Fish with hump that costs a lump - Flowerhorn swims up lifestyle must-buy list for luck and longevity

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  • Published 7.10.09

The latest lifestyle accessory in town is small and slippery, with a hump on its forehead. If it does swimmingly well, it is billed to bring luck, wealth and longevity — once you’ve shelled out anything between Rs 50 and 1,30,000 for one.

Sounds fishy? Meet Flowerhorn, the ornamental aquarium fish said to share its trademark hump with the Chinese god of longevity, now climbing up the list of lifestyle buys.

“There is a growing demand for the Flowerhorn in town,” says Walter Chen, pointing to the 50-odd he has at home, in three colourful varieties — Red Dragon, Golden Fader and King Kamfa. The Tangra restaurateur and fish-hobbyist-cum-seller is now up to his gills with fish of the forehead-hump kind filling the glass tanks. His regular buyers are dealers from Howrah. “In the past three months, I’ve sold more than 1,000 fries (little ones) to dealers. I even sold a Red and Yellow Flowerhorn for Rs 25,000 to a fish enthusiast from Singapore,” says Chen.

Flowerhorns are hybrids, designed by cross-breeding various Cichlid family fishes from South and Central America that first emerged for sale in the aquarium market in Malaysia in the late 1990s and then became a craze in Singapore and Thailand. The aggressive, carnivorous fish now spells big money. Gautam Jaiswal, who owns Aquariums India in Howrah, hit jackpot by selling an adult Red Monkey for Rs 1,30,000 to a Delhi client. The Calcutta toppers in his book of sales are an adult Red Monkey for Rs 48,000 to a buyer in Tangra and another Flowerhorn variety for Rs 45,000 to a lawyer in Picnic Gardens.

“The price of the fish varies depending on the ratio of the hump to body size,” says Debmalya Seal of the pet shop Tail Waggers on CIT Road, who stocks Flowerhorns. The hobbyist-turned-seller who sources from Chennai and Mumbai, picks Monkey Face as the popular Flowerhorn variety. Bred in India, the little ones go for Rs 50-Rs 150, while a 12-inch adult costs at least Rs 18,000. Adult King Kamfa, Golden Dragon and Thaisilk, from Singapore and Thailand, would leave you poorer by Rs 25,000 and more.

The all-important hump is formed by fat deposition and so the Flowerhorn is often injected with or fed hormones to increase the size. “But this might reduce longevity,” warns Archana Sinha, the principal scientist at the Central Institute of Fisheries Education in Salt Lake.