(Image from the web)
In the Chinese restaurants, you might see some tanks with live fish . So, you get to pick your choicest. The attendant scoops it with a net and and disappears into the kitchen. Then you wait, sip cups of tea and chat. How gleefully you and your guests greet the nice platter of steamed fish! Hmmm... the aroma of the ginger, shaoxing wine(chinese rice wine), and light soya sauce and the spring onion sitting atop the white flesh of the steamed fish whets the palate!
I'm talking about the soon hock, also known as marble goby or ikan ketutu, (Oxyeleotris marmoratus) one of the most expensive table fish in Malaysia.
My friend, May and I happen to witness the soon hock - babies and adult under the tender loving care of Mr R. It was a surprising 'discovery' that morning. We were looking for plants and we found fish - soon hock in different surroundings, scientific and sterile.
The natural habitat of the soon hock is the brackish waters of the streams, canals and lakes. This predatory fish is found in many Asian countries including Malaysia Now, there's a growing industry of rearing it in ponds and former mining pools. Soon hock is successfully spawned and reared under artificial conditions. However, the mortality is high during the larval stages. It is a major problem in the mass production of this species.
Thought I'd share our encounter with Mr R who gave us a peek into his daily routine of minding soon hock fingerlings. We didn't linger long as Mr R was busy and we were his unexpected visitors! We thanked him for sharing his work with us. Cheekily I wished him well with his 'babies' !!
The fingerlings are so tiny I had to squint my eyes to cries of, ' Where? Where? Oh! I see them!' Detecting the quite colourless ones in the water can be a little tricky - barely 3 weeks old. Food like algae is given to a different population in each pail , to chart the growth. Others which have grown bigger are easy to spot.
Looking after his 'babies'. Mr R is seen changing the water. He explains this is necessary to prevent a build-up of ammonia which will cause the fish to die.
Mr R's interest in marine biology keeps him busy a few days in this lab. He works closely with the researcher, keeping data and carrying out the necessary care of the fish.
Many buckets in the lab - all well utilized for the experiments.
Months into years of research to cultivate the soon hock for the commercial market.
I thought the plastic tubes were just to serve as resting places. More to this. The hollows are for the soon hock which tend to be solitary. Some were seen hiding inside the tubes.
One of the mating pair in another tank.
The other partner of the mating pair in the tank. Isn't he handsome? Note his large head, symmetrical patterning on the dorsal surface and on the rounded outstretched pectoral fins. He hardly moved as we watched him.