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Raising the ‘Mekong river monster’, farmer pockets billions of dong

Ho fish (Catlocarpio siamensis), called the ‘Mekong river monster’, are being raised by farmers in cages on rivers in Vietnam.

Ho fish is a member of the carp (Cyprinidae) family, but it is much bigger. Living in the wild, ho fish can weigh up to hundreds of kilograms. Previously, fishermen needed only to catch one fish to have enough money to buy gold.

“Tens of years ago, Mekong Delta fishermen caught ho fish weighing up to hundreds of kilograms, so they call this fish the ‘Mekong monster’. Some people say when boats have accidents and sink, ho fish come and rescue them. So they call the fish ‘ong ho’ (Great grandfather ho). And some people call them tribute fish for kings,” Ly Van Bon in Can Tho City explained.

Bon is now raising about 30 tons of ho fish in cages on the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong.

According to the farmer, big fish usually  eat smaller fish, but ho river abstains from meat. They only eat moss.

In 2000, he bought small ho fish (300 grams) and began raising the fish in cages. Later, he bought fish breeders from some centers. “I have 30 tons of ho fish now. This is a rare and precious fish as it tastes very delicious,” Bon said.

Bon tried to learn about their life span and the largest weight of ho fish, but he could not find exact information.

“Farmers can catch ho fish weighing 350-400 kilograms and they call the fish ‘monster’ because they are so big,” he explained.

He believes that there are no more big ho fish in the Tien and Hau Rivers. If they still exist, they can be found in Vam Nao River in An Giang, and Tonle Sap in Cambodia.

When living in the wild, ho fish eat moss. When living in cages, they eat industrial feed, so they grow more rapidly. When the fish are small, they add one kilogram in weight every year, and once they are bigger, they grow rapidly.

“The biggest fish in my case weighed 30 kilograms, while the remaining were 15 kilograms and 10 kilograms,” Bon said. He sometimes sell his fish to farmers, but doesn’t sell en masse.

“The bigger the fish are, the more expensive they are,” he said.

For fish weighing less than 5 kilograms, he can sell them for VND100,000 per kilogram. The prices are VND200,000-300,000 per kilo if the fish weighs 7-8 kilos. Sometimes farmers catch huge fish and sell at VND1 million per kilogram.

Also according to Bon, many farmers are raising ho fish in ponds. However, these fish are less delicious than the fish raised in cages.

Hoai Thanh

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