Can't scrimp on these shrimp

Can't scrimp on these shrimp

He can spend up to three hours a day just gazing into six fish tanks.

But it is not large, slow-moving fish that have his undivided attention.

Instead, they are tiny, scuttling critters of varying colours, breed and cost: ornamental shrimp.

Mr Steve Su, 27, a field sales supervisor, knows that some people may scoff at the idea of watching these small creatures for such long hours.

He, however, has a bench specially designated for shrimp-gazing in his four-room HDB flat in Fernvale. Says Mr Su: "It is therapeutic to look at them. And it can be quite fascinating to watch them scurry around."

It was the crystal red shrimp, or CRS as it is better known as, that first caught his attention five years ago.

Mr Su recalls with a boyish grin: "I came across them in some fish shop and I was attracted to the shrimps' striking colours."

But his first attempt at shrimp-keeping was short-lived.

He says: "Not knowing much, I started out with a poor set-up and didn't maintain the shrimps properly. After a while, the shrimps died."

The CRS craze first hit Japan in 1996, when Japanese breeder Hisayasu Suzuki discovered a red mutant among thousands of black-banded bee shrimps and patented it.

Other breeders refined the specimens to achieve the koi-like shrimp, which is also popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Mr Su decided to have another go at shrimp-keeping last July after he moved into his new home.

This time he decided on 10 rare German pinto shrimps, which cost him $350 each.

It turned out to be an expensive and painful experience.

He says: "I think something was wrong with the soil. The shrimps started to die, one by one."

Mr Su reckons the biggest obstacle he faced was trying to obtain more information on shrimp-keeping.

"Somehow, most of the aquariums want to keep their breeding tips a secret," he says.

But he believes his woes are over. Four months ago, on the recommendation of a fellow breeder, he met long-time hobbyist Alvin Chan, who runs Aquarist Chamber.

Mr Su says: "Alvin analysed the situation and offered advice, like getting the right equipment for the different kinds of shrimps I wanted to keep."

SUCCESS

It has been a success so far.

Mr Su is coy about how much he has spent on the various shrimps he has, but lets on that each can cost as little as $1 to about $1,200 a piece.

His current set-up of six tanks, a holding rack, air pump and chiller cost about $3,000.

He is pleased with the "rewards".

Says Mr Su: "It is always a special moment when the shrimp gives birth. The suspense comes from waiting to see how the baby shrimp with different colours and breed turn out, and what grade, "cheap" or "expensive", they will be."

From his initial batch of 15 shrimps, he now has about 50 shrimps of various breeds, colours and patterns.

While his wife is not a shrimp fan, she sometimes joins him on the bench for a chat. They have two daughters, nine and three.

He says: "My younger girl loves to feed the shrimps with me."

Mr Su is part of a growing community of shrimp hobbyists here who are spending more time and money on exploring the world of the tiny crustaceans.

"We are spreading the love like a virus," he declares with a laugh.


This article was first published on January 18, 2015.
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