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A fishy story

Hi, folks,

I have a fish story to tell.  I'm afraid it's got nothing to do with
aquatic plants but.......it's an interesting story and one that may
give you an insight into the Asian mentality.

About one and a half years ago, a fish called a Luo Han made
its appearance in some local fish shops.  This fish, which initially
wasn't well received, has now become the number one selling fish
in Singapore.  Not only that, the Luo Han has single-handedly (or
finnedly in this case) rejuvenated the local aquaria scene.  Where
there were only about 100 fish shops 2 years ago, now there are
something like 210.  I think we are going to be the nation with
the highest ratio of fish shops to people.  If the current craze
continues, we will probably end up with something like one fish
shop to every one hundred people.

The Luo Han is a Cichlid.  It looks like an Oscar except that it has
a very pronounced forehead.  It's also known as a Flower Horn fish
for the patterns on its body.  The Luo Han is a hybrid, a cross between
several different species of Cichlids.  They breed easily but are aggressive
fishes.  The fish comes from Malaysia where they are bred in the thousands.
You would have probably seen a Blood Parrot Fish before.  The Luo Han
is a close cousin.

When the Luo Han first made its appearance, it wasn't really selling well
and only a few fish shops carry the fish.  But a couple of months ago, a
story about this fish made the headlines in the local papers.  Seems like a
businessman paid Sing $68,888 for one Luo Han.  One Sing dollar is about
US 0.60 so that would be about US $40,000.  In the news article, the
businessman who bought the fish claimed it was a good deal as in his
travels around Asia, he found the fish to be sold at even higher prices
elsewhere.  Not long after that story, several burglaries were reported
in the fish shops/farms and mostly the stolen fish were Luo Hans.
There were also stories of people striking lottery after having purchased
Luo Hans.

The craze began slowly and if you're not a hobbyist, you wouldn't know
it's happening.  Many fish shops began to sell Luo Hans and some sold
nothing but this fish.  They come in all sizes with different patterns on
their bodies.  Small ones are priced around Sing two to five hundred
dollars.  The prices for big ones can range from a few thousand to
anything around seventy thousand.

You wouldn't believe what's happening around the Luo Han fish shops.
The more popular ones are so crowded on weekends that it's impossible
to browse around without stepping on someone's toes.
People who have never kept fish in their lives are buying Luo Hans by
the dozen.  And whenever they buy a Luo Han, they would have to buy
another tank as the fish cannot be kept together.  The Luo Hans were
selling so well that 2 feet tanks went out of stock in the market.  Frozen
bloodworms were also hard to come by as Luo Han owners bought up
all available stock.  All this and we are supposed to be in the midst
of a recession.

The fish shops that sell Luo Hans have very good pricing
strategies.  They would put a big one in a nice tank and write down a
ridiculous price on it, anywhere in the region of $68,000.  Then they
would put many small ones in other tanks with prices ranging from
$288 to $588.  Naive folks buy the small fish because they are
suckered into believing that their fish would be worth several
thousand dollars when grown bigger.

By the way, Luo Hans are always priced with the figure 8 at the end
because the number 8 sounds like the Chinese word for prosperity.

There's a humourous side to the craze.  To ensure that the interest
does not fizzle out too fast, the fish shops come up with all sorts of
fancy names for their Luo Hans.  Some of the more ridiculous names
are "Golden Phoenix Luo Han" and "Supreme Heaven and Earth".  The
latest craze is "Jin Gang Luo Han" which means something like "Golden
Steel Luo Han".  Last time I heard, there was a "Golden Monkey Luo
Han" and another one called "Starry, starry skies" after the distinctive
marks on its body.  Sheesh.

About 2 years ago, thousands of people queued for several hours
to buy Hello Kitty dolls sold at MacDonalds.  The queues were so
bad that there were traffic jams everywhere and many fights were
reported.  In the MacDonald branch opposite my block, the
doors gave way and some people were injured by the falling glass
when the queue became impatient and people started pushing.  I
couldn't believe my own eyes when I drove my daughter to school
early one morning and saw the queue outside the MacDonalds branch
there snaking around several blocks.  And that was at 6.00 in the
morning, mind you.

The papers last week said the Luo Han craze is slowly spreading
to our neighbour, Malaysia.  In an interview, a fish shop owner
there related a story where a customer bought a small Luo Han for
about a hundred ringgit and sold it later for several thousands
of riggit when the fish got bigger.  Another tall tale involved a
woman who began to have sleepless nights and nightmares when
her Luo Han died.  Cause of death?  She ate it.  Her geomancist
(that's something like a fortune-teller) advised her to buy another
Luo Han to redeem herself.  Obviously, she wasn't supposed to
eat it this time but shower tender loving care on it.  Supposedly,
that's what she did, upon which, her nightmares disappeared
and she began to have peaceful sleep once more.

In the Life section of the Straits Times a few days ago, one whole
page was devoted to the Luo Han story.  A picture of a fish was
shown where there were some patterns on its body that resemble
numbers. The same numbers were the 3rd prize draw in our state-run
lottery the week before.  No doubt, the craze will continue for a long
time more.

You know, I wouldn't have posted this story if not for something
I just learnt.  After all, one man's Luo Han is another man's Killifish.
Who am I to be so critical?  But a friend pointed me to a website today
and there I saw a Luo Han I've never seen before.  It's got no tail!!!!
Shucks, I'm sure it will find its way to the local fish shops eventually.
It's just a matter of time.  If you want to take a look, go to:


By the way, if any of you are interested, I have a Killifish in my
tank that is worth US $50,000.  Only problem is, I haven't found
a sucker, oops, I mean buyer yet :-)

Loh K L