Arowana fish are believed to bring good luck and prosperity to their owners.
This originates from the arowana’s superficial resemblance to a mythical Chinese dragon — the Chinese name “龍魚” (literally: dragon fish) is a dead giveaway.
There certainly is a correlation between arowana ownership and wealth. In particular the platinum arowana that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a piece, has a tendency to be owned by rich people. A very good reason why I took the picture in the zoo — I simply do not own an arowana.
A pet arowana is also believed to be able to save its owner from death by itself dying in his stead.
Asian arowanas are endangered in their homeland of South-East Asia.
In the US, AFAIK, it is illegal to own an arowana as a pet, but in most countries you can buy one if you can afford one.
The less rare color variations are usually not that insanely expensive, but they are really big, somewhere in the vicinity of a meter long and require some huge tank that is more than 700 litres. They are voracious predators that eat all sorts of small creatures that fall into the water — YouTube is full of videos of arowanas eating mice and other small rodents.
To keep track of these expensive fish, and to discourage smuggling, pet arowanas are usually implanted with an RFID chip.
Even if we disregard the cultural aspects, the arowana is an amazing creature. An arowana can use its swim bladder as sort of a lung and breath air with it. It is different from the labyrinth organ that e.g. the gourami has, although both allow fish to breath air. Arowanas have been around for over two hundred million years. The male arowana keeps the young fry in his mouth, and starves for several weeks just to keep his offspring safe.
A bit of a cultural reference. After posting this article, I have found this little arowana sculpture being sold in a Chinese shopping mall in Toronto.
Endangered Species Asian Arowana
Montreal Arowana House on Facebook.
Asian Arowana on Wikipedia.
Malayan bonytongue on the Toronto Zoo website.