Instead of a fish aquarium, try keeping shrimps at home!

Mr Alvin Chan, owner of Aquarist Chamber, with a tank of crystal red shrimp from Japan. Retailers see shrimp keeping as a new craze in the making.

Instead of keeping fishes in an aquarium at home, why not try rearing shrimps?

That local tropical fish shop in your neighbourhood may soon become a rarity.

There were about 300 licensed aquarium shops in 2002, at the height of the craze over Luohan or Flower Horn Fish, said to bring good luck to its owners.

But the latest figures from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore show there were just 120 licensed aquarium shops at the start of the year, down from 140 in 2012.

Industry players say many such shops have been hit by falling interest in rearing fish and direct Internet sales, among other factors.

Among the casualties is Soon Heng Aquarium in Yishun. Its owner, Mr K.H. Koh, 60, said he closed shop last year because "business was so poor".

Meanwhile, the remaining players are feeling the heat.

At Pet Mart in Serangoon North, ornamental fish sales have fallen by 20 per cent in the past year. Its managing director, Mr Benjamin Wee, 40, said: "A lot of effort is needed to rear fish, and there are so many competing hobbies now."

"Kids watch television shows, have an iPad. The interest in fish isn't there any more," he said, adding that the business will be shuttered after he retires.

"Even if my children want to take over, I will tell them no. Honestly, you cannot earn much, and it is really hard work." He pays himself $3,000 a month.

Madam M.C. Li, the owner of Heisenberg Pet and Aquarium Centre in Serangoon North, is thinking of shutting when her lease is up in two years.

The 60-year-old said the shop barely breaks even each month. Two years ago, it used to earn several thousand dollars a month. "It is hard for us to continue," she said, adding that people are also selling ornamental fish online.

"Nowadays, the tropical fish farms here can sell directly to customers too," she said.

Mr Andy Yap, the deputy chief executive of Qian Hu Corporation, the leading supplier to local fish shops, said customers often buy fish from the farm after visiting. But, he said, the company makes sure its prices do not undercut those of its suppliers.

He cited other reasons for the falling number of shops.

"During the Flower Horn Fish craze, there were so many new players which opened up... After the craze, they shut down because they did not have the know-how to continue," he said, adding there was no new trend and a lack of excitement after the craze died down.

"Shops are also closing because children are not taking over the business from the older generation," he said, adding that Qian Hu's sales to retailers have been stable over the past decade.

Mr Jonathan Lim, 26, who started rearing fish at age 13, said he stopped doing so two years ago as it had become "boring".

"You can't do much with fish. They are hard to breed," said Mr Lim, who works in the beauty industry. He has since turned to shrimp, and owns about 300 of them. "For shrimp, you can breed them and create new species. It is more challenging," he said.

(First published in The Straits Times)

TOPICS: fish tank, pets, trend