After a luohan fish worth $600 was stolen from her shop two weeks ago, owner Susan Lim decided to install a CCTV inside it.
To her horror, the CCTV recorder was stolen - along with five luohan fish, several lights, filters and a cash register with more than $400 cash - after a break-in on Wednesday night.
Madam Lim, who owns three-year-old Blue Paradise Aquarium, discovered that the window panels and grilles at the back of her Serangoon North Avenue 2 shop were removed when she opened for business at about 11am yesterday.
She estimated her loss to be about $10,000. The most valuable item that was stolen was a luohan fish with beautiful spots on its head, worth $1,200.
The stolen luohan fish had arrived about a week ago, said Madam Lim, who has more than 30 years of experience and is a veteran in the industry.
The cost of a luohan fish can range from a few hundred to $5,000, she added.
Madam Lim told The New Paper yesterday: "I'm very sad to see my fish gone. I had just cleaned their tank yesterday.
"The thief must have knowledge of fishes because he picked the most valuable ones. Or he must like luohan fish a lot because some of our goldfish (which were not targeted) are quite valuable, too."
Her son, Mr Victor Wee, 22, a full-time national serviceman, noted that the thief did not steal the arowanas either. The shop also sells tropical fishes.
He said: "But it could be because luohan fish are easier to catch. They don't leap around as much as the arowanas."
Madam Lim's shop, which had a CCTV camera but no security alarm, is one of the many pet shops at Serangoon North.
There are so many shops selling animals and pet supplies in that neighbourhood that the cluster of shops has been named The Pet Walk.
The shop owners complain that shoplifting in the area is common, although a break-in is rare.
Still, there was a break-in attempt on the same night that Madam Lim's shop was broken into. This happened at Heisenberg Pet and Aquarium Centre at Serangoon North Avenue 1.
A worker at the shop, who wanted to be known only as Ah Hock, said in Mandarin: "I noticed something amiss because a window was removed. The thief even left one of his gloves at the scene."
The shop owner, who wanted to be known only as Madam Li, added: "We spend hundreds every month on the CCTV and alarm, but it is the grilles which actually saved us."
Ah Hock added: "The losses would be extremely heavy if he manages to break into our shop."
Heisenberg Pet and Aquarium Centre carries many valuable fishes, including a golden catfish worth $38,000.
Madam Li added that her fishes are insured, but she is worried that claiming insurance for stolen fishes could be an uphill task.
A neighbouring shop, Chua's Pets Trading, puts up signs warning potential shoplifters that his shop is under CCTV surveillance, a tactic he thought worked quite well.
Mr Chua Thiam Chuan, 65, who has been running the shop for more than 30 years, keeps his birds and antique bird cages, which can cost more than $10,000, in his shop.
Mr Chua said: "I live just above the shop so I can listen out for trouble. I can also claim insurance if anything is stolen, but it's scary if the thief comes up to my flat, too. Perhaps there could be more police patrols in the area at night."
Madam Lim said she will be taking more precautions after this incident. Her shop is insured for damages, but she does not think she can claim for her stolen fish.
She said: "I'm going to install a security alarm after this."
Police confirmed that they were informed of two case of housebreaking by night yesterday morning.
Housebreaking and theft by night with common intention carries a maximum jail term of 14 years.
Previous Fish Thefts
1. A provision shop owner was jailed for three months in February 2013 for paying three teenagers to steal goldfish and parrots worth $20,000 from pet farms the previous year.
2. A food-stall assistant was jailed five months for stealing arowanas worth $43,000 from tanks and ponds across the island from 2010 to 2012.
3. In February 2011, a man was caught on CCTV walking into a Pasir Ris shop and grabbing a $1,050 arowana with his bare hands, before stuffing it into his pocket and walking out.
4. Two men were charged in 2011 after they were caught following their break-in of an aquarium in Serangoon North, where they stole 12 live stingrays worth $40,000.
This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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