As Tet (Lunar New Year) is nearing in Vietnam, the market for ornamental fish, including those worth almost US$1,000, is heating up, with people buying them to display around their homes or give as costly gifts.
In recent years, many members of the middle and upper classes have begun keeping ornamental fish, including exotic, costly species.
The market particularly gains momentum a few weeks prior to Tet, which falls on February 19 this year, and lingers around one week after that.
A gorgeous looking school of "Ca Binh Tich" (Sailfin Molly). Photo: Tuoi Tre
In the past few weeks, ornamental fish shops on Nguyen Thong Street in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City have received more clients looking for different kinds of fish as pets or Tet gifts.
Much-loved fish, including such species as Guppy, Swordtail, Molly, Gold, Angel, Giant Red Tail, Gourami, and Congo, cost between VND3,000 ($0.14) and a few million dong apiece.
An exorbitant ornamental fish, which fetched $16,500 in 2008. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Many also buy aquariums and parts including filters, pumps, and aquatic plants to embellish their homes for the upcoming Tet.
The hobby also has a large female following.
Thanh Huong, who resides in Phu Nhuan District, Ho Chi Minh City bought an aquarium, filter and dozens of inexpensive fish at Tran Du Shop on Nguyen Thong Street.
“It cost me a total of VND550,000 [$25.63] and it’s really worth it, as the aquarium with the richly-colored fish swimming in it is really great to look at and a good way to unwind during Tet and the rest of the year,” Huong said.
An expensive breed of Arowana Fish (Dragon fish). Photo: Tuoi Tre
According to ornamental fish traders, this year’s luxury segment favorites are still different varieties of Arowana Fish (Dragon Fish), including “Huyet Long” (Super Red Asian) and “Bach Long Hong Vy” (Red-Tail Silver).
The varieties, which are imported from Indonesia and Thailand, cost up to VND20 million ($932) apiece.
Affluent clients opt for the species in feng shui hopes of a prosperous year ahead, traders explained.
Some also buy the exorbitant fish as Tet gifts.
A "Huyet Long" fish (Super Red Asian Arowana Fish). Photo: Tuoi Tre
Second in line is “Ca Dia” (Discus Fish), which is shaped like a round dish. They vary from VND200,000 to VND300,000 ($9 to $14) apiece.
A variety of "Ca Dia" (Discus Fish). Photo: Tuoi Tre
Another variety of "Ca Dia" (Discus Fish) with light orange veins, which is one of the bestsellers for Tet (Lunar New Year) in 2015. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A favorite among women, “Ca Canh Buom” (Black Tetra), which is shaped like a sail in light pink and blue, is also well sought after for this year’s Tet.
They fetch only VND20,000-30,000 ($1-1.5) each.
Individuals of the Japanese carp, which also sells well in the 2015 Tet market. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Local traders said that although “Ca La Han” (Flower Horn Fish) remains a much-loved species, interest in the fish has waned considerably in recent years.
The radiantly colored fish, which has a weird-looking lump on its forehead and black scales resembling Chinese script, is also known for its intelligence and skills to communicate with the owners.
A gorgeous "Ca La Han" (Flower Horn Fish) is seen "communicating" with its owner. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A pet exclusive to the affluent some years ago, the price for the fish has dropped considerably and is now affordable to average income earners.
They fetch around VND200,000 and VND300,000 ($9 to $14) apiece and are thus one of the most common pets for the upcoming Tet.
An individual of "Ca La Han" (Flower Horn Fish) is seen in this Tuoi Tre file photo.
“‘Ca La Han’ made huge profits some 10 years ago. The fish has notably dropped in value in the past five years, with current prices one tenth of those back then. Its current highest price is just around VND1.2 million [$56],” lamented Nguyen Anh Tai, the owner of an ornamental fish shop in Phu Nhuan District who has been involved in the fish breeding and trading business for a dozen years now.
Tai said his current bestsellers are individuals of Arowana Fish, which are imported from Indonesia and accompanied by origin certificates.
A certified Arowana Fish, which measures around 30 centimeters in length, can cost as much as VND3.5 million ($163).
Tai also showcased his latest Thailand-imported varieties, including a Thai species of “Ca Bay Mau” (Gold Fish), and Japanese Ping Pong Fish, which resembles a ping pong ball and keeps doing “somersaults” in the aquarium.
Fun-looking Ping Pong Fish. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A "koi" (left) kept by a Vietnamese trader was named the first runner-up at a "koi" competition held in Malaysia in May 2014. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Another exorbitant fishy indulgence is Japanese koi.
Literally meaning “brocaded carp,” the koi is an ornamental variety of domesticated common carp (Cyprinus carpio), kept for decorative purposes in outdoor ponds or water gardens.
Koi varieties are distinguished by their color and scale pattern. Their brilliant scales are white, black, red, yellow, blue, and cream. The most popular type of koi is the Gosanke.
The fish, which has long been considered symbolic of harmony, ambition, and patience, all attributes integral to success, is priced up to $20,000 apiece.
A "koi" fish (Japanese Carp) in close-up. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Traders noted sales will particularly heat up from the 23rd day of the lunar year’s final month onward, when people buy carp to see off “Ong Tao” (the Kitchen God) to the Jade Emperor’s palace, as per tradition.
Fish prices will rise by 5-10 percent, with “Ca Dia” (Discus Fish) expected to soar up to 20 percent in price.
Prices have already seen slight increases in the past few days, shop owners added.
Nguyen Anh Tai (left), the owner of an ornamental fish shop in Ho Chi Minh City's Phu Nhuan District, is seen introducing popular varieties to a customer. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A variety of richly colored "Ca Chep" (Carp). Photo: Tuoi Tre