High level of security to protect prized fishes at Xian Leng farms

FIRST timers to Xian Leng Holdings Bhd's ornamental fish farm in Batu Pahat may be awed by its high level of security with a watch tower, closed circuit TVs and double perimeter fences. 

Although such security level may rival those installed at most high-technology operations, this may led one to ask if such over-indulgence was necessary for a fish farm. 

Xian Leng managing director Ng Huan Tong mildly puts it as being prepared for any eventuality as the fish farm was not an ordinary one and easily contains millions of ringgit worth of Asian arowana fishes and breedstocks. 

For added security, about 40 guard dogs would be let loose around the farm compound at evening to deter any would be intruders. 

Ng, who has more than 20 years of experience in the ornamental fish business, said the popularity of the arowanas would continue to grow due to its beauty, grace and endangered specie status. 

Together with the belief that having such fish would bring good luck, arowanas would command interest especially from Chinese customers. 

Xian Leng's farm has 96 individually controlled breeding ponds for arowana fishes and a permanent staff of 30 workers. Besides the fish breeding ponds, the farm also has a sizeable cockroach farm to supply the insect as live food the arowanas.  

“Arowana fishes prefer live food due to their aggressive nature,” he said. 

To ensure sufficient freshwater to the breeding ponds, Ng said the farm has a 2.5ha water storage pond which obtains its water supply from the neighbouring Sri Medan forest reserve.  

“We are aware that the clean water supply is critical in breeding quality arowana fishes,” he said. 

Its executive director Tan Cheng Kiat said the company's constant research and development programme had enabled Xian Leng to breed about 20 arowana variants from the basic gold, red and green breeding stocks.  

The company invests between 12% to 15% of its turnover for its R&D to increase the company's fish variants. 

“Although breeding arowanas are not simple, we were able to get our arowana to breed year round,” said Tan, who was a former deputy director-general of the Fisheries Department. 

He also said arowanas were choosy about their mates and may reject some selected under their breeding programme.  

The male arowana would incubate the fertilised eggs in its mouth for 50 days until they are hatched. 

An arowana fry could grow to five to six inches in three months and command wholesale prices between US$50 to US$2,500 depending on its variant. 

Ng said each of the passive integrated tag (PIT) allows the fish to be identified when scanned with a handheld device.  

This is to enable the authorities to identify which farm the fish was bred.  

The PIT, which was made using US-technology, is around the size of a rice grain and costs RM20 each. 

He said the company airfreights its fishes to overseas customers to reduce travelling time and stress on the live fishes.  

“We even guarantee our customers that all fishes will arrive alive,” he said. 

He added that arowana fishes have been placed in sealed oxygenated plastic bags for more than 40 hours without any problems. 

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