Feeding Your Arowana

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Wiggles92

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Introduction

First off, this is a general feeding guide for all arowanas, so please do not ask if one species or another needs something different; species-specific food needs will be covered in the species profiles. There will be a section in regards to feeding appropriate foods for three sizes: babies, medium-sized, and the big boys.

Arowanas are carnivorous fishes, and their wild diet consists mainly of insects, fishes, prawns, worms, and small amphibians. Live foods are preferred by arowanas though they can be trained to accept other foods. Variety in food is a MUST to avoid nutritional deficiency. Live food is generally more nutritious than its non-live counterpart. However, the risk of introducing diseases into the tank is greatly increased when live food is used; this is especially true when the live food lives in freshwater. Live food should be quarantined for at least a few days before feeding to the arowana in order to ensure that it is healthy & parasite-free as well as to gut-load it. In the end, the golden rule is "If a food is in doubt, then don't use it," as there are always other types of food available. Remember that the key to a good diet is variety and freshness because no food has all the needed nutrients thus you need to provide your arowana(s) with a varied & healthy diet.

Small arowanas (<15cm) should be fed three times a day, medium arowanas (15-35cm) need fed twice a day, and large arowanas (above 35cm) can be fed once a day or every other day. An arowana may lose its appetite and starve itself for a few days if it is overfed for a long period of time. Overfeeding can also shorten the lifespan of the arowana and affect its breeding capability, so it should be avoided if at all possible.
 

Wiggles92

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List of Foods

Crickets:
Crickets are a nutritious food, and the risk of disease transmission is very low. Use the appropriate size crickets for different size arowanas. The hard shell of crickets should be removed before feeding them to baby arowanas in order to avoid intestinal injury. Only use farm raise crickets as wild caught crickets may be contaminated with insecticide. You may gut-load the crickets prior to feeding them to the arowana as this is a great way to transfer nutrients and enhance coloration. Crickets may be frozen to avoid hassle, but the percentage of nutrients retained when frozen is uncertain and requires further study.

Cockroaches:
Similar to crickets in nutrition. Do not feed dead cockroaches to arowanas as they might have been killed by insecticide. It is advisable to keep the cockroach for a couple of days before using it as any cockroach that has been exposed to insecticide should be dead after a few days. Commercially available feeder cockroaches are preferable over ones that you might catch as they are insecticide-free and often are already gut-loaded.

Centipedes:
Centipedes are a very nutritious food for arowanas. They are commonly used in Asia to enhance and intensify the coloration of arowanas. Unfortunately, the availability of this food is low; frozen centipedes are more readily available than live ones.

Live Fish:
Almost any disease & parasite-free bite-size fish that is not poisonous can be used for arowana food. Feeder goldfish, minnows, baby koi, baby catfish, and small cichlids are commonly used as feeders. There is potential risk of disease transmission when this type of food is used; quarantine is a must as it will screen out most sick fishes. Goldfish and some other Cyprinids are believed to contained enzymes that will lead to nutritional deficiencies in arowanas, so use them sparingly or not at all.

Fish Meat:
Fresh fish meat can be used. Trim all the fat away and cut the pieces to bite size. Wash them before use in order to avoid contaminating the aquarium water; be sure to avoid oily fishes such as salmon. Use frozen fish meat with caution as it may contain denatured proteins which may lead to liver and internal organ damage in the long run. Frozen products also can contain preservatives that can kill your fish, so try to find preservative-free foods, if possible.

Live Prawns/Shrimps:
Prawns/shrimps are a very nutritious food and are rich in Vitamin A which helps to enhance an arowana's coloration. Avoid feeding baby arowana prawns/shrimps as their shells are hard to digest and may cause intestinal injury. Do not leave uneaten live prawns/shrimps in the aquarium as they can die & rot which will cause ammonia spikes. Diseases from saltwater rarely, if ever, transfer to freshwater, so there is very little risk in feeding saltwater prawns/shrimps.

Prawn/Shrimp Meat:
Use only fresh prawns. Removal of the head is recommended as it is hard to digest; the gills may have high concentrations of germs & toxins, too. Prepare the prawn into bite sizes and wash it before use. You can also use frozen raw shrimp. Remove the shell from the shrimp and break up it up for younger arowanas; older arowanas can eat the shell plus it can help improve the red tones in the fish.

Krill:
Krill is a nutritious food and is readily available. Use appropriate-sized krill for different sizes of arowana. Prior to feeding krill to a baby arowana, crush the shell then soak the krill in order to soften the shell as hard krill may cause intestinal injury. It is also somewhat expensive, so use it sparingly and/or to get an arowana eating.

Bloodworms:
Bloodworms are mainly used to feed baby arowanas as they are a nutritious food. Rinse away impurities before use, and do not feed bloodworms when they're frozen as they may cause intestinal issues. Avoid older bloodworms as they are hard for baby arowanas to digest. Live bloodworms are preferable, but commercially available bloodworms are equally acceptable when fresh. Freeze-dried bloodworms may also used.

Tubifex worms:
Tubifex worms are collected from highly contaminated drains and should be avoided unless properly treated. Commercially breed tubifex worms claim to be cleaner, but their sources are sometimes questionable; this goes to frozen tubifex worms, too. Freeze-dried tubifex worms are cleaner but the possibility of germs surviving through the freeze-drying process cannot be ruled out. High heavy metal content in the source is also a worry with tubifex worms.

