Will Arowana’s Tail, Scales Fins & Barbels Grow Back?

It is quite common for Arowanas to lose and damage different parts of their bodies. Some cases occur due to trauma, most commonly collisions against the glass. However, diseases could also be the case. Since it is pretty prevalent, I began to research whether or not Arowanas can regrow their tails, scales, fins, and barbels.

Arowanas’ organs, including barbels, scales, fins, and tail, are likely to grow back. Most parts will regenerate within eight to twelve months, depending on the damage severity and mechanism. However, some injuries may never recover, mainly when an extensive infection had developed.

As we move forward in this article, I will elaborate on a few essential techniques to treat Arowanas that had been injured. That will enhance their recovery process dramatically. Also, I will show you a few useful tricks to prevent future injuries from happening.

Can Arowanas Regrow Organs? (Scales, Fins, Barbels & Tail)

Arowanas are beautiful fish often called ‘Dragon Fish’ because of their long, elegant bodies, bear a resemblance to Chinese Dragons. Like all fish, rearing Arowanas is not easy because they are susceptible to harm.

Typically, Arowanas, and fish in general, lose their scales, fins, tails, and barbels due to physical confrontations, diseases, handling, collisions, and abrasions.[1] Also, your attempts to net an Arowana could strip it of its scales. 

But what happens after that? Can these organs regrow? How long does it take? The answers to those questions depend on the body part:

1. Will Arowana’s Barbels Grow Back?

Barbels look like whiskers. You can find them at the bottom section of the fish’s mouth. If Arowanas had a chin, the barbels would be located just above it. The fish use these whiskers to detect subtle motion in the water.[2]

They can use them for hunting their prey, going so far as to leap out of the water to capture their next meal. In some cases, the barbels will act as a lure, attracting unsuspecting creatures with their strange look and allowing Arowanas to gobble them up. Some people don’t expect barbels to regrow once they break, but it largely depends on the case. 

Barbels that break at the root are less likely to grow back. However, barbels that break at the tip or in the middle are not as severe and likely to recover. It can take anywhere between four weeks and twelve weeks for the whiskers to return. The older the fish, the longer it takes.

2. Will Arowana’s Tail Grow Back?

Lost tails are not a serious concern. Fish lose tails all the time, and most fish can regrow their tails. That is a good thing because tails are essential; fish use them for propulsion.[3] Admittedly, some situations are more difficult than others. 

If your Arowana tail was destroyed by fin rot and the infection had spread down to the body, the tail might not grow back. However, if the fish had suffered physical trauma, maintaining optimal conditions in the tank enables your Arowana to regrow its tail in four to eight weeks. 

Diseases tend to cause more lasting harm than physical damage. That is why it is vital to scrutinize the entire body of the fish. Also, younger fish can cut the healing time down to a week, possibly even three days if the tail is merely frayed.

Adult fish can heal in as little as three weeks, possibly even one week in the case of frayed tails.[4] Unfortunately, some broken tails require surgery. Allowing them to heal on their own could produce a disfigured tail. 

That is why a vet should carry out a procedure. This will allow the tail to heal to its original state, or close to it. Broken tails may heal in one to six months among adult fish, one to three months in adolescent fish, and two to eight weeks in young fish.

3. Will Arowana’s Fins Grow Back?

Like most fish, Arowanas use their fins for swimming. They are comparable to a human’s limbs. Damaged or missing fins will compromise an Arowana’s movements. You may start noticing that your fish swims sideways, possibly even sinking.

If fin rot is the cause, the Arowana’s fins will regrow to their original state within four to eight weeks. However, that requires curtailing the infection before it destroys the entire fin. Physical injuries heal faster, and the Arowana should regain its fins function within three weeks.

The location is less critical when it comes to this particular body part. Caudal, anal, ventral, and pectoral fins healing rates are quite similar. It is more important to determine the cause of the injury and ensure that an infection hasn’t spread.

4. Will Arowana’s Scales Grow Back?

Arowanas have large, massive scales that are arranged in a mosaic pattern. They are a defensive tool that keeps the blood vessels, nerves, and other vital organs protected.[5] Collisions with surfaces in the tank can cause an Arowana to lose its scales. The same thing can happen if they are transported poorly in a net.

Arowana scales will grow back; it can take six to eight weeks in young fish, eight to twelve weeks in adolescent fish, and twelve to twenty-four weeks in adult Arowanas. Some Arowanas will eventually regain their scales’ coloration, though it may take longer than a year. 

Some Arowanas might never regain their intense colors. Keep in mind that dropped scales should worry you. While most Arowanas will replace their scales in an average of three to five weeks, they could do considerable damage to their bodies during that time.

That is because the growing process creates an itching sensation that will compel the Arowanas to rub their bodies against any objects they encounter.[6] Without their scales, this behavior could cause serious harm. Hence, you are encouraged to remove sharp decorations and stones from your tank.

How to Enhance Arowanas Recovery?

Like most fish, Arowanas have natural healing properties. But if their barbels, tails, scales, and fins are damaged, you can take the following steps to enhance their recovery:

1. Ensure Proper Water Conditions

Like all fish, Arowanas thrive in specific water conditions. To enhance their recovery, you have to ensure that all the parameters in their tank are correct. This includes a temperature of roughly 86 degrees F, a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0, and a tank of at least 150 gallons.[7]

The ammonia should be kept at 0ppm, the Nitrites at 0ppm, and the Nitrates below 40ppm. You also need a powerful filtration system that can contend with the massive amounts of waste the fish produces.[8] If you can maintain a pristine tank, your Arowana’s health will thrive, and it will regrow its lost organs. 

Clean water will also prevent wounds from developing infections, which is crucial to the healing process. To keep the temperature stable, I highly recommend checking my recommendation for an aquarium heater. This is the only device that prevented temperature fluctuations in my tank so accurately.

