April 20, 2024

The ultimate First World problem: cosmetic surgery for my fish

Not just any fish, mind you: just the Asian arrowana

Unnecessary and expensive cosmetic surgery cops a hiding in BioEdge from time to time for departing from the traditional view of medicine as restoring health instead of reinforcing body image stereotypes.

But what if the body belongs to a large-scaled fish with sage-like whiskers and an aggressive personality?

The New York Times recently ran a feature about the Asian arrowana fish, the world’s most expensive aquarium fish. The cost of a single fish ranges from hundreds of dollars per fish to tens of thousands. A collector from China is said to have purchased an albino specimen for US$300,000. With prices that high Eugene Ng, a Singaporean breeder, can also practice as a piscine cosmetic surgeon.

He gave it an eyelift for the benefit of the NYTimes. “I know some people think it’s cruel to the fish,” says Mr. Ng. “But really I’m doing it a favor. Because now the fish looks better and its owner will love it even more.” 

Other procedures include fin jobs and tail tucks.

American journalist Emily Voight, author of The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish, says that the arrowana has a special cachet in Asia, even though its popularity dates back only to the 1980s:

In Chinese, the creature is known as lóng yú, the dragon fish, for its sinuous body plated with large scales as round and shiny as coins. At maturity, the primitive predator reaches the length of a samurai sword, about two to three feet, and can be red, gold or green. A pair of whiskers juts from its chin, and its back half ripples like the paper dragons in a Chinese New Year parade. This resemblance has spawned the belief that the fish brings good luck and prosperity — that it will even commit suicide by vaulting from its tank, sacrificing its life to save its owner.

A fish that loyal deserves to have cosmetic surgery!

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