Asian Arowana – World’s Most Expensive Pet Fish


Conservation status: ENDANGERED
Common name: Asain arowana, Asian bonytongue, dragonfish
Scientific name: Scleropages formosus
Type: Fish
Diet: other fish, insects
Length: 90cm

The Asian arowana (Scleropages formosus) comprises several phenotypic varieties of freshwater fish distributed geographically across Southeast Asia. While most consider the different varieties to belong to a single species, work by Pouyaud et al. (2003) differentiates these varieties into multiple species. They have several other common names, including Asian bonytongue, dragonfish, and a number of names specific to the different color varieties.

Native to Southeast Asia, Asian arowanas inhabit blackwater rivers, slow-moving waters flowing through forested swamps and wetlands. Adults feed on other fish, while juveniles feed on insects.

These popular aquarium fish have special cultural significance in areas influenced by Chinese culture. The name ‘dragonfish’ stems from their resemblance to the Chinese dragon. It is also believed that it brings good luck and prosperity…and as a result, it has become the most expensive aquarium fish – rumor has it that a single fish fetched $300,000 according to National Geographic! This popularity has had both positive and negative effects on their status as endangered species. It is illegal to import to U.S. but 2 million of Asian Arowana is believed to have crossed borders. They are now mass produced in farms.



  1.  Mu, Xi-dong; Hong-mei Song; Xue-jie Wang; Ye-xin Yang; Du Luo; Gand-en Gu; Jian-ren Luo; Yin-chang Hu (2012). “Genetic variability of the Asian arowana, Scleropages formosus, based on mitochondrial DNA genes”. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology.
  2. “Fishbase – Scleropages formosus food items”
  3. Kottelat, M (2011). “Scleropages formosus. In: IUCN 2012”. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. IUCN. Retrieved 22 April 2013.


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