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They may not be as cute and cuddly as rabbits, but this Chinese New Year's auspicious pets are far less likely to be abandoned by impulsive owners.

That is because each "dragon fish" costs between S$300 (US$234) and S$700, a hefty price tag that could leave buyers keen to hang on to their investment.

Also known as the arowana, they are especially popular during the Year of the Dragon because of their resemblance to the mythical beast.

Chinese customers often see them as a symbol of good luck, wealth, prosperity, strength and power, said Mr Kenny Yap, executive chairman of ornamental fish firm Qian Hu Corp.

He added that sales of the arowana started rising even before Christmas. He expects a 20 per cent increase during the Chinese New Year period.

This kind of flurry of interest over the festive season can sometimes spell bad news for the animal in question. Since the current Year of the Rabbit began last February, at least 475 of the creatures are believed to have been dumped in parks, wooded areas or void decks.

However, Mr Yap believes that fish owners tend to be less impulsive than other pet buyers. "You have to buy the tank and other equipment," he said.

"The decision process is more complete and thorough. Besides, for fish, the longer you keep, the more the value increases."

Breeders say prices of the high-quality arowana preferred by collectors start at S$1,000. If they are rare, or have won prizes, they can cost more than S$10,000.

Smaller farms have also received more enquiries about the dragon fish, but most say the spike will begin after Chinese New Year, which starts on Jan 23.

Mr Patrick Goh, an agent for Li Chun Dragon Fish Industry, said that most first-time arowana buyers tend to purchase the fish after noticing them during visits to their friends' or relatives' homes during the festive period.

Mr Dragon Seah, owner of Singapore Dragonfish Farm, said that many people grow to admire the arowana's "dignity and strength".

He added: "If they want to throw it away, please tell them to give it to me."

The other auspicious pet this year is the chinchilla, known as the "dragon cat" in Mandarin.

But despite the name, sales have been average so far. House of Chinchilla, one of Singapore's biggest distributors, has been selling about four a month.

Owner Patrick Teng said that he does not want to "push" the furry creatures on customers as he does not want them to be abandoned.

Anyone tempted to dump them could find it a costly move, as chinchillas are more expensive than the average pet. They sell for between S$700 and S$3,000 each.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has urged people not to buy the "dragon cats" over the Chinese New Year season.

Its executive director Corinne Fong said: "It is a trend, and as trends fade, we will likely see them surrendered to the SPCA at the year's end."

She added: "Chinchillas live up to 15 years. Don't be suckered by advertisements and promotions."