The First Giant Victoria Lily in Malaysia ?

With Dr Slearmlarp Wasuwat, Thailand

With Dr Slearmlarp Wasuwat, Thailand

victoria 2

In the late 1960s I saw the picture of Victoria lily in the Reader’s Digest for the first time. Later, the giant water lily was beautifully featured in David Attenborough’s The Living Planet in 1984.

I was introduced to Ajahn Dr Sleamlarp Wasuwat, the water lilies expert of Thailand back in 1998. He collects, studies and cross-breeds many varieties of beautiful water lilies as part of his collections. One of his favourite in his aquatic nursery is the giant Victoria amazonica. Dr Wasuwat wrote many books on the water lilies and also the planting and care of the Victoria lily. During that period, Victoria lily was not common in the Thai market and due to its large leaves of about 1 m in diameter when it is fully grown, therefore, there were not many collectors with such generosity of garden space..

When I was managing the aquatic nursery the for the Institute of Bioscience in UPM, I decided to introduce the Victoria lily into the research facilities. There was no such known Victoria lily during that time in Malaysia as I know then and I was fortunate enough to get an import certificate from the Department of Agriculture. The phyto-certificate/permit only allows one Victoria plant.

As I later learned that Victoria lily is a very difficult plant to survive upon uprooting them from the pond bed, therefore I decided to bring in three instead of one young plants for a better chance of survival rate. Each young plant would cost me about RM 600 each. Upon arrival in KL, I managed to bring all the 3 young Victoria plants back after much explanation to the agriculture officer.

After about 6-7 months in the pond, the giant leaves of Victoria lilies almost fully cover the whole pond of 500 sq.m. in area. I studied the flowers when they bloomed at night and later collected hundred of seeds that remain dormant for a long period of time.

Then one day, I received a call from the head of the Agriculture Department yelling and screaming over the phone that I have no regards to the phyto-certificate that only allowed one plant to be imported but I brought in three instead. His fear from his screaming voice was that, to his knowledge, that Victoria lily is an invasive water plants that can be spread like like ‘lalang’ (Imperata cyclindrica) or the Egyption cyperus or water hyacinth in water. For such to happen, as according to him, this Victoria lily invasion could wiped out paddy fields and destroyed the aquatic ecosystem in Malaysia. Then, I was instructed to ‘remove’ the Victoria lilies from the research facilities. I took a few young plants and planted in my own secret garden. The research facilities technician sprayed weedicides in the pond and therefore killed all the Victoria lilies just about the right time I decided to quit my post at the Institute of Bioscience.

In December 2013, I decided to make a short visit to the Penang Botanical Garden just to see the Victoria lily. I was told that the authority spent more than a million Ringgit for the Victoria lilies to be planted there. If the Head of the Agriculture Department was right then, today Penang island will be flooded with Victoria lilies right from the ponds, to paddy fields and all the drainage system but good Lord, he was wrong and therefore, the pathetic looking Victoria lilies planted in the Penang Botanical Garden look neither dead nor alive.

I’d learned a lesson though, never work with fools. “Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.”   ― Henry D Thoreau

The Victoria lily in Penang Botanical Garden. Well, judge yourself for the million RM spent ?

The Victoria lily in Penang Botanical Garden. Well, judge yourself for the million RM spent ?

Penang Botanical Garden. Some bad signs for the non-victory Victoria lily

Penang Botanical Garden. Some bad signs for the non-victory Victoria lily

Why Lampam Jawa ?

Fawzi releasing lampam jawa frys into a stream

Fawzi releasing lampam jawa frys into the stream

ตะเพียนขาว    Capture lj

Lampam Jawa, Pla Thapian in Thai, ikan tawes in Indonesian or technically once labelled as, Barbus gonionotus back in 1849, then  Puntius javanicus, Puntius gonionotus and recently Barbodes gonionotus in 1996, then Barbonymus gonionotus in 1999. Their common  names are like java barb or silver barb. In Malaysia, it is simply Lampam Jawa.

Is lampam jawa originally from Java, Indonesia ? There were reports that this fish was introduced to Sg. Perak and also in Trengganu, but anyway it is this lampam jawa that we ought to know better wherever it came from.

Back in 1989, my partner, the late Ahmad Fawzi and I were given the opportunity to run a 10-acre fish farm mainly to produce lampam jawa frys (young fish). We were given a contract to pay the rent of the farm in kind with the obligation to release 1 million frys back into natural rivers each year.

Fawzi was a keen enthusiast in freshwater aquaculture. He worked and spent much of his time in this subject honestly but unfortunately the world of businesses and the ethic of any humankind is crooked to the core. He once turned down the Colombo scholarship for further studies to pursue his love for fish farming. Over the years, fish farming in his time with me and later, without me was difficult and made worse by unscrupulous bodies and individuals who usually took advantage on his honesty. Sadly and with much regret in me, Ahmad Fawzi passed away on Dec 14th, 2013, before we can share and see the light that can bring us joy in fish farming.

