This 22-year-old aquarist keeps 8 tanks of shrimps at home
Like collectors of rare items, Desmond Ong goes to great lengths to procure shrimps of varying colours and patterns.
When told to imagine a wall of tanks filled with marine life, most would think of a fish shop or an aquarium. But for Desmond Ong, an avid shrimp aquarist, this is an everyday sight at home.
The 22-year-old polytechnic student has been breeding shrimps as a hobby for nearly four years.
His interest in shrimps picked up after he toyed with the idea of creating a planted tank – an aquarium that requires little maintenance as it sustains itself with a well-balanced ecosystem.
“That’s when I heard about shrimps. I found out there are many different kinds, so I researched them and realised there’s more to cross-breeding shrimps and the hybridisation of such species. After that, my interest really went up a whole new level,” Desmond shares with Youthopia.
Desmond’s interest was piqued by the many different varieties of shrimps, especially the galaxy shrimps. These are shrimps of the caridina cantonensis species, which can be selectively bred to give many variants of colours and patterns.
“I got more serious about caridina shrimps, so that’s when I began to invest a bit more into this hobby,” Desmond says.
Research led Desmond to Facebook and Telegram groups, where he discovered other like-minded hobbyists. From there, fellow aquarists he befriended shared more knowledge with him.
“I asked them where they get their shrimps from, and they said there’s many specialised shrimp shops in Singapore,” he says, adding that Shrimp Affair was one such shop he had personally visited to purchase shrimps.
Desmond estimates that the shrimp aquarist community in Singapore has about two to three thousand people – much smaller than in countries like the United States, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
“I think in general, a lot of them are relatively nice people. There are some wolves in sheep’s clothing, but overall this community is very helpful to new people that want to start this hobby,” he adds.
Although Desmond started out with just one tank of shrimps, he has since expanded his collection by adding seven more tanks. All eight tanks hold 400 to 500 shrimps in total and are connected by a single chiller, which cools the water to an acceptable temperature for the shrimps to thrive in.
The shrimps require small water changes every two weeks. Every six to eight months, Desmond also transfers the shrimps from one tank to another to replace the buffering soil when it expires.
Not much maintenance is needed aside from these, says Desmond.
“Shrimps require very little care compared to fishes, where you have to syphon out the faeces in the tank and do big water changes,” he adds.
Despite this, shrimp breeding was tricky for Desmond at the start. As the shrimps can only thrive in water at certain temperatures and acidity, mistakes he made resulted in the death of many of his beloved shrimps.
“I’ve killed all the shrimps in the tank before. I would say that was one of the saddest periods of my life.
“But going forward, I took the courage to start again. I overcame the loss through breeding them even more. That’s what keeps me going, taking care of new generations of shrimps,” he shares.
As good shrimps can produce many high quality offspring, Desmond is willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a single one.
“The most I’ve spent is actually about six to eight hundred dollars on one shrimp. It was my favourite shrimp as well but sadly it passed away. It gave me many nice baby shrimps though, so that was very nice,” he says.
Desmond has spent about $3000 on the shrimps throughout the course of his hobby. Despite having shrimps worth hundreds of dollars, Desmond does not trade or sell any of them. He prefers to keep shrimp breeding as a hobby, without the goal of earning any profit.
“If everyone were to be so profit driven, I think it won’t be a hobby anymore. I think the most important thing is to have fun, and to destress from school and work,” he says.
Desmond shares photos and videos of his shrimps on Instagram as he wishes to share his knowledge with more people.
“I started this hobby with the initial plan to inspire people, so that we don’t lose touch with nature even in the digital age,” he says.
For Desmond, the resilience he has built through breeding the shrimps is what keeps him going. He encourages aspiring hobbyists to persevere with shrimp keeping even if shrimps die under their watch.
“I think my best takeaway from this hobby is that shrimps can be quite resilient at times. I think we learn along the way and build our resilience to do our best in life as well, so don’t give up.”