Are Arowana Illegal in the US?

are arowana illegal in the US

The fascination towards exotic pets, especially the captivating Arowana fish, never ceases among those with an affinity for the extraordinary. But, before you get swept away by the allure of owning an Arowana, it’s essential to grasp the legal implications tied to this prized underwater species. Are Arowana illegal in the US? This is one question that needs careful examination before one begins the journey into Arowana ownership in the United States.

What is an Arowana?

The Arowana, a magnificent species of freshwater fish, hails from the ancient depths of the Amazon River basin. Renowned for its elongated body, sleek appearance, and captivating colors, the Arowana has captivated the hearts of fish enthusiasts worldwide.

Types and Origin of Arowana

Arowanas are available in various types, each possessing unique characteristics that appeal to different aquarists. Among the most popular types are the Asian Arowana, Silver Arowana, and Black Arowana. These distinct variants showcase an exquisite blend of vibrant hues and graceful movements.

Popularity Among Fish Enthusiasts

Due to its innate beauty and majestic presence, the Arowana has garnered a devoted following among fish enthusiasts. It is often regarded as a symbol of luck, prosperity, and power in various cultures, further adding to its appeal.

The Legality of Owning Arowana in the US

Understanding the legal landscape surrounding Arowana ownership is crucial for responsible fish enthusiasts. The legality of owning an Arowana in the United States is determined by federal and state regulations, as well as international treaties and conservation efforts.

Are Arowana illegal in the US?

In general, owning Arowanas is permitted in the United States, but it is important to navigate the specific regulations that govern their ownership. Each state has the authority to establish its own laws regarding exotic pet ownership, including Arowanas. Therefore, potential Arowana owners must research and adhere to the regulations of their respective states to ensure compliance with the law.

Some states may require permits or licenses to possess certain types of Arowanas, while others may impose restrictions on the size or number of fish that can be owned. It is essential to consult the relevant state wildlife agencies or departments to obtain accurate and up-to-date information regarding Arowana ownership within a specific jurisdiction.

Distinction Between Arowana Types and Their Legal Statuses

Different Arowana types may have varying legal statuses. While some types are legally accessible, others may be subject to restrictions or outright bans. Understanding the legal status of the desired Arowana type is essential to ensure compliance and prevent legal complications.

NameGenus and SpeciesOriginConservation Status
Asian ArowanaScleropages formosusSoutheast AsiaEndangered (CITES Appendix I)
Silver ArowanaOsteoglossum bicirrhosumAmazon River basinNot Listed
Black ArowanaOsteoglossum ferreiraiAmazon River basinNot Listed
Jardini ArowanaScleropages jardiniAustralia, New GuineaNot Listed
Leichardti ArowanaScleropages leichardtiNorthern AustraliaNot Listed
African ArowanaHeterotis niloticusAfrica (Nile River)Not Listed
Asian Arowana is an endangered species of Arowana fish.

Certain Arowana species, such as the Asian Arowana, have been deemed endangered and are protected under international conservation agreements. As a result, their importation, possession, or sale is strictly prohibited in the United States. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) enforces these regulations to safeguard the species and prevent illegal trade.

However, it is important to note that other types of Arowanas, such as the Silver Arowana and Black Arowana, may be legally owned in the United States. These species are not subject to the same level of protection and can be acquired and kept as pets with the appropriate permits and compliance with local regulations.

To ensure compliance, prospective Arowana owners should consult state laws and regulations, as well as federal guidelines set forth by the USFWS. By understanding the legal status of different Arowana types, individuals can make informed decisions regarding ownership and contribute to the responsible stewardship of these remarkable aquatic creatures.

The Case of the Asian Arowana

The Asian Arowana (Scleropages formosus), often considered the crown jewel of Arowanas, faces stringent legal restrictions in the United States.

Sub-speciesCharacteristicsNative Habitat
Red ArowanaVibrant reddish coloration, often with golden huesMalaysia, Indonesia
Green ArowanaPredominantly green coloration, from olive to emeraldIndonesia, Malaysia
Crossback ArowanaHorizontal band across the back, often gold or redMalaysia
Golden ArowanaPredominantly golden coloration, ranging from pale yellow to deep goldIndonesia, Malaysia
Super Red ArowanaIntense red coloration, sometimes deep maroonMalaysia, Indonesia
The various sub-species of Asian Arowana.

