Asian Arowanas and Asian Arowana products are in use for medical purpose in many countries across the Indian ocean. Stories about this animal were gathered and written by students. They are all part of a pedagogical project, funded by the National University of Singapore and the Université de Paris. The Bestiary site is a work-in-progress and a participatory educational tool, representing animals whose products or body parts are used to promote health and healing.
The Asian arowana is one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world. It is revered in Chinese culture as a symbol of good luck and prosperity, because it resembles the mythical Chinese Dragon. The Asian arowana can grow up to 90 cm in length; its metallic scales made of brilliant hues of red, silver, and gold, and its whiskers that grow from its chin, are reminiscent of the dragons in Chinese mythology. Moreover, the Chinese believe that owning fish is an investment, as the Mandarin characters for water and fish are associated with plenty and wealth. The arowana is, therefore, considered a harbinger of financial benefits to the home or business. The arowana is also one of the most expensive fish in the world. Younger arowanas can cost up to $300, while the bigger fish with rarer colour combination scales are much more expensive. It is rumoured that a Chinese Communist Party member made the most expensive arowana purchase at $300,000.
The Asian arowana is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red list. They have a slow reproductive cycle whereby adults reach sexual maturity after three or four years, and they are an apex predator. The Asian arowana was placed on the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) controlled list in 1975, which restricts the trade of arowana to the distribution of pet specimens originating from certified breeders. Certain countries such as the United States ban the import of the Asian arowana in accordance with the CITES. However, the restrictions on the import of arowana created an aura of mystique around them, resulting in their coveted pet status for those who are heavily invested in aquaculture. Unfortunately, this has created a system in which arowana is abundant in fish farms that breed it for commercial pet trade, rather than in the wild in its native region, Southeast Asia.
The case of the Asian arowana is peculiar, as it demonstrates how the measures taken to protect an animal species can actually work in a counterintuitive manner. While the desire to own the Asian arowana first stemmed from its significance in Chinese culture to bring wealth to the homes of its owners, the interest to own arowana has become a worldwide phenomenon. Arowana pique the interest of aquarist enthusiasts, resulting in a burgeoning illegal wildlife trade network in America that transports these fish to interested parties, a trend that is likely to continue as long as the fish retains its mysterious air.