With the help of a local worker, we learned and spawned the lampam jawa and produced millions of frys each year. It was a great experience and so much fun doing this without any application of artificial hormones meant for spawning inducement. It was all natural birth and for such experiences, one will never forget.

The lampam jawa flesh has fine cartilaginous bones and has to be careful when you eat this fish. Eating lampam jawa fresh from our pond is unforgettable and till today I still have in mind for lampam jawa on my dinner plate. Most freshwater fishes are quite similar in taste but from business point of view, freshwater fishes were made popular from exaggerated tales to boost its market sales. Especially the Chinese in Malaysia who are easily carried away with the mighty ‘kat-lo’ (kelah) and stupidly paid up to thousands of Ringgit for as long as it is red. These kind of businessmen are also good in naming the fish that makes it sound ‘marketable’.

Fish farming and any other businesses can surely fare well with honesty but unfortunately, unscrupulous and greedy businessmen, especially government officials and a hosts of others, polluted the industries and destroyed all those who have honest hearts for fish farming into a hell of failures. For that, we have to consume ‘adulterated’ preserved imported fishes from the sea, highly chemicalized endorsed Tilapia, giant tasteless Gariepinus catfish from Africa and almost once our rivers lost to ‘pacu’, the piranha-like fish and now the Arapaimas. Our local fishes that once identifiable with the local Malaysian culture like puyu, sepat, kalui, keli and even temakang are like all gone and their names sound very much like aliens to our urban younger generations.

Today, we can hardly see lampam jawa in urban markets though the world’s production has been steadily increased to about 100,000 tonnes a year since 2010. This is a small quantity if compared to seawater shrimps production.

In garden or domestic aquaculture that I am promoting, I welcome back lampam jawa as one of those fishes that we should care to grow  healthily in our own garden pond to provide high quality healthy protein in our diets, and please leave the Japanese Kois to the Japanese.

2014. Another Year, Another Story.


A private residence landscape project in Bali for a client from Istanbul. 2005


By the end on 2013, it marked my 30th year in water management business.  Time flies. The first 10 year was all about aquaculture, working in freshwater prawn farms. The next 20 years were all about designing and consulting. So, what’s next ? 

Change is possible for the better. I have changed dramatically myself walking around with 7 kilo less in body weight, no more sound system as a permanent deaf. A kind of changes that nobody is interested. How about my career, what is the plan for 2014 ?

Well, everyone is quite sceptical about the economy and business market. Many are pulling back and lying low as daily and business expenses are going up and also heating up. There are still many enjoying a good business returns. For me, at this period of time, I not really into the negative or even the positive impact of the business. I am here for the years to come to enjoy both.

From the dark side, we have a leader and the government that are putting a lot hikes to our daily expenses. Prices of goods and taxes have gone up since the last election and businesses are going down. All of us are affected in one way or another, but my business plan is not here in KL for the coming years and therefore, such hikes in expenses have to be a pass without burning away much of my skin. Signs of rough times are here and everywhere. Some expensive Chinese restaurants are closing and more cheaper Mamak (Indian Muslims) restaurants are opening. Mamak restaurants are packed with customers from different ethnic groups and stay united while having their teh-tarik. They can curse each other after that along with their political beliefs.

On the brighter side, the year 2014 is the year that I have decided to slow down. Taking time to ponder back the past, living with the presence and prepare for the future. The past has been good, though it came along with some fire, pain, gain and bruises. It built my career, my reputation with some wealth along with cancer and loss of hearing. I think this sounds pretty normal if you are one like me who went on to take a challenge in life all on your own. Let this be the past.

Today, living in the present is like a day to remind me some part of life that once I was there before. Good and bad news are all over as I have heard before but I am not buying anything those that do not suit my presence that allow me to prepare for the future.  

Yes, there is future and it is coming. So, what is my plan for the coming years ?

First, I need to be present in the hot spot of protest and election heat in Bangkok. Get a feel of the heat and open my eyes to see as where to invest in Thailand with a population of 60 million people. A good place to work in the land of smiles and hatred. There is where I should begin but don’t stop as there is so much coming from the future.  Of course, how can I forget the wonder and exotic Bali where I spent half my career life there. Last week I received an sms from Bali and it goes like this, “..yang penting masih pintar dan cerdas, jangan takut masih ada Pak Made.” Well, it sounded like war-cries and all ready and prepared for the future to arrive and take on more challenges to come. Hello Bali, I am coming.

Kuala Lumpur, which means the river mouth of mud, ooze, mire, slush, slosh, slime, sludge and racists. Time to think  as what had happened in the past today in the present for the future to come. You don’t want to be buried in the river mouth of mud, ooze, mire, slush, slosh, slime, sludge and racists in the coming future. Welcome 2014.


Green Asia Force: A Water Dialogue With Ng Kok Hong: What We Need To Know About Bio-filtration System.

A Water Dialogue With Ng Kok Hong: What We Need To Know About Bio-filtration System – See more at:


It is time to run an interesting course on aquatic ecology. So much to do but too few expertise in this field. Copycats, fake expertise are all around doing a lot more damage than help. It has always been my interest in this field of freshwater ecology and lake management. To turn this into a business entity was never easy and it took me a lot of time and passion to become as what that we have today. It is time to share.

