Meiyi’s pet was a warrior fish
Luohan fishes

REARING fish has always been the norm in my family. Normal families have cats or dogs. We have fish. We’ve had so many that I lost count after the fifth guppy died because a fish doesn’t really live long and we can’t send it to the vet if it gets sick.

Over the years, my family has reared a number of fish species ranging from the common guppies to the pretty gold fishes.

There was even a point when dad wanted Japanese koi because he believed it would bring us luck. Perhaps it did for there’s still koi in the mini pond in front of our house.

However, it’s the pampered ones that live in the large tank in our living room. Currently, it houses a school of guppies and their tiny newborns.

My story begins with a pair of Luohan fish that my mum thought would be a nice change for the tank in our living room. We’ve never come across any fish that was difficult to rear in our many years of rearing fish as pets. But this pair of Louhan proved us wrong.


Luohan or Flowerhorn Cichlid is known for the special bump on its head, which can be either orange or red. These qualities made the Luohan a much-sought-after fish at one point for it was believed to bring good luck.

Our family has never had a Luohan before but we’re aware of its existence. Most importantly, we also know that it’s a high-maintenance species.

Despite that knowledge, mum decided to get a Luohan one day. Her excuse was that she was bored with the numerous gold fish we’ve had for the past year and she wanted a change in aquatic scenery.

Our tank was a large one. It’s large enough to fit a 36-inch TV. Due to the size, mum thought that having one Luohan would be too few, but to have a school of them would mean that the space would be too cramped.

In the end, she came home from the aquarium shop with a pair, whom I later named Pabo (Korean for stupid) and Baka (Japanese for stupid). And aptly so.



As soon as we put them into the tank, they stayed in their respective corners, opposite each other and never interacted except during feeding time.

At first we thought that they needed time to get used to their new home and so we left them alone.

A few days later, they started swimming around the tank, but as soon as we got near them, they would scurry and hide.

Maybe they needed more time so I continued to leave them alone, except during feeding time.

One day, while we were watching TV, there was a sudden commotion in the tank. I turned around and caught sight of a dramatic fight between the two of them. Pabo was energetic and furious, chasing after Baka, nipping at its fins. Only then did I realise that having them in the same aquarium wasn’t such a great idea.

I decided to do a quick online search and discovered many things that I wasn’t aware of when it comes to taking care of this species of fish.

It didn’t just involve cleaning the aquarium once a month. Since Luohan fish prefer their own personal space, sharing an aquarium spells disaster.

From that day on, they fought every day, pausing less than five minutes for respite.

Our attempts to stop them by tapping against the glass proved futile so I urged dad to get a divider in the hope that it would remedy the problem.

We used a glass divider which enabled them to have their own space and yet allowed them to interact should they feel like it.

Finally, there was peace in the aquarium. Or so I thought. That was until Baka broke my reverie. I found him on the opposite side of the divider one day.

I couldn’t comprehend what was happening and I remember being shocked when Baka started attacking Pabo again!

It appeared as if he coveted conflict no matter what. Dad tried readjusting the divider again and urged Baka back to its own spot, stopping the fight midway.

A quiet calm reigned for a few days aside from Baka’s feeble attempts to attack Pabo through the divider.

Every day, I remember praying that they’d eventually be able to tolerate each other’s presence and cease fighting.

Sadly, one morning, as I was heading out of the house, I spotted Baka lying on the aquarium floor, blood trailing from its side. Pabo, meanwhile, was busy swimming —almost merrily.

I felt I was watching an eerie scene from a horror movie.

That was the first and last time that we decided to rear Luohan fish. It was a sad day for both us and the fish because Pabo passed away soon after. Now only memories remain of their existence.

These days, we have decided that keeping simpler species of fish would lessen our chances of having to go through that heartache again.

So now our tank is filled with colourful guppies instead.

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