Not too far away from the Marymount Gate sits the oft-ignored Biodiversity Pond, known only for its half-faded sign that heralds the “testicle-eating” pacu. Few actually stop to wonder—exactly what goes on in and around the pond? Raffles Press is here to fill you in on those questions, including the pond’s very own caretaker, Mr Lim Bah Hock.
What’s in a Pond?
The Raffles Biodiversity Pond was built in 2009 under the Turnkey Project. Its intention was “to showcase flora and fauna from Southeast Asia”, allowing students to learn about ecology and biodiversity outside their curriculum. Hence, the pond serves a didactical purpose in addition to its aesthetic one. And it has served its purpose well—in 2010, it received a silver award from the Landscape Industry Association of Singapore (LIAS) in recognition of its outstanding design.
The first things one might notice about the pond are the slick, black noses of large fish surfacing to take in air. They belong to shark catfish, specifically, the iridescent sharks. Their diet consists of plant matter and other smaller fish, which does not harm any of the ponds’ residents as the sharks receive daily feed. They might be rather big, but they are dwarfed in both size and aggression by larger fish in the pond like the gourami or the pacu.
Moreover, many collectors pride themselves on getting their hands on the Asian arowana, believing it to bring good fortune to their owners. We should, too, for in our very own pond resides the Asian arowana.
The waters of the pond may hold some truly remarkable fish, but what about the plants that line its perimeters? Clusters of the dwarf papyrus, among other plant species, have eagerly made their homes in our very own Biodiversity Pond.
The Pond’s Trusty Caretaker
As the sole caretaker of the pond now, Mr Lim tells us in Mandarin that although he wasn’t trained with aquatic life care, he still feels a connection towards the fishes.
He may appear to speak nonchalantly, claiming that he sees taking care of the fish as merely “feeding them”, but it is evident that, deep in his heart, he truly cares about the pond. He shows us picture after picture of dead fish on his phone, recollecting the times when fiercer fish would engage in vicious fights over the fry he would buy for them.
The Tilapia Problem
Due to some indiscretion over the years, a few tilapias were released into the pond, where they quickly multiplied and now reside in hundreds. And the numbers are still climbing.
As a result, the tilapias now pose a hazard to the rest of the pond due to the large amounts of nitrogenous waste they release, putting much pressure on the filtering systems of the pond. They also compete with the native fish for resources, further endangering the fishes’ lives and putting them at risk for disease. Unable to withstand the pollution and limited food and space, some species have even entirely disappeared from the pond for good.
Though limited interest in marine biology may discourage many of us from hanging around the pond and making loving eye contact with the fish for hours on end, it wouldn’t hurt to start taking more of an active interest in the first functioning ecosystem you see every school day. After all, amidst the craziness of school life, temporary stress relief can always be achieved by going to the pond, to be blissfully alone with only your thoughts, the fish and the occasional fowl to keep you company.