Osteoglossum bicirrhosum (Silver Arowana)

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum (Silver arowana) is an expensive, demanding, and prized fish in the aquarium hobby. In this species profile, Arowanas are called fish of the dragon because they are known to be intelligent and beautiful, even in aquaria. Osteoglossum bicirrhosum, or silver arowana, is one of several species in the Arowana family, native to freshwater habitats in Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, New Guinea, and other surrounding areas.

We’ll look at everything you need to know about keeping and breeding this freshwater species, including its natural habitat and water requirements, diet, and care.

You’ll also learn about the best way to go about purchasing one of these fish from your local pet store or online dealer, as well as where you can find both captive-bred and wild-caught examples of this species for sale.

Origin and descriptions

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum

The Silver Arowana originates from South America, where it can be found in Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, and Peru. The name of its species comes from Greek osteo meaning bone and Latin glossum meaning tongue. It is also referred to as Grey Arowana, Mouth Arowana, or just simply Arowana.

They are very big fish with some weighing up to 150lb (70kg). Their max length is 47 inches with most specimens being just 36 inches in length. The maximum recorded age for an Osteoglossum bicirrhosum is 27 years old. This makes them one of the longest living species among all freshwater fishes! Keep reading to learn more about these amazing creatures!

Osteoglossum species profile

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum, commonly known as silver arowana, is one of three species of Asian long-tailed freshwater fish in the genus Osteoglossum. A native to Southeast Asia and China, it is also found in Indonesia and Malaysia. Osteoglossum bicirrhosum can reach up to 47 inches but are typically around 32-36 inches long when fully grown.

In its natural habitat, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum prefers slow-moving water at about 70°F where there is plenty of vegetation for shelter. Due to their large size and high price tag, not many aquariums have them on display. They like soft, slightly acidic water with low nitrates that are lightly planted with roots and driftwood for cover.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum, or Asian bonytongue, is an ancient species of fish, native to Southeast Asia. It is highly sought after as an ornamental fish due to its attractive metallic scales which make it quite valuable. Though large at maturity, it can be kept in small containers for some time and will eventually outgrow them so that permanent housing is needed.

While they do get extremely large—6 feet long in some cases—they don’t usually get too aggressive until much later on when they are nearing their maximum size. Silver arowanas should always be housed alone since adult males are aggressive towards other members of their own species. A tank measuring 4 feet by 2 feet by 18 inches or 3 feet by 2 feet by 18 inches is sufficient for one adult male silver arowana with filtration.


Silver arowanas prefer slow-moving freshwater habitats with abundant aquatic vegetation. They inhabit rivers, lakes, floodplains, swamps, and oxbow lakes. Unlike blackwater species, they are able to tolerate poor water quality.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum size

This species can grow up to 36 inches (91 cm) in length. However, a maximum length of 47 inches (120 cm) has been recorded for this fish.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for this species is 150 gallons, larger is always better to give the fish more room to swim around and explore the tank.

Tank set up

To replicate their natural habitat, set up an aquarium with plenty of live plants or wood. Leave room for swimming, as arowanas are very active swimmers. The tank should be at least 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet tall. Arowanas have been known to jump from tanks, so it’s best to house them in a fish-only tank without corals or other decorations that could get damaged if they jump out.

Many owners choose to keep adult Osteoglossum bicirrhosum males separately because they can become territorial and aggressive towards each other, but juveniles can generally be kept together.

The water temperature should stay between 79 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 74 degrees at night. Use a heater rather than making changes in temperature—the change itself may stress your pet fish. Water circulation is also important, so place an aquarium filter with an adjustable flow rate near one end of the tank to provide plenty of oxygen for your Osteoglossum bicirrhosum.

Silica-based or ceramic gravel will help maintain good water quality and do not cause damage to your Arowana’s barbels, which can happen if you use pebbles made from rocks such as limestone or sandstone.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum tank mates

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum

Arowanas are notoriously aggressive, but there are some rare cases where they’ve been kept with more passive species. Some aquarists have kept them in groups of three or four, but any additions should be done carefully to ensure that no individual is picked on by another. The tank should be very large and provide plenty of hiding spots for timid species. Silver arowanas are best kept alone due to their aggressive nature.