Illegal Status of Asian Arowana

The United States has imposed a ban on the importation, possession, and sale of Asian Arowanas. This prohibition stems from the conservation status of the species and international trade restrictions. The Asian Arowana is listed as endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which prohibits its commercial trade.

Why Asian Arowanas are illegal in the United States?

Endangered Status and International Trade Restrictions

The Asian Arowana’s endangered status is primarily attributed to habitat loss, water pollution, and overfishing. The demand for these majestic fish, driven by their cultural and symbolic significance in certain Asian countries, has fueled illegal trade and further imperiled their populations.

To protect the species and prevent their decline, the United States, along with several other countries, has implemented strict regulations and international trade restrictions. These measures aim to curb the illegal capture, transportation, and sale of Asian Arowanas, ensuring their conservation in their native habitats.

The conservation efforts for Asian Arowanas extend beyond national borders. Collaborative initiatives between countries focus on preserving their natural habitats, promoting sustainable aquaculture practices, and enforcing strict regulations to combat the illicit trade that threatens the survival of this iconic species.

It is important for individuals interested in Arowana ownership to understand and respect these regulations to contribute to the conservation of endangered species and maintain the integrity of ecosystems.

Other Types of Arowana

While the Asian Arowana faces legal restrictions, several other types of Arowanas can be legally owned in the United States. Notable examples include the Silver Arowana and Black Arowana.

Legal Status of Silver and Black Arowana

Silver and Black Arowanas are generally legal to own in the United States. However, it is essential to consult local and state regulations to ensure compliance, as some jurisdictions may have specific requirements and limitations.

Requirements and Regulations for Ownership

Prospective owners of legal Arowana species must fulfill certain requirements and adhere to specific regulations. These may include obtaining permits, complying with size limitations, and providing appropriate care and housing for the fish.

The Consequences of Illegal Arowana Trade

Engaging in the illegal Arowana trade not only poses a threat to the environment and ecology but also carries severe legal consequences within the United States.

Environmental and Ecological Impact

The illegal Arowana trade has detrimental consequences for the environment and aquatic ecosystems. The unsustainable harvesting and smuggling of Arowanas disrupt natural populations, leading to population declines and loss of genetic diversity. The removal of Arowanas from their natural habitats can upset the delicate balance of ecosystems, affecting the abundance of prey species and altering food webs.

Furthermore, illegal trade often involves destructive practices such as the use of harmful chemicals, inadequate transport conditions, and improper handling, which can lead to the death of Arowanas and other aquatic organisms. Additionally, the illegal trade contributes to the destruction of habitats through deforestation, pollution, and water diversion, further degrading ecosystems and threatening biodiversity.

Legal Consequences

Engaging in the illegal Arowana trade within the United States can result in severe legal repercussions. The enforcement agencies, such as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state wildlife authorities, actively combat illicit activities and impose strict penalties on violators.

Violators of Arowana trade laws may face hefty fines, confiscation of the illegally obtained fish, and even imprisonment. The severity of penalties may vary depending on the nature and extent of the violation, as well as the applicable federal and state laws.

Are Arowana illegal in the US
Violators of Arowana trade laws in the US may face hefty fines and even imprisonment.

It is crucial to note that ignorance of the law does not exempt individuals from liability. Understanding and complying with the regulations governing Arowana ownership and trade are essential to avoid legal entanglements and contribute to the protection of these magnificent species.

How to Legally Own an Arowana in the US

Owning an Arowana in the United States requires navigating through legal regulations to ensure compliance. Different species may have varying restrictions, and it is essential to be aware of the specific laws in your state or locality. Here are some key considerations:

Research the Permitted Species

  • Investigate the species of Arowana you wish to own, such as the Silver or Black Arowana or US-bred Asian Arowanas.
  • Understand the legal status of each species, as certain varieties may be protected due to conservation concerns.

State and Local Regulations

  • Familiarize yourself with the wildlife or fish and game department in your state.
  • Inquire about any state-specific regulations regarding Arowana ownership.
  • Additionally, be aware of any local government restrictions that may apply to owning these exotic fish.

Legally Owning Silver and Black Arowanas

Silver and Black Arowanas are native to South America and are generally legal to own in the United States. However, it is crucial to consider the following:

  • While these Arowana species are legal nationwide, some local governments may have imposed their own regulations.
  • Verify if your specific area has any restrictions on owning Silver and Black Arowanas.

