Having just returned from an amazing trip in Bangkok, it would almost be considered criminal if we weren’t going to spill and share on the reefing goodies this amazing city has to offer. Like our previous recount of BlueHarbor in Japan, this is our second major travelogue from Asia showcasing the sights of the fish trade way over on the other side of the globe. Living in Singapore, it is easy and cheaper for me to country hop within Asia, and Bangkok being a two hour flight away, is always an obvious choice for a quick getaway. Our first part to this series features the legendary DSPS tank of Chingchai Eukrongtham.
Before we pounce on his well known giant sized aquarium like a starving jungle cat relishing on a gazelle, let us share a few details on his other smaller systems that pepper his apartment. Chingchai is a man of corals, and if there’s anything he excels in, it’s this. I can’t begin to explain how I felt when I took my kicks off in front of his door and gingerly entered his apartment. My trance was brokend by a large, frantically waving stony coral in the most absurd highlighter neon lime green I have ever seen.
This large Elegenace coral puts the real definition in its common name. Maybe I’ve not seen much Cataphyllia in my time, but I for sure have never seen one of this color. The entire body and all its tentacles are colored a highlighter neon green. Even under white lights, the coral is impeccable and stunning. This large foot long LPS sits in a barebottom small tank alone with various other corals but nowhere near its calibre.
Further ahead still are numerous smaller tanks. The NPS cube tank was nowhere to be seen, but instead, one filled with soft corals. Perhaps he did a revamp on that challenging system. Either way, its inhabitants included a juvenile O. fuscipinnis and various Ventralis Anthias. O. fuscipinnis is a deepwater anthias that has recently become more obtainable, but juveniles such as this is still a far cry from common.
Chingchai’s DSPS tank is well known and almost iconic. Sure it’s breathtaking in pictures, but to see it in real life is another level. Every colony of Acropora is larger than my head, with staghorns showing beautiful natural growth. Indeed, the corals and naturalistic vibe that comes along with this tank is unparalleled to most and worthy of a mention.
The under usage of liverocks and the clever aquascape adds depth and gives an open feel with the isolated coral bommies, connected together only by the crazy growth of his corals. Much of his collection includes beautiful staghorns and various outward growing Acropora, and a few tabling species at the bottom. Numerous Tridacna clams pepper his reef top as well as his sandbed.
The 1200 gallon tank is a coral growing machine, and hats off to Chingchai for that feat. Since his major overhaul and tank revamp, much of his fishes have disappeared. For regular followers of this tank, it’s an open book with what goes in and out of this tank. In the years since the tank has been started up, there has been a continuous flow and change in the livestock that goes in, fish wise. The recent need to revamp the tank due to majano anemones and other issues were traumatic. Most of his iconic fishes that he has obtained in the past were unfortunately no longer present. Gramma dejongi, the school of P. ventralis and the myriad of other deepwater and rare fish were absent.
His tank is however, recovering excellently and his corals are a huge testament to that. While he rebuilds his fish collection, the tank now includes a smaller selection of fish with more humble backgrounds, but are gorgeous nonetheless. A gorgeous and immaculate Feminine wrasse joins a large Cirrhilabrus laboutei, Pseudocheilinus ocellatus, Bodianus opercularis and a Bodianus paraleucosticticus in his labridae collection.
One of few Paracirrhites xanthus in captivity resides in Chingchai’s tank. This is a large and rare species of hawkfish with sublime yellow coloration throughout. However, they are known to lose some of their colors in captivity, and Chingchai’s specimen was not spared of this affliction. Here it is evident that much of the yellow has faded over time, revealing a more familiar hawkfish design near the tail. However the fish is large and commands attention in the tank, and still looks acceptably yellow. Another fish that has not been able to keep its aberration is the large full orange Coral Beauty. It has since reverted nearly to wild type coloration.
The mesmerizing yellow of O. fuscipinnis however, is not known to fade in captivity. Here is one of a few that resides in the 1200 gallon system. Absolutely gorgeous and stunning it is. The lemon yellow coloration and the purple accented fins make for an eye catching addition. This deepwater fish has adapted pretty well to the brightly lit metal halide set up, and spends most of its time around the coral bommies.
The majority of open water anthias species that adds life to this reef are Pseudanthias rubrizonatus and P. hutomoi. There isn’t any P. ventralis left, and there hasn’t been any for awhile now. A wise idea, as maintaining a group of Ventralis Anthias in a brightly lit SPS tank is not an easy feat. The choice of using P. rubrizonatus and P. hotumoi are much better candidates for this replica of a sunlit reef patch. The alpha male P. rubrizonatus that swims in this tank are insane. There are a few, and the coloration and finnage are way out there. Check out the trailing fins and the permanent display of nuptial coloration! A huge tank with multiple females does wonders for male Pseudanthias species, and P. rubrizonatus feels right at home in this hard coral dominated reef.
One thing we are all in awe of is the pair of C. resplendens that he owns. The pair of resplendent angels are long lived and have survived the revamp. This is one of very few tanks where you can still find this fish. This Ascension island endemic is no longer being collected nor bred, and so currently it is unobtainable to the vast expanse of angelfish lovers worldwide. Do not be fooled by its similarity to the rest of the argi species complex. A Resplendent Angelfish in the flesh is mesmerizing.
At the end of the day, despite the many trials that Chingchai has encountered, one must admit that owning and maintaining a tank of this calibre is not an easy feat. Infact, it’s borderline ridiculous! His corals are amazing, and against the thick refractive blue of the acrylic, really pulls off an oceanic reef image out of any documentary. Also a hats off to Chingchai for his transparent and honest nature, a trait not so common these days. Having met him a few times in person, it is safe to say that he is a man of boundless generosity, and also one who is not afraid of criticism. Chingchai was away in Japan during our ReefBuilders visit, but hats off for his extended hospitality via his kind family.
We hope to see Chingchai’s tank flourish even more in the future. Keep reading for more tantalizing tales from our trip to Thailand. In the mean time, enjoy this mini gallery of Chingchai’s beautiful and iconic tank.