Ensuring that the rest of the parameters (pH, nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia) are within the proper range is also quite simple. To do that, I recommend checking the API Reef Master Test Kit (link to Amazon). While highly affordable, that bundle will tell you the state of your water within minutes.

2. Keep the Tank Clean

It isn’t enough to install a powerful filtration system in your tank. If your fish is injured, you should perform 50 percent water changes every day. This will prevent the concentration of toxins and waste from spiking. However, bear in mind that exaggerating with water exchanges could also harm your Arowana. 

If your fish got injured, you have to maintain a delicate balance between hygiene and water requirements. Thus, make sure to use the aquarium testing kit and see that the pH remains within the desired range. Frequent water changes could raise the pH too much.

3. Delay Meals

In typical situations, you are encouraged to feed Arowanas once a day, especially the adult ones. Younger fish should be fed twice a day. You are less likely to overfeed Arowanas because they will ignore any food added to their tank when they are full.

However, if your Arowana is injured, you have to stop feeding it for one or two weeks.[9] The Arowana won’t starve. Believe it or not, it can survive for two months without food. Even though it may be against intuition, feeding your Arowana could prevent it from healing.

4. Treat and Prevent Fin Rot

If your fish has fin rot, you can treat it with Maracyn, Tetracycline, and MelaFix. You can also experiment with salt and tea tree oil.[10] Eliminate factors such as crowding, toxins, and waste that can attract diseases like fin rot.

You are encouraged to separate any fish that you want to medicate, not just in cases of fin rot. While antibiotics are suitable for treating various illnesses and injuries, you are also encouraged to consult a vet regarding the best antibiotics for your Arowanas and the right amounts.

5. Medications and Procedures (Consult a Veterinarian First)

If your Arowana lost its organs and limbs to physical injury, you have to treat the wounds. Medical products such as Acriflavine solution will do wonders for your fish (add 20ml to the tank). You cannot change the water for 24 hours, and neither can you feed the fish. Some aquarists add salt to their tanks. Though, you have to use it in moderate amounts.

  • Scales – This might sound unpalatable to beginners, but it works. If you notice that a scale is out of shape, remove it. Naturally, you have to use anesthesia and consult a vet. Once the deformed scale is removed, a new one will grow in its place.
  • Barbels – If a barbel is bent, you should cut it off to prevent it from regrowing the wrong way. If it broke at the root and you cannot see any signs of regrowth, use a fine needle to poke and prod the barbel root. Do this until you see blood swelling and rising to the surface. Again, you have to use anesthesia. This process will stimulate growth.
  • Fins – If a piece of the fin’s hard ray is injured, remove it at the base. This will allow a new ray to grow. You can do this with multiple injured rays as well. As was noted above, a broken fin might require surgery to prevent it from growing the wrong way.

How to Prevent Arowanas From Getting Damaged?

Besides waiting for your Arowana’s injuries to heal, you can take steps to prevent further damage. They include:

  • Decorations – Most people prefer to accentuate the appearance of their tanks with decorations. However, Arowanas don’t need decorations or plants. They need all the room you can give them. They are just as likely to rub against these decorations, injuring themselves in the process. That is why you should remove them.
  • Food – Place your Arowana’s food in the center of the tank. If you place it in the corner, they could collide with the walls in their attempts to reach it, and that could cause unnecessary harm to their scales and barbels.
  • Knocking – Avoid knocking on the glass. This behavior will induce shock and stress in the Arowanas, causing them to perform dangerous acts in response, such as jumping out of the tank.
  • Tankmates – Arowanas are aggressive and territorial fish that won’t hesitate to attack other fish (including their own kind). That is why you are discouraged from keeping more than one Arowana in a tank. If you must pair it with other fish, look for tankmates that are equally large and docile. Otherwise, your Arowana will suffer injuries in the ensuing violence.
  • Transport – Use only the most delicate nets to carry young Arowanas. Once they reach adulthood, Arowanas should be carried in plastic bags. At that size, a net is likely to injury them.
  • Tank Conditions – Maintain proper tank conditions. Your Arowana’s water should have the right pH, temperature, and hardness. You should also ensure that their tank is large enough to permit them to move freely (at least 250 gallons).[11] The stress elicited by poor tank conditions will cause them to fight with their tankmates and leap out of the water.[12]

Conclusions

Arowanas are capable of regrowing different parts of their bodies, including barbles, fins, scales, and tail. That typically happens when the injury mechanism is physical, such as a collision against the glass or decorations. 

However, if the damaged body part is also infected, recovery will take longer. In some cases, the infections will prevent from the damaged body part to heal entirely. To prevent such an occurrence, you are encouraged to take action.

Your first step should be consulting a veterinarian. An expert is more likely to point you in the right direction and offer you a medical solution. You should also consult a professional before taking steps like cutting off damaged organs, such as bent barbels.

References

  1. https://petcentral.chewy.com/aquarium-fish-injuries/
  2. https://animals.mom.me/things-arowanas-lip-8671.html
  3. https://dtmag.com/thelibrary/underwater-propulsion-a-tale-of-tails/
  4. https://www.facebook.com/notes/myanmar-arowana-club-mac/arowana-injury-healing-times/954740504620578
  5. https://animals.mom.com/what-are-fish-scales-used-for-3010814.html
  6. http://www.quanfengaq.com/right.html
  7. https://modestfish.com/arowana/
  8. https://arowanafishpetcare.wordpress.com/features/
  9. https://www.myaquariumclub.com/how-to-treat-an-injured-arowana-9236.html
  10. https://www.wikihow.com/Treat-Fin-Rot
  11. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/silver-arowana/
  12. https://www.aquariumnexus.com/arowana-jump/

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