African arowana

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African arowana
Heterotis niloticus.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Osteoglossiformes
Family: Arapaimidae
Genus: Heterotis
Rüppell, 1828
Species: H. niloticus
Binomial name
Heterotis niloticus
(G. Cuvier, 1829)


  • Clupisudis Swainson, 1839
  • Helicobranchus Hyrtl, 1854


  • Clupisudis niloticus (G. Cuvier, 1829)
  • Sudis nilotica G. Cuvier, 1829
  • Sudis adansonii G. Cuvier, 1829
  • Heterotis adansonii (G. Cuvier, 1829)
  • Sudis niloticus Rüppell, 1829 (ambiguous)
  • Heterotis adansoni Valenciennes, 1847
  • Heterotis ehrenbergii Valenciennes, 1847

The African arowana, Nile arowana (Heterotis niloticus), is a species of bonytongue. Despite being called an "arowana", the African arowana is more closely related to arapaimas, the only other members in the Arapaimidae family,[2] than the South American, Asian and Australian arowanas in the Osteoglossidae family (Arapaimidae is sometimes included in Osteoglossidae). Compared to these, the African arowana has a more terminal mouth and is the only one that feeds extensively on plankton.[3]


The African arowana is a long-bodied fish with large scales, long dorsal and anal fins set far back on the body, and a rounded caudal fin. Its height is 3.5 to 5 times standard length (SL). It has been reported to reach up to 1 m (3.3 ft) SL and weigh up to 10.2 kg (22 lb).[3]

This fish is gray, brown, or bronze in color. Coloration is uniform in adults, but juveniles often have dark longitudinal bands.

African arowanas have air-breathing organs on its branchiae, enabling them to survive in oxygen-depleted water. A suprabranchial organ allows it to concentrate small planktonic food particles and also has a sensory function.


This species is widespread throughout Africa, where it is native to all the watersheds in Sahelo-Sudanese region, Senegal, and Gambia as well as parts of eastern Africa. This range includes the basins of the Corubal, Volta, Ouémé, Niger, Bénoué, and Nile Rivers as well as those of Lake Chad and Lake Turkana. It has been successfully introduced to Côte d'Ivoire, the Cross River in Nigeria, the Sanaga and Nyong rivers in Cameroon, and Ogooué River in Gabon, as well as the lower and middle Congo River basin, including Ubangui and Kasaï Rivers. It has also been introduced in Madagascar. In some cases, introduction is reported to have had a negative impact on the local ecology.[3]

Human use[edit]

African arowana is used locally as a food and has been collected in the past for the aquarium trade, but behavior of it in captivity. It's not feral or aggressive like its relatives. Aquarist can feed it such as shrimps, Artemia, Moina, bloodworms or even small feeder fishes and dry foods etc.[4]


  1. ^ Akinyi, E., Azeroual, A., Entsua-Mensah, M., Getahun, A., Lalèyè, P. & Moelants, T. 2010. Heterotis niloticus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. <>. Downloaded on 04 October 2013.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2014). "Arapaimidae" in FishBase. July 2014 version.
  3. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Heterotis niloticus" in FishBase. July 2014 version.
  4. ^ Nanconnection (2003). (แอบ)คุยเรื่องปลาตู้ โครงการ 2 : ปลาอโรตัวเป็นวาน่าเลี้ยง [(Secretly) talk about the aquarium fish. Project 2: Aro fish is a Wana] (in Thai). Bangkok: SE-ED Book Center. ISBN 9789745348653.

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