Lesson: How to select a good quality dragonfish

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Posted by William ( on February 20, 2001 at 20:06:42:

The following are important factors when look for a dragonfish.
1. Body Shape
Body shape is an inborn thing that you cannot change through diet or water
conditions. Most experienced Arowana fans will agree on this point and regard the body shape as the most important factor in selecting a good fish. The body, generally speaking, should be broad and long in parallel, with the size of all the fins, head, eyes in proportion to its body length and broadness. The slope from the back to the head should be a gradual one, with the degree of slope not too deep. Some adult fishes tend to have too deep a slope from the back to its head.
Besides viewing it from the front, view it from the top as well. The broadness of the fish should be in parallel from its head to the pelvic fins area. From then on, it slims down to a narrower end at the tail. Any crooked portion is bad. It should be smooth going, all the way from the head to the tail.

2. Colouration
This is dependent on factors like bloodline (60%), water conditions (20%), diet (10%) and sunlight (10%). Hence, to a certain extent, colouration is something that can be improved over time if all the above conditions are right, unlike body shape, which is inborn and permanent. Coloration will also depends on what species you are buying, be it a Chilli Red, Blood Red or Orange Red, for example.
If you are buying a young Super Red (Chilli or Blood Red), look out for red tail fin, anal fin, dorsal fin and pelvic fins. Pectoral fins should be at least 50% red. The body must have light green and pink sheen. The scales must look radiant and bright. Barbels and lips may be red in some high grade fishes but not necessarily so. In adult fishes, depending on the age of the fish, whether it is a Blood Red or Chilli Red, the colouration will show at different stages. For instance, it will show at an earlier date for a Blood Red (1-3 years) and later for a Chilli Red (1.5-5 years).
For Red tail golden and Cross back golden, look out for the black or dark brown colour on the dorsal fin and on the top one-third portion of the tail fin. The bottom two thirds of the tail fin, anal fin, pelvic fins and pectoral fins should be orange red in colour. Scales on the body should have gold tinge up to the fourth level for Red tail and up to the fifth level for Cross Back (at least a few scales around the base of the dorsal fins should have some gold tinge, ie on the fifth level). The scales on a Cross back will at anytime, looked more radiant and bright than a Red tail.

3. Scales
All scales must be large and radiant, neatly arranged in horizontal rows. Scales that appear
messy or in a zigzag manner will spoil the beauty of the fish, no matter how good is the body shape or colouration. However, it is also not easy to select a fish with 'perfect' scales, all of the same size and neatly seated next to one another. So long as the scales are not too different in shape and size, it should suffice. A few missing scales are not a problem, as it will grow back in a matter of weeks.
And some scales are so called 'thin frame' while others 'thick frame'. It is a matter of
personal choice and preference. For a Cross-Back, most will prefer a 'thin frame' one, with more purple colour than gold being shown. For a Super Red, for instance, some people may prefer a 'thick frame' Chilli Red as more red will appear than gold.

4. Barbels
Barbels are like the horns of the mythical dragon. They are the sign of authority and dignity. It should be long and straight, upward rather than downward pointing. The pair should also be identical, colour similar to the species that you are buying. For the Golden variety, barbels should be dark brown to black, and for the Super Red, it should be pink or red if possible.
The most preferred barbels are those that point outwards (judging from the head) that symbolises the inverted figure 8 in Chinese character.

5. Fins
The pelvic and pectoral fins should be straight and not crooked in appearance. Especially the pectoral fins, it should be long and smooth, opening in full swing when making a turn. This will greatly enhance the beauty of the fish. A slight bent in the pectoral fins will affect the overall image of the fish.
The other fins, tail fin, anal fin and dorsal fin should have the size that is in proportion to the body length and height. Too large or too small fins will certainly affect the overall outlook of the fish concerned. Generally speaking, larger fins are preferred. The colour on these fins will very much depend on the species you are buying.

6. Swimming Style
This will denote whether the fish has an air of elegance or not. A good swimming style is rather important, as otherwise it will discount the aesthetic beauty of the fish to a great extent. It should swim smoothly, making an occasional smooth turn, with the pectoral fins wide open and barbels straightened.
Arowanas are surface dwellers and they often hang around the top portion of the tank. If you see a fish that constantly hide at one corner or simply rest on the bottom of the tank, try not to select that fish. A healthy fish is one that will come to the front and greet you, displaying some form of curiosity. It should be robust and energetic in its behavior.
Fishes with swim bladder problem will persistently lie at the bottom of the tank or float near the water surface. Some fishes will even swim with its head pointing downwards, at a 45degree angle. Never select such fish as it is difficult to cure hereditary problems.
7. Eyes
Both eyes must be of the same size and in proportion to the length and height of the body. The eyes must look clear and sharp, close to the cavity of the socket. Droop eye is not a disease but it certainly will affect the overall appearance of the fish. Also, watch out for cloudy eyes, which may be a sign of bacterial infection.

8. Mouth
Mouth should be tightly closed, with the lower jaw matching that of the upper jaw. That is what people call a 'scissors bite', when neither the lower nor the upper jaw protrudes out in an unpleasant manner. However, fishes with a protruding lower or upper law is hard to detect when young. It would have been much easier to detect this fault when choosing an adult fish.

9. Gill Cover
The gill cover is the 'face' of an Arowana. In young fishes, this should not pose a big problem as lines or 'wrinkles' are seldom present. Just make sure that the cover is lying flat to the head, not overturned. It should be bright and radiant for any species.
In a Red tail or Cross back golden, it should be shiny gold in colour, not pale looking yellow. In Super Red adults, depending on the age, there should be some patches of orange red at 30cm and full bright red when mature at 50cm and above. The age of maturity may occur earlier in some fishes and later in others, like humans. For Blood Red, you can expect the red to come on faster as compared to a Chilli Red.
The above are extracted from my book The Asian Arowana
Dragon Fish Industry

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