As you know, I've been really pushing to make sure that you always try to get the fishes that you want. Do you ever wonder why?
This is a favorite fish story that I tell almost everywhere I speak- fresh or salt-and I'll probably tell it at the next engagement again, too. It's about the one that (literally) got away! Maybe you can relate?
(Centropyge hotumatua- AKA "The Hot Tomato"- the one that got away! Pic by Leonard Ho)
A few years back, I became obsessed with Centropyge hotumatua, the "Easter Island Pygmy Angel." I was taken not by it's beauty (it's really kinda like an ugly 3" Bicolor or Joculator (which it is related to) Angel! What I liked was the story...It's origin, Easter Island (it's endemic to the island), was alluring and captivating. And it was named after a Polynesian King who united that fabled island group many, many centuries ago...I had to have the fish!
You know how that is!
It was about this time that my local reefer friends were obsessing over their "designer" Chalice Corals and Acropora, and you really had to have something "cool" to impress this group! Well, I wasn't trying to impress them, but I knew that my cool Easter Island fish would grab a bit of attention from my coral-obsessed pals! I told everyone about this rare fish and how I was going to make it the star of my 225 gallon reef, etc. And of course, they were like, "Yeah, yeah, okay Fellman...whatever,it's just a fish." Whatever. I was beyond such things as stupid Chalice corals!
I'd show them!
I contacted the only place you could get crazy fish like that back then, the now-defunct "Marine Center" in Dallas. When I called, they told me that they had one, but it was available for the dizzying price of $180! I had to pass at the time; I just couldn't stomach that price tag for a fish that was less than 3" in length. (If I only knew, right?)
A few months went by, and I was still obsessing about the fish, researching what little information there was about it, and even contacting one of the museums for a copy of the type paper for the fish (I was so geeky you can't believe it!)! My friends gently ribbed me about my "Hot Tomato", as it came to be called, while "ohhing" and "ahhing" over their new "microchips" of corals! I decided to try again to get one, resigned to the fact that I'd probably have to pay $300 or more for it by now...And I was ready..I hadn't made a major reef purchase in months, and my reef fund was growing!
I shot an email to Marine Center asking about the fish and its availability..."Oh, Scott, we don't get them in that much, there's only one guy that collects out of Easter Island...They're expensive (I figured), but we'll let you know when we get one." I was prepared for the worst, but finances were at the ready. Weeks later, the call came, "Mr. Fellman, we have one! He's ready to ship...and he's $600." I was incredulous! SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS! Wow! I could have bought a bunch of rare fish for that price!
I decided to pass...
Of course, by now the ribbing was really coming hard, as everyone was showing off their tanks full of crazy corals. "How's that Angelfish working out for ya?", or "I don't see the Angel in there. Is it hiding...ha ha?" I was more determined than ever and was prepared to pay WHATEVER to get this darned fish... Besides, the holiday season was coming, and I'd throw my bonus money into the kitty for this fish. I'd show my friends once and for all what COOL was! I called up Marine Center, and was given some rather sobering, yet oddly predictable news: "The guy who collects out of Easter Island only goes there to collect a couple of times a year. It's super rare to get this fish. We'll let you know when we have one.."
I knew this meant: I'd definitely have to fork over more $$.
Weeks later, the phone call came: "We have one, it's ready to ship. It's $1,000." After almost choking, I was incredulous as I mouthed the words, "I'll pass." Forget it...crazy. I think a drug habit would have been cheaper...what's that work out to per gram of fish? TOO MUCH!
Another few months passed...No major fish tank expenditures. My tank was nice, but missing that show piece. My friends kept bragging and showing off their cool coral colonies. The club tank tour was coming, and I wanted my showpiece. Well, I hadn't spent the money, still had the bulk of my Holiday bonus..A thousand dollars was insane, but I was a little geeky anyways. So I called up Marine Center with my tail between my legs. I was surprised to hear that the fish was no longer there ("You mean there is another guy as crazy as me out there?"). I'd have to wait for one. "Well, the guy who goes to Easter Island only goes like once per year now. He's going in a couple of months. We'll let you know if he gets one (notice it was now "if" instead of "when"?), okay?"
Finally, three months later, the call came. Credit card at the ready.
"We've got one! He's ready to ship...He's EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DOLLARS..."
"That's it. I'm done. Out. No way."
Ya know what? I NEVER purchased the damn fish. Took down the pics of it cluttering my walls. Spoke nothing of it to my friends! Never looked back, either! Well, maybe a bit....But I never bought that fish! I sort of HATE it now!
The moral of the story?
If you see something that's rare and that you like and want to have it and can afford it (or even if you have to stretch a bit)...Get it NOW! Because it will NEVER be this inexpensive!
Stay ready to pounce. Go for it.
And Stay Wet.