys,[2][9] their main diets consist of shrimps, insects, smaller fishes and other animals that float on the water surface, on which its draw-bridge-like mouth is exclusively adapted for feeding.

The females spawn during the high water season. The up to 210 eggs are mouthbrooded by the male and the young only fully released when about 7 cm (2.8 in) long.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Osteoglossum ferreirai". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 19 March 2006.
  2. ^ a b c Hill, N. (13 June 2016). "Predators: South American Arowana". Practical Fishkeeping. Retrieved 25 October 2017.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c Reis, R & Lima, F. (2009). "Osteoglossum ferreirai". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009: e.T167687A6367885. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009-2.RLTS.T167687A6367885.en. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Olivares; Hrbek; Escobar; Caballero (2013). "Population structure of the black arowana (Osteoglossum ferreirai) in Brazil and Colombia: implications for its management". Conserv. Genet. 14 (3): 695–703. doi:10.1007/s10592-013-0463-1.
  5. ^ l, Maria Doris Escobar; Farias, Izeni P.; b, Donald C. Taphorn; Landines, Miguel; Hrbek, Tomas (2013). "Molecular diagnosis of the arowanas Osteoglossum ferreirai Kanazawa, 1966 and O. Bicirrhossum (Cuvier, 1829) from the Orinoco and Amazon River basins". Neotropical Ichthyology. 11 (2): 335–340. doi:10.1590/S1679-62252013000200011.
  6. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2017). "Osteoglossum ferreirai" in FishBase. October 2017 version.
  7. ^ a b Escobar; Farias; Taphorn; Landines; Hrbek (2013). "Molecular diagnosis of the arowanas Osteoglossum ferreirai Kanazawa, 1966 and O. bicirrhossum (Cuvier, 1829) from the Orinoco and Amazon River basins". Neotrop. Ichthyol. 11 (2): 335–340. doi:10.1590/S1679-62252013000200011.
  8. ^ Schofield, P.J.; L.G. Nico; P.L. Fuller; W.F. Loftus; M. Neilson (6 August 2013). "Osteoglossum bicirrhosum". U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  9. ^ Mikula, P. 2015: Fish and amphibians as bat predators. European Journal of Ecology 1 (1): 71-80. doi: 10.1515/eje-2015-0010