The Arawana is a freshwater bony fish of the family Osteoglossidae, commonly kept in aquaria. The generic name Osteoglossum means "bone-tongued" and the specific name bicirrhosum means "two barbels" (from the Greek language). The species is also called 'monkey fish' because of its ability to jump out of the water and capture its prey. It usually swims near the water surface waiting for potential prey. Although specimens have been found with the remains of birds, bats, and snakes in their stomachs, its main diet consists of crustaceans, insects, smaller fishes, and other animals that float on the water surface, for which its drawbridge-like mouth is exclusively adapted for feeding.
This fish has relatively large scales, a long body, and a tapered tail, with the dorsal and anal fins extending all the way to the small caudal fin, with which they are nearly fused. The Arawana is one of the most interesting fish and it can get very large. It is a long fish with a fluid, almost snake-like swimming motion. A maximum sized specimen would reach up to 47 inches (120 cm) in length and need an aquarium of at least 4 feet wide and 4 feet long just to turn around. A specimen of that size is pretty rare in the aquarium, generally they are smaller with 24 to 30 inches (60 - 78 cm) being a good sized Arawana. It is basically a silver fish, but its scales are very large. As this fish matures the scales develop an opalescent effect that will reflect blue, red, and green highlights. This has led to the nickname "Dragonfish" when seen in the wild.
One of the most curious characteristics of this fish are its mouth. It opens in three pieces and looks similar to a loading barge, definitely indicative of its predatory nature and appetite. The two distinctive barbels at the tip of the lower jaw are great sensory devices. With them, it can sense and capture prey on the surface of the water, even in total darkness. Its eyesight is also remarkable. With a keen vision, this fish can see above the surface, spotting and leaping out of the water to strike insects and birds from over hanging tree branches. This has lead to still another nickname for this fish, the "Water Monkey".
When fishing for Arawanas you can use fairly light spinning or baitcast tackle. You can fish with a 25lb fluorocarbon leader. Great reels for these are the Daiwa Steez and Daiwa Certate. Arawanas are caught on both lures and bait, although in the Amazon they are primarily fished with lures. They can often be seen at the surface under the cover of overhanging trees and bushes. Because of their surface orientation, small poppers work well. Shallow running jerkbaits such as the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow also work well when fished erratically. Arawanas are not shy and will generally attack most lures that resemble small fish and are twitched in front of their faces. For live bait you can use smaller fish. The Amazon river tributaries are where you get the big ones. The main river does not have a good fishery and many of the tributaries do not either. The best fisheries are generally slow-moving "blackwater" tributaries.
Arawana are native to the Amazon drainage system, the western Orinoco and the Rupununi and Essequibo systems of the Guianas. When found in other locations it is because of introduction by man. For example, they have been introduced in secluded areas of California and Nevada. It is also thought that the fish have not distributed themselves further up river because they cannot pass through rapids successfully