This short course has 5 parts (Only Part 1 contents are shown here) and for the moment we only open to company staffs and associates.

We will keep in record for those who are interested in future classes.

 Do write to us if interested to join future classes. It is FREE for PART 1 to 3.


1. Introduction

A. What is ecology ?

B. The Biological Spectrum

C. What is ecosystem ?

2. Energy Flow in Ecological Systems.

A. Basic Concepts Related to Energy.

B. Concept of Productivity

C. Food Chains, Food Webs and Trophic Levels.

3. The Biogeochemical Cycles.

A. The Nitrogen Cycle

B. The Phosphorus Cycle

C. The Carbon Cycle

D. TheHydraulic or Water Cycle.

4. Limiting Factors.

A. What is a limiting factor?

B. Carrying Capacity

5. Biodiversity and Habitat

A. Biodiversity in Ecology

B. What is Habitat?





Eco.. … are you ready ?

The bio-filtered pond at The Glades clubhouse

The bio-filtered pond at The Glades clubhouse

Mentioned the word ‘eco’, it reminds me of Umberto Eco, the Italian author of the book, ‘The Name of the Rose”.

But ‘eco’ in the building industry is like a dirty word especially when it links to its twin partner, ‘friendly’ = eco-friendly. Another cousin to this word, is ‘green’.

You cannot avoid as such words popped out everywhere in hoarding walls, ads, mags, with such words like “eco-friendly design”, “green environment”, “eco-building” and whatever names evil can find.

Eco..  in simplest form of explanation is something like “……the concerned with living things in relation to their environment.”

Of late, there are more “eco”-based companies coming up… Eco lake… Lake eco.. whatever..

Are they that real eco-guys to work on good realtionship between the community and its environment by sound knowledge, experience and good design? Or just a marketing name to connect good profits with fake marketing?

Eco projects is all about clean understanding of the ecology of environment and its communities. Ecology is knowledge, not a product.

Our projects is all about the beautiful world of water bodies management thru the eyes of nature, the eco-way.

Join us at and launching soon.. Rimba Studio, “Think of what the world loves, we have them all at Rimba Studio”

The lake as in progress

The lake as in progress

The Malayan Giant Freshwater Prawn ?

UG coverIf you have interest with Macrobrachium rosenbergii, the freshwater prawn which is called udang galah in Malay, you may have known that once, long ago it was called the Malayan giant freshwater prawn. Other name like Dr Showen-Ling may also rings a bell.

I had my first chance to cultivate udang galah back in 1985. I was assigned to produce the young prawn usually termed as post-larva or PL in hatchery tanks. In those years, the known production of udang PL was then only from the Fisheries Dept hatcheries in Penang and Perak. As the production of udang PL was limited and inconsistent from the Dept hatcheries, therefore, my employer who was keen to go large scale production decided to engage a consultant from Taiwan. Surprisingly, the Taiwanese had been growing udang for a while then and has established their production to convince my employer that they were capable for large scale production here in Malaysia. Yes, the so-called Malayan prawn needs a Taiwanese consultant.

Dr Showen-Ling was one of those pioneers who did the udang larvae growing research in Fisheries Research Institue in Penang. We were told that he discovered by accident that the larva of the udang needs salt content in order to survive. It seems that he accidentally spilled some salted sauce into the tank with udang larva in it and bravo!, they survived. Knowing this fact about the need of salt content in water for culturing the udang larva, he ‘fled’ to Hawaii and continue his udang task there and not long after that, the Malayan giant freshwater prawn was renamed as the Hawaiian giant freshwater prawn.

So, how true is this story ?

I spent almost 10 years culturing the udang from hatchery (larvae) to grow-out (adult) stage from 1985 to 1994. During this period, farmers also experienced the rise of the tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) farming. But for the udang, it remained very stagnated in the local scene till today.

The culture of the udang in the hatchery during the young stages was complicated as you need to know about the salt content of the water or salinity, specially made tanks for growing, tanks for the brine shrimp or artemia, aeration system, tank cleaning and siphoning, food and feeding, green water system or clear water system and etc. With 10 years of my life with udang as part of my growing years, I felt lost with guidebooks to growing the udang that I followed blindly not realising there is always another creative way of culturing.

Later in time, after meeting with several consultants from other parts of the world, I have filed a report with all types of requirements and specifications for the prawn culture. And finally the last person for me to interview was an old senior consultant from the Philippines. So I asked Mr Earl Kennedy as to what kind of tank requirement and specifications he needed to grow his prawn ?

He replied. “Give me a toilet bowl, and I can produce prawn for you.”.

This is domestic aquaculture that I am trying to promote. Farming of organisms by means of creativity and self-sustainability instead of rigid and unproven so-called ‘technology’ manipulated by feed millers, suppliers, scientists and governmental bodies. Once the late Prof Ang Kok Jee said to me that growing udang is not all about science but it is an art. How true and art is… “Works produced by such skill and imagination.”

If the art of growing udang interest you, welcome to Tanah Ayer Aquaculture Park.


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