Dr. Chung from Hong Kong is a familiar name to any rare fish lover worthy of his salt. A dentist by profession, Dr. Chung has had the privilege of owning some of the most elusive and rare species in the same tank. To those who think Dr. Chung is a superficial collector with deep pockets, you cannot be more wrong. Apart from having a M.D and masters in dentistry, Dr. Chung has also a masters in biological studies which includes a wide range of marine related applications. He’s a one man show with an incredible collection to boot and a deep knowledge on the fish he keeps, casting away the stereotype of shallow-minded fish collectors.
Continuing on our Hong Kong adventure, we visited Dr. Chung last week for a jaw dropping reefgasmic experience. Now Dr. Chung is no stranger to ReefBuilders, and we have featured many of his stories before from his golden clownfish to his most recent video of all his rare angels swimming and breathing in the same tank. Our good friend Digiman from Singapore has visited him before as well, and we’ve also promptly recounted that story. Although we’ve communicated in the past, this is the first time i’ve had the time and chance to pay Dr. Chung a visit, and it was well worth the wait.
Dr. Chung’s dental clinic was only a short ten minute walk from my hotel, and so after breakfast I made my way toward his place. Along a busy road lined with shops sits a little dental hole in the wall, unknown to the many that it holds not only a fine dentist, but a collection of highly precious reef fish. I opened the door to the ring of a bell, and the classic heady smell of eugenol. “I’m here to visit Dr. Chung. I’m a friend of his.” was what I told the nurse, and within minutes, the door opened to a friendly and petite man.
To be honest the whole situation was rather perplexing. In the many worlds theory of infinite universes, i’m pretty sure that in none of them will there be dental instruments and teeth cleaning apparatus sharing the same room with a Genicanthus personatus. Anyway after exchanging friendly pleasantries, I began ogling at his fish collection.
There are a total of two main systems and other smaller miscellaneous set ups. In the first tank situated directly beside his dental chair, a large pair of clarion angels were the show fish. These were some of the largest and most colourful clarions, in a rich cadmium orange and because they were fully grown, a green slate on their face and body. Their tails were so thick they were no longer membraneous but rather fleshy. Because this tank was in an awkward position and because of the reflection, I didn’t manage to photograph much but the inhabitants included
– 2x Holacanthus clarionensis
– 2x Pseudanthias fasciatus
– Chaetodon daedalma
– 2x Centropyge interruptus
– Odontanthias fuscipinnis
– 2x Genicanthus caudovittatus
and probably some more species which I may have forgotten. As interesting as they were though, the main aim would definitely have been to see his second tank, the one that houses the incredible angelfish trifecta of perfection.
The first of the angelfish holy trinity belongs to the genus Centropyge, and is represented here by the incredibly elusive C. debelius. Dr. Chung’s debelius angelfish has been covered numerous times before, but seeing in person was a whole different experience. A little background information regarding this species first for the uninformed. C. debelius is a dwarf angel species whose primary range sits in the deep waters of Mauritius and the Réunion Islands.
Their scarcity is attributed to their deepwater nature (shallowest 150ft) and their low population density. While most Centropyge species can be found in relative abundance in the right depth and habitat, C. debelius is most often seen singly and with relatively scattered sightings. This may suggest that the main population exists either in a currently unknown location, or much deeper where it is more inaccessible. Only a few get collected now and then by the same diver, and the total number entering the trade is always too low to meet demands. Naturally, C. debelius skyrocketed to the top of the rare fish list.
Dr. Chung’s specimen isn’t a new bird per se, but in the world of debelius angelfish it is one of the newer kids on the block. It is a mammoth of a Centropyge with a voracious appetite that shows in its double chin and full figure. Rest assured that it is in the pink of health, although a regular cardiac stress test wouldn’t be a bad idea. We’re joking.. of course. As beautiful as it seems, C. debelius is rather dark in person. The navy blue and purple is more accentuated under specific lighting and flash photography.
The award winning state fair ribbon winning pony equivalent of a fish has definitely got to be his iconic Genicanthus personatus. Back in 2009, Dr. Chung procured a pair from B-Box Aquarium in Japan. At that time, the pair was a sensation that took the reefing industry by storm. G. personatus is a deepwater species found in a couple hundred feet in Hawaii, where collection is difficult. They can be found in shallower scuba depths in Midway Atoll, but because collection is prohibited there, only deep living specimens from the Hawaiian mainland can be collected and this puts them at helm of the pricey angelfish list.
