PhD holder quits high-income university post to breed fighting fish

Last update: 08/11/2019

SEREMBAN, Nov 7 (Bernama) -- Dr Safial Eqbal Zakaria, 45, is so passionate about Betta fish, locally known as fighting fish, that he quit his job as Deputy Dean (operations) at Open University Malaysia (OUM) in Shah Alam five years ago, to transform his hobby into a full-time lucrative business.

Starting with four or five pairs of Betta fish, the Gombak-born entrepreneur now breeds about 20 to 40 pairs a month.

“Many friends were concerned about me quitting my job, as I was earning a monthly salary of more than RM10,000 but I was determined to become a successful Betta fish breeder.

“I started breeding Betta fish at home and over the years, I began to realise its business prospects,” he told Bernama recently.

To date, there are over 10 types of Betta fish in the market, and he breeds five of them comprising Dumbo, Halfmoon Plakat, Halfmoon, Double Tail Halfmoon and Double Tail Plakat, on his 0.6 hectare Ukay Betta Farm in Lenggeng. There are over 10,000 Betta fish on the farm.

The entrepreneur also owns an ornamental fish shop called Ukay Betta Showroom in Taman Ukay Perdana, Kuala Lumpur.

Breeding Betta fish requires various skills and understanding so Safial Eqbal has even travelled to Thailand to learn how to breed the fish properly and acquire the best Betta.

“The opportunity to learn the best Betta farming and technology in Thailand has greatly influenced me and I have used the knowledge I gained to develop the Betta fish industry in Malaysia,” he said.

Since 2014, he has won 90 awards from various local and international Betta fish competitions, with his most significant award comprising first place in the 2017 International Betta Fish Competition in Johor Bahru.

After he won the title, the demand for Betta fish from his farm increased significantly, with orders also coming in from Singapore and the Philippines.

Safial Eqbal has also gained the skill to breed the long tail-Betta which needs intensive attention because its tail is easily torn.

"The secret to rearing Betta fish with a long tail can only be gained by experience. It does not need specific medication but the skill of the breeder,” he explained, adding that the long tail-Betta is the most sought after and can fetch a market price of RM500 to RM2,000.