Arowanas are among the largest freshwater fish in the world – some species can even grow up to 2.5 meters long. These fish are considered as “living fossils”, as they have been around since the time of the dinosaurs. As such, they have a number of unusual features such as a long body covered with large, heavy scales; a bony head; and a bony “tongue” on the floor of the mouth, really a bone with teeth which bite against those on the roof of the mouth. Aside from using gills to breathe, they can also breathe air through their mouths thanks to a swim bladder that works like a lung.
These large and powerful fish are meat eaters – birds, bats, and insects which have the misfortune to come within range of its six-foot high leap out of the water are gobbled up along with other fish, frogs, and prawns. Regardless of its carnivorous nature, they are good parents, protecting their eggs dutifully in nests or by keeping them safely tucked away inside their mouths. Young arowanas stick with their parents after they hatch, staying under their protection until such time that they could be able to fend for themselves.
The Asian species of arowana are some of the most exclusive and best colored fish in Southeast Asia’s rivers, lakes, and wetlands. The four types in the area are the gold, the yellow, the green, and the red species. The red variety is the rarest and most highly-prized fishes; collectors, especially the Chinese, are drawn to its deep red color. Some see a beautiful addition to their fish tank, while others see a symbol of wealth and luck. Such collecting has contributed significantly to the decline of their numbers in the wild, so much so that the fish is now considered a protected species in the area.