Are Arowanas Legal in the US

Are Arowanas Legal in the US

If you’ve ever found yourself captivated by the exotic allure and breathtaking beauty of the Arowana fish, you may have also pondered one specific question – “Are Arowanas legal in the US?” This question has intrigued many, considering the somewhat enigmatic status of these majestic aquatic creatures.

Navigating the complex waters of Arowana legality in the United States can be daunting. This is why we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to help shed light on this intriguing topic. With this resource, we aim to clarify and dispel any confusion surrounding the legal status of Arowanas in the US.

So, if you are an aquarist who has been eyeing this stunning species or simply a curious individual fascinated by the intricacies of fishkeeping laws, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive deep into exploring Arowana’s legality in the United States.

Introduction to Arowanas

Arowanas, fondly called ‘dragon fish’ in some circles, are a unique breed of large freshwater fish. Renowned for their peculiar yet mesmerizing appearance and inherently predatory instincts, these aquatic creatures have carved out a distinct niche within the aquarium community. Their impressive size and remarkable physical characteristics make them a captivating sight and prized possession for many aquarium enthusiasts.

Types of Arowanas

Arowanas come in various types, each with unique appeal and characteristics. Among these are the golden, jardini, black, green, albino, Asian, red, silver, and platinum Arowanas. Each variant has its distinct traits, but the Asian and Silver Arowanas, in particular, have captured the attention of aquarists worldwide. The Asian Arowana, with its vibrant color palette and rare status, and the Silver Arowana, with its shimmering scales reminiscent of liquid metal, are the most sought-after variants among this captivating species.

The Fascination with Arowanas

The allure of Arowanas extends far beyond their striking looks and unique behaviors. In fishkeeping, these creatures have evolved into a status symbol, an embodiment of luxury and prestige, particularly the Asian Arowana. This type has been known to fetch staggering prices, with collectors willing to shell out up to an astonishing $300,000 for a specimen that strikes the right balance between rarity and desirability. This fascination with Arowanas, especially the Asian variant, underscores the deep-seated passion and commitment within the fish-keeping community while shedding light on the lengths enthusiasts are willing to go to add these majestic creatures to their collections.

The Legal Status of Arowanas in the US

The enchanting allure of Arowanas and majestic size make them a highly desirable addition to any freshwater aquarium. However, these radiant creatures are not easily obtained, especially regarding the Asian Arowana. Understanding the legal implications of owning an Arowana, particularly the much sought-after Asian Arowana, is crucial for any potential owner.

Arowanas and Federal Law

The answer to the question, “Are Arowanas legal in the US?” is not straightforward. On a federal level, the United States does not impose a blanket ban on owning Arowanas. However, the rules and regulations surrounding the possession and trade of these exotic fish vary depending on the specific type of Arowana and individual state laws.

State Regulations on Arowanas

Different states have diverse regulations concerning the ownership of Arowanas, particularly the Silver Arowana and Asian Arowana, each having its unique set of rules.

Silver Arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum) Regulations

Silver Arowana

The Silver Arowana, a stunning creature with a sheen that mimics the gleam of liquid silver, is generally legal to own in most states across the US. However, there are exceptions to this rule. In Mississippi, you must obtain a permit to own a Silver Arowana. This is an important detail for potential owners scouring for Silver Arowana for sale. In Oklahoma, the rules are even more stringent – you cannot own a Silver Arowana, making selling or possessing this species illegal.

Asian Arowana (Scleropages formosus) Regulations

The Asian Arowana, a radiant beauty that often tops the list of the most expensive aquarium fish in the world, is a different matter altogether. Due to its status as an endangered species, the Asian Arowana is banned in the United States. The reasons behind the Asian Arowana’s high price tag include its endangered status and the intricate breeding process. Despite this, there continues to be a significant demand for Asian Arowana for sale. However, potential buyers should be aware that owning or importing an Asian Arowana can lead to severe penalties, including substantial fines and potentially even a prison sentence, making Asian Arowanas illegal in the US.

In conclusion, while Arowanas are fascinating creatures and coveted additions to aquariums, potential owners must know the legal implications surrounding their possession and trade. Understanding these regulations is essential before searching for these expensive aquarium fish in the US.

Reasons for the Arowana Ban

The legal restrictions on Arowana ownership in the United States stem from two main considerations: ecological and conservation-related concerns. These considerations show why such an enchanting species is subjected to strict regulatory controls.