Some good tank mates are large cichlids, rasboras, freshwater sharks, pufferfish, and large angels. Any fish that is not timid should be fine as long as there’s enough space for them to avoid any confrontations with your silver Arowana.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum breeding

When pairing up, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum can be quite picky, preferring fish of their own species over all others. They will chase away nearly any potential mate at first but will accept other Osteoglossum bicirrhosum once they have demonstrated that they are not bothered by their presence or tank mates.

The female will lay eggs in open water with little to no input from the male. Both parents will protect their fry fiercely until they become free swimming, at which point both parties usually abandon them without a second thought. Osteoglossum bicirrhosum is particularly well known for its habit of eating its young if given half a chance. Males may also harrass females during courtship. For these reasons, it’s best to keep only one pair per tank.

Are silver arowana aggressive or peaceful?

If you’re considering an adult Osteoglossum bicirrhosum as an addition to your freshwater aquarium, there are a few points that should be considered. Although these fish aren’t particularly aggressive, they are known for their territorial nature.

If space is not available for all of your tank mates, it might be best to go with another species. In larger tanks with more open areas, silver arowanas can get along quite well with other medium-sized tropical fish.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum care

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum is an exotic species of fish from South America. Native to Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Bolivia, and Uruguay; it is usually found in dark forested waters. Silver arowana is one of three types of Asian Arowanas that are sold worldwide for aquarium purposes. This species is typically more expensive than its African counterpart as Asian Osteoglossums are considered rarer in comparison.

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum food

Silver Arowanas are mostly omnivorous fish, with meat being an important part of their diet. However, in order to keep these fish healthy in captivity, you must feed them a variety of food items. Silver Arowanas will gladly accept chunks of prawns, mussels, cockles, crabs, or squid amongst other meaty foods. They will also consume live plants if they are available but should not be relied upon as a primary source of nutrition for most specimens.

Water parameters

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum

Arowanas, like all fishes, need clean water in order to thrive. Water parameters should be roughly around pH of 6.0-7.5; a temperature of 22-26 degrees C (72-79 degrees F); hardness of 0-15 dH (3-8 dGH); specific gravity of 1.005 -1.020 SG; ammonia and nitrite 0 ppm for freshwater, 1 ppm for brackish water fish with nitrate not to exceed 20 ppm if using sea salt mix.

All of these numbers are just guidelines for keeping your silver arowana in good health as long as you keep them within range! The most important thing is that your aquarium or tank has been set up properly before introducing any new fish. And then monitor them regularly from there on out—daily even—especially when new fish are introduced into a tank or aquarium.

If there’s something wrong with their environment, it needs to be noticed early on so you can make corrections accordingly before any illness sets in!

Osteoglossum bicirrhosum lifespan

This fish species can live up to 7 years with good care.

Parasites and diseases

Arowanas are very rarely infected with parasites or other disease agents. If a disease is diagnosed, it may be due to environmental conditions such as poor water quality, inadequate nutrition, overcrowding, or stress. There is no way to treat an established case of the disease in any aquarium fish but prevention through good management practices is possible.

When purchasing new fish, always quarantine them for at least 3 weeks before introducing them into your main tank. If a problem does arise it is important that action is taken quickly and thoroughly, don’t just treat one part of your aquarium and hope for the best; instead, concentrate on finding out what caused your problem in order to prevent future outbreaks.


Given their impressive size, Arowanas are primarily fish-eaters. Their main source of food is live, small fish. During their juvenile years, young Osteoglossums eat crustaceans such as crayfish and shrimp. Aquarists should avoid adding these to an aquarium that has silver arowanas to ensure they get proper nutrition throughout all life stages.

Once fully grown, silver arowanas are extremely aggressive feeders that can strip larger fishes of flesh in less than ten minutes.

Do Osteoglossum bicirrhosum make good pets?

Yes. The Silver Arowana is one of the most sought-after species in aquatics, due to its unique coloration, rarity, and price tag.  They are not as delicate as other arowanas, so they tend to do well when added to community aquariums. But keep in mind that because they are nocturnal and have poor vision, they might become food for more active fish like barbs or African cichlids.