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Hybrid Cichlids Raking in a Fortune

Paul Yii and his brother Simon with their stock of hybrid cichlids

SIBU: A fish with a gargoyle-like head, the product of a Frankensteinian experiment, is raking in a fortune for aquarium fish dealers in the country.

It’s supposedly the result of crossbreeding the African cichlid with the Giant Gourami, locally known as the “kalui”.

Among fish fanciers, it’s known as the Hua Luo Han or the Flower Horn fish.

While its African parentage is widely claimed, some fanciers say it’s a hybrid of several species from South America and Taiwan. But judging by its body chromatics, it’s more likely to have African genes. Most of the fish species found in local aquariums closely resemble African cichlids which are found in abundance in Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika in Africa.

What explains the protruding forehead? The Giant Gouramis of Sabah, which apparently have been crossbred with the cichlids. Since the hybrid has more features of the African cichlid, it’s more accurate to refer to it as a hybrid cichlid rather than a gourami.

Among Chinese traditionalists, a protruding forehead is linked with the bearer of good fortunes. No wonder the fish has become so popular among those who swear by the dictates of feng shui.

Demand for the fish is skyrocketing; prices have reached dizzying heights. The more pronounced the bulge on the forehead, the costlier it becomes. Superstitious fanciers say the bulge symbolises good feng shui. It’s a surefire way to usher prosperity your way, they swear.  But be prepared for near-insolvency. One fine specimen with the bulging forehead could set you back by as much as between RM10,000 and RM50,000.

A Singaporean businessman recently parted with S$180,000 (RM387,000) for just one Golden Horn. The dark spots that cover the flanks resemble Chinese calligraphy; punters even swear these resemble four-digit numbers, an that stroking the bulbous head improves their chances of striking it big at the next lottery draw. That explains that overpoweringly fishy smell that’s been wafting around four-digit lottery outlets in recent weeks.

For those who are put off by the grotesque, gargoyle-like head, gape at the dorsal fin instead. The movements are exquisite, exuding regality.

On the average, the hybrid cichlid grows to a length of about 30 cm. It has an average lifespan of ten years.

The bulbous head is much sought after

Since its entry into the market in 1998, it has taken the aquarium fish industry to dizzying heights. If the 1980s belonged to the Arowana, this new decade undoubtedly belongs to the hybrid cichlid.

Notes Paul Yii of The Mermaid World located at Belian Lane here, “This fever has rapidly spread to the neighbouring country and gradually (it should spread) to the whole world. Besides, it also help generate huge interest in fish rearing among locals.”

Fish rearing, Yii figures, has hitherto been viewed as just another hobby. For the enterprising and superstitious, getting to hit the jackpot can be as easy as installing an aquarium at a strategic location, with several fishes, including one that’s totally black. Feng shui masters figure the black specimen is a protection against ill fortune. Whether or not it actually works is debatable, but such superstition is taking root even among the highly-educated, including non-Asians. Little wonder that the hybrid cichlid is going places.

Now for a few non-feng shui pointers. Generally, an aquarium should not be placed at too low a level since it would be difficult to detect leakages. A dank and damp environment at home isn’t conducive for health either. Moreover, placing the aquarium at a higher level prevents accidents, especially when there are lively children in the house.

Yii says it’s also best to avoid locations like beneath the altar, facing the kitchen and in a bedroom, since these are considered inauspicious.

Adds Yii, “People these days are more conscious about feng shui and most have their way of looking after their aquariums.”

He has been trading in the colourful cichlids for only eight months, and he notices the huge impact on local fish fanciers.

Says he, “It’s getting better and people, from all walks of life, are showing interest in rearing fish. This augurs well for the hobby.”

Most fanciers make do with the basic aquarium for tropical fish.  Explains Yii, “Comparatively speaking, tropical fish are much easier to rear. All the fish rearers need to do is to feed the fish and they will grow.”

The rearing of marine fish, which is highly popular in Singapore, is not not popular here because of the expertise needed to keep a flourishing aquarium. Moreover, more equipment are needed, including a water filtering system. It’s a niche market, and few are adventurous enough to give it a go.

Compared with the hybrid cichlid and arowana, marine fish are cheaper. Some of the more familiar varieties include the damsel, tang, trigger, butterfly fish and a mind-boggling variety of angelfish, all available for between RM10 and RM20 each. However, some rare species of angelfish could cost as much as RM600 each.

Notes Yii, “The problem, of course, is the high rate of mortality. That’s why few people dare to rear marine fish.”

If you fancy having a marine aquarium, take note of Yii’s tips. Always ensure that the water and filtration system are clean.

Water in an aquarium easily becomes polluted. Waste products contain nitrogenous and organic matter which will eventually poison the aquarium. Speeding up this process is rotting fish feed leftovers. The toxicity of the water weakens resistance to dieases. Poor appetite also results. Hence, it’s essential to have a sophisticated filtration system. An effective filtration system generates oxygen while expelling toxic gases and removing waste products.

According to Yii, the water needs to changed at least once a fortnight. This is to remove the accumulated ammonia and the fish droppings.

If it doesn't bulge, neither would your wallet

He advises, “If you cannot provide a nice and appropriate home for the fish, how could the fish unfold its charmness and beauty before your eyes?”

Generally, fish are fed three times a day. With meticulous care. marine fish can survive for two to three years. Freshwater fish, on the other hand, can survive for 10 to 12 years. Notably, marine fish do not undergo growth spurts and usually maintain their vivid colours.

The Mermaid World also deals in a huge variety of shrimps for the aquarium. Also available is a large variety of local freshwater fish and plants.

Yii is aiming high. He hopes to export some of the tropical fish to Indonesia.

Source: Borneo Post



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