Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Passion for Discus

“White Scorpion”. What is that? Many may wonder. In the discus world, it is just one of the fanciful names that identifies a certain strain of discus developed
Or improved upon by a breeder or a hobbyist. Ever since taking on the King of aquarium fish in the late 80’s, I have always wanted to develop or improve on a
strain that I had dreamt of .Having acquired the skills to breed and compete in competitions; the next step would be to work on a strain

The pigeon stain was what I had set my mind on to achieve a pure white discus with solid red eyes. I was sure many other breeders had that in their minds too.
White Butterfly and White Dragon are some of the names given to the strains that were developed later. In the early 90’s, I started working on the strain crossing
the near white pigeons with blue diamonds and hoped to achieve full colored white discus. However, the offspring usually ended up carrying more blue to
black pigmentation and black specks which tarnished the appearance of the fish but the percentage of full colored white offspring increased. Among them, a
few offspring did turn out to be full colored and showed more white pigmentation .Through selective inbreeding, I managed to keep a small stock of the white
pigeons which showed fewer black specks. The eye color was only an orangey red. There were also a few good specimens that were being developed in
Thailand and Malaysia at that time. I wanted mine to be different from the rest.

In 1997, I managed to get my hands on a couple of Blue Scorpions, primarily a cross between a Snake Skin and Blue Diamond. In fact one of the specimens
bagged me the 1st place in the blue category in our 1st National Discus Competition. I crossed the Blue Scorpion and my white pigeon and infused the
Fourteen-bar characteristics to my stock. Surprisingly some of the offspring maintained their white pigmentation. I used the desired F1s to produce cleaner stock
which were full colored whites with snake skin markings on the head and had fourteen bars. They also had strong red eyes. Since this was a white version of
the Blue Scorpion, I named them White scorpion. That was how the name came about. Though further inbreeding, I managed to improve the strain and some
even came out bar less. These were then called Ivory White. This strain clinched third place in Aquarama 1999, third place in the 1st International Discus
Competition 2000, second place in the 4th National Discus Competition 2001 and second place in the 6th National Discus Competition 2003.

Though the strain was reaching its potential, it was still a pigeon strain and the black specks were still evident. The pigeon strain is such that when the fish falls sick or when it gets older, the black specks become more visible. My friendly advice to those who have purchased the pigeon strain is that you have to learnt to live with the black specks. Take it as an indicator that your discus is not feeling all that well and that age might be catching up if much black peppering develops quickly. However, on the bright side, nowadays the pigeon strain has been cleaned up a whole lot by selective breeding and people are selling discus that does not have 100% pigeon genes. Maybe a new name ought to be given to the new improved pigeons. In my case, on the 5th year into the white scorpion strain, many hobbyist and friends still remarked on this flaw. They looked at the few black specks on the fish rather than the overall improvement. Though it disheartened me, the white scorpion was beginning to win prizes at competitions.

In 2001, I participated in the Japan International Discus Competition. On my return, one of the competition discus fell sick and my whole discus collection suffered one of the worst disease outbreaks. I lost most of my stock. To be exact, 4 adults and 2 juveniles were left out of the hundreds. At about this time the snow-white strain appeared and my desire to pursue my strain slacked as a more complete white discus was available on the market. Competition wise, it was also difficult to break the dominance of the LSS and other red based discus. Soon I turned my focus on red based discus and started a collection of white leopard snakes and albinos. I had cleared all my white scorpions except for the 6th national prize winning male fish. I used this piece to cross with a rose red once, hoping to produce a red snakeskin but soon lost interest. In the early part of 2004, I was on the verge of parting with this piece to a buyer but the price wasn’t right. I decided to keep it for sentimental reasons. At the end of the year, I chanced upon a female white pigeon. The owner said that it had golden genes and there were hardly any black specks. I decided to do something which I should have done years ago-out cross the strain. I was too stubborn and ignorant about out crossing in the past as I wanted only my own line.
By inbreeding 3 generations, I found that the fish were becoming weaker, taking longer time to grow and mature. They were also reaching the end of the line as many barless snakes were appearing. By out crossing, the size, color and other key desired characteristics can be improved but correct match is of prime importance.
The promising results of my latest crossing have given me new energy to continue my work on this strain. The fry are very healthy and strong. Approximately 50% have 14 bars and 50% with 9 bars. I consider this generation to be the best so far. It give me special feeling as though I had brought the strain from the dead. I guess you need a bit of luck in everything you do.
There is no doubt that what I am doing cannot be compared to producing true strains like the snake skin, pigeon, snow whites or albinos but I feel that I am able to improve on an existing strain with my own trademarks. Where do I go from here? Firstly, I aim to line breed the strain till there is a higher if not total percentage of a white scorpion that are full colored white with snake skin markings on the gills and have solid red eyes. I could also do well with a white scorpion with 100% no pigeon characteristics. It will be the ultimate if I can achieve an albino white scorpion. This will of course will take a few years. Well, aren’t we married to discus and it’s a lifelong committment, isn’t it? Take heart heartlanders. You too can have a love affair with the discus like me-with the least of facilities, no big farms, just me and my discus in urban Singapore. Live

your dreams.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rajan Sir,
    May God bless you for gifting the world one of my favourite Discus strains!
    Swarnendu Sen