Osteoglossum bicirrhosum
Osteoglossum bicirrhosum
(Silver Arowana)
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Osteoglossum bicirrhosum (Cuvier, 1829)

Common name: Silver Arowana

Synonyms and Other Names: Common names include: silver aruana, green arowana, aruana, arowhana. Original combination: Ischnosoma bicirrhosum. Synonyms: Osteoglossum arowana, O. minus and O. vandellii.

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: The arawana is an elongate fish with large scales, distinctive chin barbels and an iridescent (mother-of-pearl) sheen. Distinguishing characteristics and illustrations were given by Kanazawa (1966) and Goulding (1980). Photographs appeared in Kanazawa (1966) and Axelrod et al. (1985).

The black arawana (Osteoglossum ferreirai Kanazawa 1966) from the Rio Negro is distinctively colored as a juvenile; however, adults are "nearly identical" in coloration to the arawana (Howells 1992). The two species can be distinguished by meristics (especially fin-ray counts), as follows (from Kanazawa 1966):

  • O. bicirrhosum - Dorsal fin 42-50; anal fin 49-58; lateral-line scales 30-37; vertebrae 84-92.
  • O. ferreirai - Dorsal fin 52-58; anal fin 61-67; lateral-line scales 37-40; vertebrae 96-100.

Size: to 120 cm TL.

Native Range: Tropical America; northern South America including the Amazon basin and the Guianas (Robins et al. 1991).

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Nonindigenous Occurrences: Three specimens have been recorded from California. The first was a single fish taken from Lake Berryessa, Napa County, by an angler ca. 1972 (Shapovalov et al. 1981; Courtenay et al. 1991); a second specimen was netted from Lake Merced, San Francisco County, by anglers in August 1994 (Dill and Cordone 1997); a third specimen was collected from Adobe Creek in Petaluma in July 2000 (D. Logan, personal communication). A single fish was collected from the Denver, Colorado area in 2004 (Walker, pers. comm.). A fish was photographed at Blue Hole on Big Pine Key, Florida in 2003 (Loftus, pers. comm.); a single individual was collected by an angler from a retention pond adjacent to East Lake Tohopekaliga (K. McDaniel, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, pers. comm.). An Osteoglossum species was reported from a freshwater reservoir in O'ahu, Hawai'i in 1988-1989, but no specimen was collected and the species was not identified. That sighting is provisionally allocated to O. bicirrhosum as it is more frequently imported than O. ferreirai (Mundy 2005). One individual was taken in Lake George, Indiana in October 2000 (Keller, pers. comm.). The species was unsuccessfully introduced at Forest Spring in Ash Meadows, Nye County , Nevada, during the early 1960s (Soltz and Naiman 1978; Deacon and Williams 1984; Vinyard 2001). One individual was taken in a small pond in Bensalem, Pennsylvania in July 2005 (DeVicaris, personal communication). A specimen in a Chicago, Illinois canal was electrofished in 2013 (A. Plauck, personal communication).

Ecology: The arawana is a generalist predator, inhabiting shallow, blackwater lagoons and littoral zones of rivers and lakes of Amazonia. It also invades the flooded forest during annual high-water periods (Saint-Paul et al. 2000). This species is a male mouthbrooder. Although the arawana will take fish and other vertebrates, it feeds primarily on insects and other arthropods (Goulding 1980). Arawana may leap from the water to feed on terrestrial or arboreal prey (Goulding 1980; Lowry et al. 2005).

The species is important in local fisheries of Amazonia. Additionally, juveniles and small adults are found in the ornamental fish trade.

Means of Introduction: Aquarium releases in most locations. Juveniles and small adults are found in the ornamental fish trade. They quickly reach sizes too large for most hobbyists. Introduced by an illegal ornamental fish-farming operation in Nevada (Soltz and Naiman 1978).

Status: All reported introductions of arawana have failed to establish viable populations.

