Singapore Pet Store Owner Performs Eye Lifts on $300,000 Fish

With price tags as high as $300,000, Asian arowana are the world’s most expensive aquarium fish. They’re an endangered species and banned as pets here in the United States, but elsewhere in the world, like Singapore, they’re a legal status symbol.

Apparently that’s why some owners of arowana, also known as dragon fish, are willing to pay Eugene Ng, a pet store owner, a relatively modest amount to perform cosmetic surgery on their fish.

Ng charges $90 for an eye lift to correct what’s known as drooping eye syndrome, where the fish’s eye continually tilts downward. Using a forceps, Ng loosens the sedated fish’s eye tissue and raises its eyeball.

He also performs “chin jobs” for $60. (Who knew fish had chins?)

These procedures are cruel and entirely unnecessary. Studies have found that fish feel pain and even change their behavior in response to their memory of it, so it must be a pretty terrible experience for these arowana to awaken with their eyes in a different place.

Ng insists he is actually helping the fish. By improving their appearance, he told the New York Times, he is doing them a favor by making them more lovable to their owners.

He also operates on the fish he sells in his store, presumably to make them more lovable to his customers. “That fish’s eye is looking a little droopy,” he told New York Times reporter Amy Qin, pointing at an arowana in a tank. He then sedated the fish and gave it an eye lift.

Until 1975, arowana were considered just a lowly, not-very-tasty food fish. But when it was banned from international trade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora because it’s a top predator and slow in reproducing, it soon became a sought-after status symbol.

Its popularity almost resulted in the extinction of wild arowana. To spare the remaining arowana in the wild, the ban was relaxed about 30 years ago to allow the trade of farm-raised arowana.

The breeding farms are a lot like high-security prisons, according to Emily Voigt, author of The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish.

“It’s a dramatic example of a paradox where the fish is largely depleted in the wild but is being bred by the hundreds of thousands each year on farms,” Voigt, who traveled through 15 countries in search of wild arowana, told National Geographic. “The history of this one single fish encapsulates the history of modern conservation.”

Just as dogs have been bred to have certain physical characteristics, such as a smushed nose (which can be detrimental to their health), those hundreds of thousands of farm-raised arowana have been bred to have brighter eyes, straighter feelers and more shimmering tails.

“It’s like a beauty pageant,” Alex Chang, head of research and development at Qian Hu Fish, one of Singapore’s top breeders, told the New York Times. It also sounds a lot like a dog show.

“The fish cannot be fat,” Chang said. “It must look strong and have personality. It must swim confidently and be firm, stern and fierce. It cannot be timid.”

Along with their good looks, arowana are prized for their alleged ability to bring exceptionally good luck to their owners. Too bad that good fortune doesn’t also rub off on the fish themselves.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Carole R
Carole R5 months ago

Some people have a lot more money than sense.

hELEN h5 months ago


Judy t
Judy thorpe11 months ago

If I were to spend 3,000 dollars on a eye lift it wouldn't be on a fish. There's a sucker born every minute. Whoever throws their money away on this stupid and cruelty to the fish procedure shouldn't have money if they can't spend it wisely.

Marija M
Marija M11 months ago

Crazy ...owner?

Virginia Miller
Virginia Miller11 months ago


M s
M s11 months ago

the stupidity & cruelty of man towards animals continues to horrify me humans dont care about other living creatures its all about money human sell their souls for money I thought Singapore was filled with intelligent educated people...I was very wrong theres nothing intelligent about designer animals

Leo Custer
Leo C11 months ago

Thank you for Sharing!

Janis K
Janis K11 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Amanda M
Amanda McConnell11 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Amanda M
Amanda McConnell11 months ago