Ecological Considerations

The allure of owning an Arowana, especially due to its size and predatory nature, can lead to complications. One of the primary reasons for imposing restrictions on Arowana ownership is the potential ecological implications. There is a significant concern that these large, predatory fish, which can be challenging to maintain in an aquarium environment, might be released into local river systems by overwhelmed owners. If introduced into such environments, Arowanas could significantly disrupt local ecosystems. Their predatory nature could lead to the decimation of native species, thereby triggering a ripple effect of ecological imbalance.

Conservation Concerns

Conservation-related issues form the other cornerstone of the Arowana ownership restrictions. The Asian Arowana, in particular, embodies these concerns. This species experienced a sudden and dramatic surge in popularity during the 1970s. This sudden demand for the Asian Arowana for its stunning beauty and status symbol led to rampant overfishing, putting the species’ survival at risk.

In response to the alarmingly dwindling numbers of the Asian Arowana, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) intervened. Recognizing the severe threat to the species, CITES added the Asian Arowana to their endangered list. This move was intended to safeguard the species’ survival by prohibiting international trade unless it was for scientific and research purposes.

The Exception to the Rule: Captive-Bred Arowanas

While ownership and trade of Asian Arowanas are largely prohibited, an exception exists in the form of captive-bred Arowanas, governed by a ruling by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The CITES Ruling

In 1989, CITES modified its stance on Asian Arowanas, allowing them to be traded under specific conditions. The organization permitted the trade of Asian Arowanas only if the specimens were bred in captivity and were at least two generations removed from their wild ancestors. Further, these fish had to come with certificates of birth and authenticity, affirming their captive-bred status, and they had to be microchipped to ensure traceability.

The Status of Captive-Bred Asian Arowanas in the US

Despite the CITES amendment permitting the trade of captive-bred Asian Arowanas, the United States has maintained its ban on importing this specific type of Arowana. The rationale behind this decision remains somewhat ambiguous. It’s speculated that the U.S. authorities may harbor concerns about managing the potential influx of these fish into the country and ensuring that the certificates and microchips are not fraudulent.

Looking Towards the Future of Arowana Ownership in the US

Potential Changes to Legislation

There are no indications that the United States plans to lift its ban on Asian Arowanas. However, like all regulations, this stance may evolve in the future. The intricacies of wildlife conservation and ownership laws can be influenced by various factors, including advancements in conservation efforts, shifts in public opinion, and changes in ecological circumstances.

The Responsibility of Arowana Owners

Regardless of any potential future modifications to the law, it remains paramount for Arowana owners to fully comprehend the responsibilities that come with owning such a unique and endangered species. This includes providing appropriate care for these majestic creatures and ensuring they do not end up in local ecosystems where they can cause significant disruptions. Arowana owners must bear in mind that their actions have broader implications for the survival of the species and the preservation of global biodiversity.


So, “Are Arowanas Legal in the US?”. While the Silver Arowana remains a legal and popular choice for many US aquarium enthusiasts, the coveted Asian Arowana remains out of reach due to its protected status. The laws around Arowana ownership are complex and rooted in conservation and ecological concerns.


Can you have a pet Arowana?

Yes, you can have a pet Arowana, but it depends on the type of Arowana and the laws in your specific location. Some types of Arowanas are banned in the United States, with the Asian Arowana being one of them due to its endangered status. However, there are exceptions for Asian Arowanas bred in captivity and two generations away from being wild. Silver Arowanas are generally legal to own in the United States except for certain states, such as Oklahoma, and you would need a permit in Mississippi. Always check with your local Fish and Wildlife Services for current information.

How much does Arowana cost?

The price can vary greatly based on the type of Arowana, age, size, and coloration. Asian Arowanas are particularly prized, and collectors have been known to pay up to around $300,000 for a desirable specimen. But many Arowanas cost between $100-$500+, which could be within the budget for beginners.

Do Arowanas live in the Amazon?

The Silver Arowana, a type of Arowana, is a South American species that you can find naturally in the rivers of Colombia and Brazil, including parts of the Amazon.

How to buy Asian Arowana in the US?

Asian Arowanas are banned in the United States due to their listing as an endangered species. Even though there are exceptions for Asian Arowanas bred in captivity under certain conditions, the U.S. has not lifted its ban on their importation.

Note: The information contained in this article was accurate at the time of writing. Laws and regulations can change, so always check with your local Fish and Wildlife Services for the most up-to-date information before acquiring an Arowana.

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