Creature Closeup: Silver Arowana

If you hear a splash in Osher Rainforest, it could be one of our arowanas catching some air. Meet these elegant and occasionally acrobatic Amazon dwellers.
April 30, 2024
Sleek, silver-scaled Amazon cruisers

Say olá to our silver arowanas! These large, torpedo-shaped fish are native to the rivers that weave through the Amazon rainforest, from Venezuela to Brazil. Complex and intelligent, our arowanas are trained by our biologists to follow a target and swim into a sling, which makes feedings and checkups easier.

On the menu: Small fish, earthworms, and crickets or roaches, twice a week. Since arowanas can launch themselves six feet out of water to catch prey, keeping our feisty fish well-fed also keeps them out of trouble.

Arowana fish on exhibit in Steinhart Aquarium at California Academy of Sciences. Photo by Gayle Laird
Silver arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum)

Size: Up to 3-4 feet and 13 pounds
Range: River basins in the Amazon region of South America
Habitat: Rivers and flooded forests
IUCN Red List status: Least concern

Silver arowana on exhibit at California Academy of Sciences
Silver arowana photos: Gayle Laird © 2020 California Academy of Sciences
A fitting fish for the Year of the Dragon

Our arowana odyssey continues into the Academy Café, where a different species is on exhibit. Unlike their monochromatic Amazonian cousins, Asian arowanas come in a variety of colors, including shades of red, orange, green, and gold. With their striking coloration, distinctive scales, and characteristic dual barbels on their lower lips, these arowanas have understandably earned the nickname “dragon fish” and are revered as good luck omens in many Asian cultures.

Two orange and silver Asian arowanas on exhibit at California Academy of Sciences
Asian arowana (Scleropages formosus)

Size: Up to 3 feet and 13 pounds
Range: Slow-moving rivers of Southeast Asia
Habitat: Rivers and flooded forests
IUCN Red List status: Endangered

Find arowanas at the Academy

Our silver arowanas can be found in our 100,000-gallon Amazon Flooded Forest habitat. For the best vantage point, observe them from our walk-through Flooded Forest Tunnel. You can also get an aerial view from inside the Osher Rainforest dome. View on map

Our Asian arowanas can be found in the long tanks against the wall of the Academy Café. View on map

What do you think? Click a Claude!


Explore more Phenomena

Aquatic caecilian at the Academy
On exhibit
September 15, 2023
On exhibit
October 23, 2023
On exhibit
September 15, 2023