Mealworms/Superworms:
Mealworms/superworms are healthy and nutritious. Avoid feeding them to baby arowanas as their hard shell is difficult to digest and may cause digestive problems or/and intestinal injuries. Use worms that have just shed their shells. An older shell will have darker coloration than a newer shell, so choose pale-looking mealworms/superworms. In order to ease digestion, the head should be removed prior to feeding the worm to the arowana if it will accept non-live worms.

Earthworms:
Earthworms are very healthy and nutritious, and the risk of disease transmission is minimal. Squeezing the soil out of the worm before feeding is recommended; it is preferable to feed the earthworm nutritious foods in order to clear out the soil and to transfer the nutrients. Earthworms are highly recommended by most arowana keepers.

Pellets/food sticks:
There are many commercial pellets/food sticks available. Their nutritional value varies, so choose a reputable brand. Pellets/food sticks specially formulated for arowanas are recommended, but this should not be the only food of arowana although it can be used as the main staple of the arowana's diet.

Frogs:
Frogs are a very nutritious food for arowanas and are commonly used in Asia. You should be certain that the frogs are not poisonous before feeding them to arowana. Frogs are believed to enhance the arowana's coloration.

Lizards:
Lizards are also a very nutritious food for arowanas and are loved by these fishes. They are usually not commercially available and tend to demand a very high price in comparison to the previously mentioned foods. Geckos are found in almost every house in tropical regions but catching them is hard work. Quarantine is recommended as they might have eaten insecticide-contaminated insects.
 
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Wiggles92

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Feeding Guide for Arowanas of Various Sizes

Baby Arowanas (<15cm):
  • Freeze-Dried Plankton: Fed as a color booster; helps to get a baby arowana eating.
    eating. Remmeber to break off the pointy parts.
  • Freeze-Dried/Frozen Bloodworms: Freeze dried/frozen bloodworms are very nutritious and can be used to get your baby arowana to eat.
  • Baby Crickets: Arowanas love crickets. Be sure to use gut-loaded baby crickets for baby arowanas.
  • Hikari Food Sticks: Break into bite-size pieces; fed as a staple food once the arowana accepts it on a regular basis. Other high quality pellets will work, too.
  • Market Shrimp: Fed thawed and cut up into bite-size pieces; be sure to remove the shell and tail.
  • Flake Foods: High quality flake foods can be fed to baby arowanas, but they are unsuitable for larger ones.
Medium Arowanas (15-35 cm):
  • Everything in the "Baby Arowanas" section can be fed.
  • Hikari Food Sticks: Fed as the staple food; other high quality brands will work as well. Be sure to supplement the diet with other foods.
  • Market Shrimp: Market shrimp now can be fed in bigger pieces. Usually, whole shrimps can be fed if the shell & tail are removed; can be fed with the shell on in order to boost color if cut into smaller pieces. Either way, be sure to remove the tails.
  • Crickets: These are unnecessary at this size but can be used to stimulate a sick arowana's appetite or to get one to start feeding.
  • Mealworms: Fed as a color booster.
  • Fillets: Only use fresh fillets and do not use them as a staple.
  • Freeze-Dried/Frozen Krill: Use a larger size; remove sharp pieces. Fed as a color booster.
  • Mussels, Oysters, & Cockles: Mussels, oysters, and cockles are all fine to feed, but shouldn't be used as a staple.
  • Anchovies: These are high in salt which helps the digestive system, but must be fed sparingly (once every two weeks) in order to avoid giving the arowana too much salt.
  • Bloodworms: These are not necessary, but freeze-dried and/or frozen bloodworms can be fed if the arowana will still accept them; avoid live bloodworms.
  • Earthworms: Fed whole; rich in minerals.
Big Arowanas (>35 cm):
  • Everything in the "Medium Arowanas" section can be fed.
  • Market Shrimp: Fed whole with tail removed; thaw before feeding.
  • Frogs: Fed whole; can be fed to medium arowanas if small enough, too.Make sure that the frog(s) are not poisonous before feeding.
 
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Wiggles92

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Edited, Arranged, and Referenced by Wiggles92


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Example Diet & Feeding Schedule

Hikari Food Sticks, Jumbo CarniSticks, Massivore Delite, & Cichlid Gold:
Offered as the main staple because they contain almost all of the nutrients that an arowana needs.

Market Prawns:
Offered frequently as a color booster. Fed whole along with the shell for big arowanas; cut up with the shell for smaller arowanas.

Mealworms:
Offered frequently as a color booster.

Crickets:
Offered as a treat if the arowana is sick or will not eat.

Anchovies:
Offered once every two weeks in order to balance out the pros (plenty of salt aids digestive system) & cons (high in salt & fat) of this food.

Krill:
Offered when available as a color booster.

Fish Fillets, Mussels, & Oysters:
Offered occasionally when leftovers are available.

Please note that it also never hurts to give your older arowanas a day or two off from eating in order to "clean out the system."
 
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Wiggles92

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Further Reading

Thiaminase and its role in predatory pet fish (and other piscivores) nutrition
Arowana Info: Merged
 
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