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Suganthi

Betta fish can be bred in numberless colour combinations. However, achieving a desired pattern calls for perseverance and boundless patience.

At any given time, you can find him attempting to create the pattern of a famous flag; and right now, it's the Indian tricolor. Besides such ‘flag-making' work, he breeds other ornamental fish and sells them in the market.

Murali

Our house in Kolathur is attached to our fish farm. As I have to run my business, the onerous task of maintaining the farm falls on her. Thirty tanks of 16 x 4 foot dimension each, and about 1,500 bottles of fighter fish are under her care. She ensures the tanks are well-oxygenated, and make ideal breeding conditions for the fish. Feeding the fish is also her job.

Suganthi

What I do is not usual. Hundreds of families in Kolathur have fish farms in their backyards. The womenfolk in these houses take care of them.

Prior to marriage, the only fish I had seen were those served on the table. As I had had no experience rearing fish, ornamental or otherwise, he did not immediately saddle me with the responsibility of running a fish farm. My initiation into fish farming was gradual.

Murali

Now, she has the expertise to run a fish farm. When I went away on a seven-day pilgrimage, she held the fort. She is good at noticing signs of disease, and tendering the right medicine. Injections can't be administered alone, it takes two people. Thanks to her, she makes this job easier.

When I am experimenting with certain fish, she takes extra care of these subjects. To give you an idea, I embarked on the ambitious project of breeding the red-line torpedo barb. Endemic to the fast-flowing streams of Kerala, this minnow has a striking appearance. The beauty of this fish was lost to the wider world, because of they did not thrive in any other waters.

After three years, I successfully bred them in captivity. By fastidiously following instructions, she minimised the loss of red-line torpedo barbs that were part of the experiment.

If I had had a wife who was lackadaisical about my work, I would have been an also-ran in the ornamental fish breeding business.

As told to PRINCE FREDERICK

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