Plants and Animals

The Fanciest Pet Fish Around Is Worth $300,000

The Fanciest Pet Fish Around Is Worth $300,000

There are quite a few opulent indulgences available for $300,000. However, a rare exotic fish known as the Asian arowana is a pricey indulgence that may catch some people off guard. This prestige symbol may cost up to $300,000, while some young can be had for as little as $300, and rare white albinos can cost up to $70,000. But what makes this fish so valuable?

This fish has a sinuous body and enormous gleaming scales, earning it the nickname “dragon fish.” These fish may grow to be 0.6 to 0.9 meters (2 to 3 feet) long and have a pair of whiskers on their chin when fully grown. Because they resemble the paper dragons in a Chinese New Year parade, they are supposed to bring good luck and wealth. There have also been reports of arowanas sacrificing their life by jumping out of tanks to alert owners of risks and disastrous business endeavors – thus these fish should probably go on Dragons Den instead of a fish tank.

What’s even more amazing is that these fish haven’t always held such a high position and have come from considerably lower places. For generations, they were hunted as the star of a delectable dinner in Southeast Asia’s blackwater rivers and wetlands. In 1975, everything changed. When Southeast Asia’s wetlands began to deteriorate, so did the fish population. As a result, they were barred from international commerce and are currently illegally imported into the United States under the Endangered Species Act.

According to Emily Voigt, author of The Dragon behind the Glass, this defense backfired. “That official seal of rarity completely backfired,” Voigt says in an interview with The Hustle. “And it transformed the fish into a limited-edition premium item.” There is now a booming black market as a result of this rare stamp and perceived luxury item, which has resulted in an increase in violence.

Four arowana robberies occurred in a single week in Singapore, and during one of these crimes, an elderly woman was assaulted while the thief carted her fish away in a bucket. For these valuable fish, an aquarium owner was stabbed to death and nearly decapitated in another incident. Shawn Lee was stopped by special agents in Los Angeles County in 2017 with a white-plastic “Coco” bag between his knees containing eight bags of the sought-after Asian arowanas.

Because these fish are so desirable, some owners are willing to do plastic surgery on them, with some charging $60 for a chin operation and $90 for an eyelift. There are even fish beauty pageants, and the fish are so valuable that they are frequently escorted by armed guards. The limitations on the trade of farm-bred Arowana whose parents were captive-born were lifted in the 1980s, allowing the trading of captive-born Arowana. However, demand for these fish remains high, and some are now raised in highly guarded facilities in Southeast Asia and implanted with traceable microchips. These farms are well guarded, with security dogs, watchtowers, and layered walls in place to keep fishy thieves at bay.