A Visit to Hong Kong

We visited Hong Kong in March of 1997. We wanted to see the city before the hand over to the PRC in July. Wow, what a place. Huge high-rise office buildings jut suddenly out of green treed hillsides, densely packed alleys have every type of shop you might need for supplies in a single block, while other areas have multiple blocks of just a single kind of store. And the pace ... everyone works 12 hour days 6 or 7 days a week. No wonder it is a prosperous place.

I was of course very interested in goldfish and I got to see lots! The first stop off was Ocean Park, HK's largest amusement park. Nestled in the middle of Ocean Park is the "Goldfish Pagoda", a mini public aquarium devoted solely to goldfish. We were lucky enough to get a behind the scenes tour of the Goldfish Pagoda from CK Chan, who is in charge of the facility.

The Goldfish Pagoda consists of about 50 viewing tanks organized in a horse shoe shaped building. In the center is a pond with pool fish, waterfall, and tastefully arranged penjing. In the viewing tanks are some of the nicest specimens I have seen of familiar and rare goldfish varieties. Mr. Chan said that they have about 120 varieties of goldfish, with a rotating display of about 45 varieties in the Pagoda display tanks.

Not normally accessible to the public are the breeding and care facilities for the collection. Waving my "GFSA credentials", we were able to see these. Wow! Lots of huge vats and tanks, massive filter systems, and many beautiful goldfish. They monitor all water conditions daily and do sufficient water changes to keep the nitrates below 5 ppm (this impressed me; the nitrates are higher in my tap water, before my fish ever get a chance to bless it). They have two ancient varieties of goldfish they breed and maintain: the blue phoenix egg fish and the red cap goosehead. The latter looks like a rather long lionhead with snow white body and a red, high-head ("gao tou") shaped wen (that is, just on top of the head, like a cap).

The other big HK goldfish activity was a visit to Tung Choi Street. Near the Jordan metro station is both the Bird Market (two blocks of cage bird vendors) and the several block section of Tung Choi Street that is devoted to aquarium stores, many of which specialize in goldfish!

The Tung Choi Street shops were quite amazing. The fish were densely packed into aquariums, but were usually in very good condition. It is quite amazing to see a 50 gallon tank with 25 softball-sized ranchu in it. The varieties I saw were mostly the most popular ones; ranchu, lionhead, oranda, and ryukin primarily. Only a couple of bubbleyes. Oh, and quite a few butterfly tailed demekins, particularly in the small sizes (2 to 3 inches).

The prices seemed very reasonable. The most expensive fish I saw was HK$2000, most really nice 4 to 5 inch fish were HK$300 to HK$400. At about HK$8 for US$1, this means a typical price of US$35 to US$50 for big beautiful fish. And I saw a lot of really nice smaller fish (say 2 to 3 inches) for HK$40: about US$5. Interestingly, these are the same "dollar" tags I saw on the tanks in Singapore fish stores ... yet the Singapore dollar is 5 times the value of the HK dollar. So we in the USA aren't the only ones paying a lot for our nice fish.

There was one goldfish activity I didn't do in HK. Every morning from 4am to about 6:30 or 7am there is a "goldfish market". This is near the sports complex east of the Jordan subway stop. This is semi-wholesale: I assume the Tung Choi Street dealers may go here to pick up some of their stock. Apparently it was a big thing in years past, but now many dealers get their fish through direct arrangements with fish farms, reducing the popularity of this open air market. The truth be known, though I was interested in seeing this, by the end of the trip I had seen enough goldfish to make a 3:30am trip to this market not seem entirely critical.

Some of my friends in Singapore put together a nice assortment of photos from their visit to Hong Kong. Check these out!