For every aberrant koi tang we feature here at Reef Builders, we’re bombarded by about six more from around the globe. To the point where we weren’t even going to feature this fish, based just on its looks and high price tag alone. But this fish is different. This fish has provenance.
All too often when writing up these freaky fish we have to do lots of detective work and rely on educated guesses to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Suppliers so often remain tight-lipped as to where these fish come from to prevent their competitors from prospecting there too.
We get that, but like as was discussed in a recent Reef Therapy session, even freshwater fishkeepers are often given catch locations of wild fish like river names, whereas saltwater hobbyists rarely if ever are. But refreshingly we now know exactly where this fish is from, how, and even who caught it. And that matters a lot if we are to further our knowledge of these rarely occurring color morphs, share information, and learn to keep them better.
So today we were making small talk over a siphon hose with James Hatchet of PM Aquatic Imports in the UK. PM imported the featured fish from Sri Lanka several weeks ago. It was quarantined, put up for sale, they were let down, then they were let down again before a concrete offer was made and it was sold.
It was purchased by new store Radical Reefs in Leeds, UK, who again quarantined it and it’s now on its way to a new home this Friday.
We asked James how the fish was doing after leaving the wholesale facility but remarked that it was a shame that more catch data wasn’t available to share. James told Reef Builders that he was in direct contact with the guy who actually caught it! So seconds later some rapid-fire questions were sent via Messenger, and in broken English, the catcher replied…
“The Tricolor scopas was collected in the Huvadhu Atoll of the Maldives. They search the entire reef looking for them. The divers don’t target any other fish whatsoever. Hand nets are used and the fish are literally collected by hand. They occur very rarely amongst huge shoals of Scopas tangs.”
“They’re usually collected no deeper than 20m, most commonly in 5m or less,” he went on. “They’re often congregated with their more common counterparts around shallow reefs and rocky outcrops. But have been known to venture into reef crests as well as drop-offs nearer 40m depth. Golden/aberrant bristle tooth tangs are also found there.”
So another piece of the piebald puzzle is in place along with solid confirmation that this tang at least and others do come from the Maldives as we have documented before.
But, thanks to PM, we can also share more trade information about how the whole process of procuring such a fish actually works. PM exclusively told Reefbuilders:
Importers receive a photo of the fish which in this case was from an exporter in Sri Lanka. The supplier asks if the importer wants the fish. The importer asks how much. The supplier gives a figure of several thousand dollars. That’s way more than these fish even used to retail for, and that’s before shipping, and before going from supplier to wholesaler, to retailer. And before UK value-added tax.
So the importer then (in this case,) offers a more modest sum and the whole thing becomes a global auction, pitched against importers from other countries. PM Aquatic secured this fish with the highest bid, but one yellow and white fish was offered soon after for an even higher price and they were outbid. The fish then appeared in a retail store in another country – and clearly went to the successful (highest,) bidder.
The supply chain
Furthermore, buying and selling then becomes a game of poker between wholesalers, retailers, and consumers as they all jostle for what they are prepared to buy it for, and sell it for. And with any one-off fish, there eventually forms a balance between its perceived worth and what someone is actually prepared to pay for it.