Legally Owning US-Bred Asian Arowanas

Importing Asian Arowanas into the United States is illegal due to conservation efforts. However, owning US-bred Asian Arowanas can be a legal option if the following conditions are met:

Breeding within the United States

  • Asian Arowanas bred within the United States are exempt from the importation ban.
  • Ensure that the Arowana you wish to own was born and raised within the country to meet legal requirements.

Documentation and Permits

  • Acquire all necessary paperwork, permits, and certifications for owning an Asian Arowana.
  • Consult the appropriate regulatory agencies to determine the specific documentation needed to legally possess a US-bred Asian Arowana.

Remember that these guidelines provide a general overview, and it is crucial to research the regulations in your state or locality for accurate and up-to-date information. Always consult with the relevant authorities to ensure compliance and legal ownership of an Arowana in the United States.

When will Asian Arowanas be legal in US?

The Endangered Species Act specifies that it is currently illegal to buy, sell, or transport Asian Arowanas in the United States.

A petition to legalize the Asian Arowana in the US was created in 2019. It cited a number of reasons to support its proposal to allow the import of captive-bred, CITES-approved Asian Arowanas into the United States:

  1. No harm to wild populations: The fish proposed for importation are all captive-bred, second-generation fish from CITES-approved farms, meaning that allowing their import would not contribute to further endangerment of the wild populations.
  2. Economic impact: Asian Arowanas are highly valued fish, often sold for thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. The legalization of their import could result in a significant economic boom in the U.S. fishkeeping industry.
  3. Social impact: With over 7 million homes in the U.S. having aquariums, the legalization of Asian Arowanas could have a large social impact, potentially increasing interest in the hobby and providing more variety for enthusiasts.

These reasons combined suggest that allowing the importation of these fish would be beneficial for both the fishkeeping industry and hobbyists, while not posing a threat to the wild populations of the species. However, it is unclear if any progress has been made.


Understanding the legality of owning an Arowana in the United States is paramount for fish enthusiasts who wish to embark on this extraordinary journey. By adhering to legal requirements, respecting conservation efforts, and prioritizing responsible ownership, potential Arowana owners can revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of these magnificent creatures while preserving their natural habitats for future generations.

Frequently Asked Questions

The legal status of Arowanas in the United States varies by state. Generally, the Asian Arowana is prohibited, but species such as the Silver Arowana and Black Arowana may be legal with state-specific permits. It is important to research and comply with the regulations of your specific state.

The Asian Arowana (Scleropages formosus) is banned in the United States due to its endangered status under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) and international trade restrictions under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The regulations prohibit the importation, possession, and sale of Asian Arowanas in the United States. However, species such as the Silver Arowana and Black Arowana may be legal with state-specific permits.

Asian Arowanas (Scleropages formosus) are illegal or heavily regulated in many countries due to their endangered status, international trade restrictions, cultural significance, and potential ecological impacts. These fish are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, and their populations have significantly declined due to habitat loss, overfishing, and illegal trade. To protect the species and preserve ecosystems, countries have implemented strict laws and regulations to restrict or ban the ownership and importation of Asian Arowanas.

Yes, Asian Arowanas are legal to own and import in Canada, but specific permits and compliance with provincial regulations are required. Regulations may vary between provinces, so it is important to research and adhere to the specific requirements of your province or territory.

No, Asian Arowanas (Scleropages formosus) are not legal to own or import into the United Kingdom (UK). The UK government has classified Asian Arowanas as a prohibited species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. This legislation prohibits the importation, sale, and keeping of Asian Arowanas in the UK.

No, Asian Arowanas (Scleropages formosus) are not legal to own or import into Australia due to regulations under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The importation, possession, and trade of Asian Arowanas are strictly prohibited to protect native wildlife and prevent the introduction of exotic species with potential ecological impacts. Violating these regulations can result in significant penalties. It is important to comply with local wildlife regulations and only own or import Arowana species that are legal and permitted in Australia.

A petition to legalize the Asian Arowana in the US was created in 2019, proposing to allow the import of captive-bred, CITES-approved Asian Arowanas into the United States. The petition claimed that such a move would not harm wild Arowana populations, and could provide a significant economic and social boost to the American fishkeeping hobby. However, it is unclear if any progress has been made.

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