Fighting fish hobby pays off during MCO


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 01 Jul 2020

Ooi inspecting a Blue Rim Plakat worth RM300 at his breeding facility in Ayer Itam. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Two amateur breeders of competition-grade fighting fish found so much success in their venture during the movement control order (MCO) that they quit their day jobs and went at it full time.

Buddies Ooi Zheng Hau, 25, and Grom Chua, 27, expanded their hobby into a business in February but when the MCO began on March 18, they braced for bad times.

However, as fighting fish lovers stuck at home had plenty of time to browse their offerings on social media and chat groups, they were in for a pleasant surprise.

Their sales shot up and their reputation as good breeders grew.

“We both make more than RM3,000 a month now after deducting all expenses.

“There are still more orders coming, so we gave up our full-time jobs and became professional breeders,” said Ooi, who used to be a biotech researcher after earning a degree in marine aquaculture.

The duo specialise in selectively breeding a variant of fighting fish called Plakat, and they focus on reproducing two colour schemes called Blue Rim and Marble.

The Blue Rim Plakat has a pristine ivory to pearl white body rimmed in a circle of royal or sky blue markings on its fins and tail, while the Marble Plakat looks like a swimming piece of blue-and-white porcelain with patterns that create a marbled look on the fish’s body, fins and tail.

Enthusiasts have classed hundreds of colourations, and Ooi and Chua have begun experimenting with breeding other variants such as Multi-Colour and Galaxy.

“Beginners like Plakats with lots of colours because they look nice. Blue Rims and Marbles are more like masterclass level.

Costly beauty: The surreal colouration of the Multi-Colour Plakat means it can sell for up to RM200.Costly beauty: The surreal colouration of the Multi-Colour Plakat means it can sell for up to RM200.

“But the work is not easy. In a spawning of 100 fries, we care for all of them for about four months before finding two to five beautiful ones fit to be entered into competitions,” said Ooi.

When they get it right, discerning buyers will pay for the beauty. Competition grade male Plakats sell for up to RM300 each and sometimes more.

The females go for RM700 to RM1,000 each. They are not as pretty as the males, but hardcore fighting fish lovers desire them for the breeding factor.

Ooi said during the strictest phases of the MCO, they sold hundreds of fish and used special courier services to deliver them nationwide.

Chua, who used to work in a restaurant, said they worked from morning to midnight, feeding the fish and changing the water in hundreds of little jars and tens of breeding tanks in their rented premises.

“I have to take videos of specific fish and post them on social media and in chat groups to promote them.

“Then we have to chat with our customers to promote our fish, sometimes till late into the night,” he said, adding: “It doesn’t feel like work as we really love rearing fish.”

Chua, who has been rearing fish since he was a child, also has several prized snakehead species at home.“When you love doing something until you make money out of it, that is happiness,” he said.

Ayer Itam assemblyman Joseph Ng Soon Siang stumbled upon the duo breeding and selling fighting fish out of their homes with limited space.

“I urged them to rent a space and breed on a larger scale. The timing turned out to be perfect and the MCO helped them gain customers.

“I am so happy to have these young entrepreneurs’ success story in my constituency. I know many people are struggling now, but I hope this story will inspire them.

“You never know where opportunities will come from,” said Ng.

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