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Getting Ready

If you have decided to keep an asian arowana, don't wait till the last minute, start right now. You will find fun from this procedure and also learn a lot about how to set up an aquarium. Let's get started from necessary hardware you need:

Aquarium Tank

To avoid the trouble of changing tanks, it is suggested that your tank should at least be 1.5m long and 0.6m wide in size. If you are going to keep a young juvenile arowana, it would be better if you place a divider (e.g. a transparent plastic board) to reduce the space so that the young arowanas wont have the panic caused by a large and empty space. Of course, you can choose even bigger tanks to use if you are going to keep an adult arowana (with the size of 30cm and above).

It is not necessary to fasten a background color on your tank. However, after properly designed, a background will give your aquarium more elegant looking and moreover, help enhancing the colorization of your arowana. Regarding the choice of background, we have the following suggestions for your information:

a. It would be better to us sheer black background on the back or even sides of your tank if you are going to keep a red arowana.
b. Use white background if keeping juvenile golden arowanas. And change the background to blue or even black when your arowana reaches its adulthood (with a size of 30cm or above), when its gold colorization has been stable. It wont be a problem if you start using deep color background to a young fish, deep color only tends to give your arowana blue base when it grows into a bigger size.
c. It is highly suggested that setting your background before putting your arowanas in the tank, as your activities will cause considerable pressure onto arowanas, especially young arowanas.
d. Newspaper, rubber-bands, polythene bags, scotch-tape and medication (in the event of injury)

Last, you will need a cover for your aquarium in case your arowana may jump out of the tank. For adult arowanas, spare weights should be placed on the top of the cover since adult arowanas may be strong enough to hit and push the cover to open.

Filtration System

In charge of maintaining water quality, filtration system is the heart of your aquarium. Thus you need pay most of your attention and your budget on setting up an effective filtration system. Otherwise you may encounter lots of problems afterwards.

Keeping arowanas requires effective mechanical and biological filtration. But this does not mean that you need prepare more than one filtration systems. One carefully designed filter is enough to maintain the whole tank. According to our experiences, the following two types of filters are more suitable for arowana tanks:

a. Aquarium Wet/Dry (trickle) Filter: This type of filters has many designs. But it normally sits under the tank. The water overflows from the tank into your filter tank and processed by mechanical filtering media, such as filtering wool or foam pad. After that, the water trickles slowly through biological filter media, which is designed to house beneficial bacteria. Next the water goes into a sump where a pump sits at the bottom. The water is returned to the tank via the pump.

b. Top Filter: Water is pumped into a box on the top of your tank. After mechanical pre-filtering, the water flows through biological media and return to the tank. Multiple boxes can be used if the space is allowed.

These two types of filters have the best biological filtration since they can accommodate considerable amount of biological filter media and mix oxygen while filtering. In addition, these two filters are easy to design and maintain by yourself. A informative wet/dry filter DIY example can be found here.

For newly set tank and filter system, no carefulness is too much. A hobbyist should notice the following problems regarding a all-new tank:


Filter wool or foam pad should be clean and smelless.

2. Ceramic rings and other biological media should be clean and smelless. Dirty, greasy and fragile ceramic rings should not be used.
3. If activated carbon is used, do not use those are dusty or hard to clean while rinsing.
4. Wash all the filter media by fresh water before use. 
5. Wash the new tank to get rid of any toxic residua, such as formol and silicone glue. Aquarium salt can be used while rinsing.

Other Devices

Besides a tank and a filter, the following devices are also necessary:-

1. Air pump: An air pump helps getting rid of chlorines and add oxygen into water. For the community tank with a number of fishes, air pump is even more important to maintain the oxygen level in the aquarium.
2. Lamp: First, a lamp give more nice looking to your aquarium. Second, use a timed lamp prevents your fishes get scared when you suddenly switch on your room light at night. For example, you may set the timer working from 3pm to 10pm. Moreover, proper light helps enhance your arowanas colorization. You may use white fluorescent lamp for gold arowanas and pink lamp for red arowanas.
3. Heater: A auto on-off heater is necessary if you live in a place where temperature can be lower than 25°C.


Water Quality

With these equipments ready, we are now at the final step of the whole preparing stage: Aging water. There is no standard answer to how long the aging should be. But 24hr is definitely insufficient. For a new tank, you do need spend several days to guarantee that the water is safe and suitable for arowanas. Within these days, keep the air pump and filter (also the heater if temperature is low) working, to repel the chlorine, add oxygen and maintain proper water temperature. Two days after the aging process, you may tentatively put some tropical fishes, like sucker fish and neon tetra, into your tank. Meanwhile, add beneficial bacteria powder into the biological filter media to build the biological system in the tank. It is important to put live fishes in because their waste helps raising the bacteria. Also, the health of these small fishes roughly shows if the water is safe and suitable for tropical fishes.

According to our experiences, during your aging process, a hobbyist should pay enough attention on the following three aspects:

1. No toxic chemicals, such as chlorine, ammonia, etc.
2. Proper temperature is controlled between 26~30°C.
3. Proper PH is close to 7.0.

Failure on maintaining these may cause severe problems when you release your arowana into the tank. So keeping eyes on those small tropical fishes helps you define any possible problems. Finally, we would like to point out that it is better not to put any PH conditioner or water conditioner with PH effects (such as black water) before putting your arowana in the tank, because this may lead to a big PH gap between your water and the water at farm or shop. Unlike temperature gap, PH gap is more difficult to slowly balance before releasing the fish into tank.

It is worthy to point out that, if you have had an aquarium in use. You may have been familiar with the above processes. But there might be another risk --- the risk from the fishes in your current tank. For a juvenile arowana, keeping it in a tank where there are already predatory fishes is not suggested, because predatory fishes may attack young arowanas and get the young fish panic in a long period of time. If your new arowana is an adult arowana, this kind of risk may be less. However, being prepared to cope with such a issue is important, especially when the current fish in your tank is already an arowana. It is hard to say whether your current and new arowanas could go along with each other well, since this is totally determined by their own characters and this should be found by the owner him/herself. But following the methods below, serious results can be prevented:

1. Use a transparent divider to separate your current and new arowanas for several days. Tentatively remove the divider and view them for a period of time, separate them immediately if attack or fight occurs.
2. Remove the stuff that arowanas may use to mark their own territories, such as drift wood and other decorative articles.
3. Constant viewing is very important. It is common that fight occurs between arowanas which were friendly to each other.

The instructions above cover the most important aspects. There might be some other problems you may meet in your case. Panda Aquatic Centre is willing to give you assistance and help you out hopefully. Please feel free drop up an email or a line in our forum.

While doing your preparations, you may start visiting farms or shops and looking for your arowana. Now you need do homework to decide which farm or shop you are going to buy from, so that your arowana has the value equal to or more than its price.