Pet your dragon, watch it swim

Updated: 2012-01-27 07:27

By Zhang Kun (China Daily)

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Auspicious names draw buyers hoping for prosperity this year

SHANGHAI - The legendary Chinese dragon doesn't exist in the real world, but animals "related" to it have enjoyed great popularity among pet lovers in China.

One is chinchilla, a cute and cuddly rodent also known as long mao, dragon cat. Another is the dragon fish, arowana, a silver or gold tropical fish that sold so well in the pet market that no gold ones were available before Spring Festival.

Now the tiny dragon prawn has joined the aquarium, as a pet rather than food. The prawns are about 3-4 centimeters long, come in red, blue or white, and sell for 15 yuan ($2.40) each.

"Young customers are interested in these new species. You don't see blue prawns very often," Chen Zhangyou, an aquarium pet shop owner in Shanghai, said.

"This is the Year of the Dragon, and people like to have something to do with the auspicious creature and get some luck from it."

Chen said her prawns are imported from Australia, will grow to 10 centimeters in three to five months, and have a life span of three years. Her shop also deals with a broad variety of turtles and species such as lizards.

In another pet shop, three ordinary crayfish were labeled "dragon prawns" and were priced at 25 yuan each. "It brings fortune," said a salesman who would not be named.

"The price of dragon fish has risen 10 to 20 percent because of Spring Festival," Wang Jianyong said. Wang owns Blue Sky Tropical Fish Store in Wanshang Market and has been in the business for four years.

A silver arowana about 20 centimeters long, medium size, sold for around 100 yuan, while a golden fish about the same size could run around 4,000 yuan, market worker Sun Deping said.

Business was brisk, and Sun sold a dozen of these silver arowanas in one week before the Chinese New Year.

The fish require attentive care and stable water temperature, but many buyers, especially business people who believe in fengshui, were more interested in the fortune and prosperity they might bring.

Chinchillas also were sought-after by people raring to keep a pet during this festival. "Our business has been thriving, especially during weekends and festivals," said Zhong Minyan, who has run Shanghai Q-Baby Chinchilla Store for six years.

Golden tangerine bonsais, fresh plum blossoms, and daffodils grown in ceramic pans also proved popular in Shanghai's markets for Spring Festival.

Their Chinese names have auspicious meanings and are believed to bring happiness and fortune.

Xu Wan contributed to this story.