In 2014 this year, it was announced that Karen Brittain has for the second time, successfully spawned and raised G. personatus to juvenile fish, providing thirsty angelfish aficionados all over the world a chance at owning this incredible species. While the price tag remains high, the availability of the fish has momentarily increased exponentially.
The specific epithet “personatus” is latin for mask, which is seen clearly in both sexes. The name however was given to the female sex during description of four individuals, with very distinct black masks on the same white body. The males were unknown at that time, but would eventually be known to possess a yellow instead of black face mask.
Dr. Chung’s original pair was of a male and female, and he had succeeded in spawning them in captivity before. An old video of the pair including documented records of the spawning are available online. Unknown to many, Dr. Chung is actually an avid enthusiast of aquaculture. It is his dream to raise angelfish to juveniles, and in his spare time he experiments with larval rearing. Housed with an elaborate set up of aquaculture equipments, Dr. Chung is currently experimenting with pro-larvae from his spawning pair of Pseudanthias fasciatus.
In the past, Dr. Chung maintains a thriving SPS display and so having done all that before, his focus is now geared toward keeping fish, and raising their larvae. His minimalistic bare tank with a few rock structure is not because he doesn’t care for his fish as most people assume. Most brood stock tanks are kept this way, and additional live rock and coral is simply not needed in this instance. Having seen them personally I can assure you they are in nothing but the best care.
Although the original male female pair spawned back in the earlier years, the female started sex changing. Genicanthus are sequential protogynous hermaphrodites and are born only as females capable of sex changing should the need arise. It could be possible that the original male was not assertive enough and the female took the opportunity to gain dominance, leading to her changing sex. Eventually she grew larger than the male and started changing, but died due to an unknown disease. The pair is survived to this date by the original male who has managed to keep his colours very well without a mate.
What’s interesting about this species that is not very well known is the ability of the male to change colours. In an aggressive situation or when the male is provoked, it is capable of turning from pearlescent white to a gun metal grey in a matter of seconds. This phenomenon has been photographed both in the wild and in the aquarium, and is the only member of its genus to be able to do this. It also appears to be restricted to the male sex, as female G. personatus have not been seen changing colour like this.
The yellow facial mask is extremely prominent during this colour changing fiasco as seen above. With all the hype surrounding the successful breeding of this species by Karen Brittain, let us not forget and take a second to admire the true beauty of a large male of this species. It is indeed one of the most spectacular angelfish, and certainly one of status being coloured so extensively in white.
The third super rare angelfish in this tank is a juvenile Chaetodontoplus hybrid. Hybrids between this genus are very rare and even harder to find at such small sizes. This individual is a cross between C. conspicillatus and C. meredithi. Chaetodontoplus can be tricky, and it is not uncommon to hear of specimens rejecting food or taking a long time to settle in captivity. This little guy however is a monster and goes crazy for aquarium food.
As with all hybrid fish, no two specimens are ever the same, and there is usually a wide spectrum of intermediates. C. meredithi has a solid yellow tail while C. conspicillatus has a heavily black edged one. The resulting hybrid comes in a range of variations, and we’ve seen examples with clear full yellow tails, up to individuals with a distinct black band running vertically through. This specimen has a broken interrupted band reduced to a few splotches of black. The face retains much of the bespectacled look from C. conspicillatus, but is powdered in blue from genetic input of C. meredithii.
Another hybrid that can be seen in the recent video but not photographed here is one between Pomacanthus maculosus x P. chrysurus. P. maculosus hybrids are not too rare, and are mostly seen with P. semicirculatus. However hybrids of P. maculosus with P. chrysurus are many times more uncommon, and Dr. Chung has a transitioning juvenile which is unfortunately too camera shy.
The awesome foursome quartets representing their respective genera of Centropyge, Genicanthus, Chaetodontoplus and Holacanthus have been photographed and shown above. Now if only that Pomacanthus maculosus x P. chrysurus would have allowed me a photo, then Dr. Chung would be just shy of having a star child from Apolemichthys to complete the family.
Apart from the aforementioned species, a male Tosanoides flavofasciatus and Prognathodes “basabei” also calls this tank their home. A little isolated box at the corner of the tank also houses a juvenile captive bred Genicanthus personatus which will be released when it has grown a little larger.
We would like to extend out sincerest regards and appreciation to Dr. Chung for taking the time to welcome and entertain us. This will not be the last time we’ll meet, and i’m sure we’ll see each other again soon! For more photos of his fish, check out the gallery below.