Impact of Introduction: Unknown.

Remarks: Conventionally, most arawanas (especially in the aquarium trade) have been referred to as O. bicirrhosum. Some of these (including our own records) may have actually been O. ferreirai; however, this is unlikely because O. bicirrhosum is most commonly imported and sold in the U.S. and is easily distinguishable as junveniles/subadults (see Identification).

Suzuki (1982) gives the karyotype of both Osteoglossum bicirrhosum and O. ferreirai.

References: (click for full references)

Axelrod, H.R., W.E. Burgess, N. Pronek, and J.G. Walls. 1985. Dr. Axelrod's atlas of freshwater aquarium fishes. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., D.P. Jennings, and J.D. Williams. 1991. Appendix 2: exotic fishes. 97-107 in Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States and Canada, 5th edition. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 20. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Deacon, J.E., and J.E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103-118.

Devick, W.S. 1991. Pattern of introductions of aquatic organisms to Hawaii freshwater habitats. 189-213 in New directions in research, management and conservations of Hawaiian freshwater stream ecosystems. Proceedings of 1990 Symposium on Freshwater Stream Biology and Fisheries.

Dill, W.A., and A.J. Cordone. 1997. History and status of introduced fishes in California, 1871-1996. California Department of Fish and Game Fish Bulletin, volume 178.

Goulding, M. 1980. Fishes of the forest: explorations in Amazonian natural history. University of California Press, Los Angeles, CA.

Howells, G. 1992. Annotated list of non-native fishes, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic plants, in Texas water. Texas Parks and Wildlife Management Data Series. 78 pp.

Kanazawa, R.H. 1966. The fishes of the genus Osteoglossum with a description of a new species from the Rio Negro. Aquarium Journal (April): 141-172.

Logan, D.J. - National Marine Fisheries Service, Santa Rosa, CA.

Lowry, D., A.P. Wintzer, M.P. Matott, L.B. Whitenack, D.R. Huber, M. Dean and P.J. Motta. 2005. Aerial and aquatic feeding in the silver arawana, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum. Environmental Biology of Fishes 73: 453-462.

Mundy, B.C. 2005. Checklist of the fishes of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Bishop Museum Bulletins in Zoology Number 6.

Plauck, Andrew - Illinois Department of Natural Resources

Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea, and W.B. Scott. 1991. World fishes important to North Americans exclusive of species from the continental waters of the United States and Canada. American Fisheries Society Special Publication 21. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD. 243 pp.

Saint-Paul, U., J. Zuanon, M. Correa, M. Garcia, N. Fabre, U. Berger and W. Junk. 2000. Fish communities in Amazonian white- and blackwater floodplains. Environmental Biology of Fishes 57: 235-250.

Shapovalov, L., A.J. Cordone, and W.A. Dill. 1981. A list of freshwater and anadromous fishes of California. California Fish and Game 67(1):4-38.

Stoltz, D.L., and R.J. Naiman. 1978. The natural history of the native fishes in the Death Valley system. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Science Series 30:1-76.

Suzuki, A. 1982. Karyotypes of two species of arowana, Osteoglossum bicirrhosum and O. ferreirai. Gyoruigaku zasshi (Japanese Journal of Ichthyology) 29(2): 220-222.

Vinyard, G.L. 2001. Fish species recorded from Nevada. Biological Resources Research Center. University of Nevada, Reno. 5 pp.

Walker, P. - Colorado Department of Wildlife, Brush, CO.

Other Resources:
FishBase Fact Sheet

Author: Schofield, P.J., L.G. Nico, P.L. Fuller, W.F. Loftus, and M. Neilson

Revision Date: 8/6/2013

Citation Information:
Schofield, P.J., L.G. Nico, P.L. Fuller, W.F. Loftus, and M. Neilson. 2017. Osteoglossum bicirrhosum. USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL.
https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=799 Revision Date: 8/6/2013

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2017]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [3/30/2017].

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