TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Rare tiny black and white shrimp raised in Taiwan are selling for as much as $830 a piece to collectors in Japan, despite short life spans and problems breeding, officials at an exhibition said on Friday.
The black King Kong shrimp, about 2,000 of which are being raised by just four Taiwan breeders armed with technology and reservoirs of patience, sustain interest among buyers because of their novelty in aquariums and the off-chance they will breed.
"It's the Japanese character to collect odd or rare stuff, but their success with the shrimp isn't too high," said Taiwan Ornamental Fish Association secretary general Sharman Chou.
Black King Kong shrimp, centimeter-long critters known for black shells with white spots, live for about 16 months.
Once native to southern China but modified by breeders in Japan and finally Taiwan, which is the only source today, the shrimp require pure fresh water at a fixed temperature to shed their shells every few weeks and remain fit enough to breed.
Prices vary from $30 to $830, said Chung Kuo-nan, publicity head with the Taiwan fisheries agency, which encourages breeding the shrimp because farms take up only small plots of land and generate little pollution. They sell at auctions and online.
To raise the black King Kong shrimp's profile, the agency's Taiwan Ornamental Fish Exibition in Taipei displayed a cooler-sized tank for a steady crowd, including many Japanese.
Breeder Wu Yi-chin of south Taiwan said she was keen on the Japanese market after 30 years of raising King Kong shrimp but that breeding the creatures had not been easy.
"We have to do other business, including different kinds of tropical fish," Wu said at the exhibition.
Editing by Miral Fahmy