The abandoned New World department store and its famous "Fish Sanctum" in Bangkok's Bang Lamphu area enjoyed a moment of world attention last year but is now facing an end. The fish are being relocated to make way for the demolition of some additional
In addition to entertaining visitors, the fish – trapped by chance on the flooded floors of this 33-year-old building – helped the neighbourhood by eating mosquito larvae, noodle vendor Jintana Ratchatawit, 55, said.
Jintana said she would now turn to using pesticides to deter the mosquitoes. The woman, who released more fish in the building and fed them regularly, said having the fish posed no problem for her and expected she would feel “lost” when they were all gone.
The fish sanctuary on the stone floors was the result of rain-
water leaking through a gaping
hole in the roof.
A local resident in his 60s was among the first people who released fish into building after the store owner gave his permission. He is not bothered by the coming fish relocation.
Another resident, Sommai Chuenfak, 63, said he felt good that the fish would be released into natural water sources, but he would feel sad when they were all gone.
Sommai said fish were first released and kept in the building ten years ago. The aquarium became famous when it was reported in online discussion boards in June last year by Thai visitors, and the story became known worldwide when it was translated into English.
Janya Amrungjitchai, 59, a coffee stall owner, said she remembered how modern the New World department store was 25 years ago. She said she felt sad about the Fish Sanctum going but understood the situation, as the abandoned building was in danger of collapse.
The natural aquarium later became a source for mosquitoes and residents released guppy fish to feed on the larvae. The guppy fish population increased and attracted visitors’ attention and people later released more fish including carp, catfish, Nile tilapia and mango fish.
After online postings, the unlikely aquarium became a tourist attraction, a must-visit location in Bang Lamphu. The New World building was included as one of the Unseen Thailand attractions and given the name Fish Sanctum (wang matcha).
Phra Nakhon district office ordered the closure of the New World building on June 30 last year and announced it was off-limits to the public, but visitors still sneaked in and fed the fish.
The office contacted the Department of Fisheries to relocate the fish.
A senior department official, Weera Watcharakornyothin, said around 3,000 fish in the building would be shifted to three fishery research centres outside Bangkok
in three weeks. The strongest fish
of all kinds would be selected and used for breeding while the rest would be released into natural water sources.
Phra Nakhon district chief Somchai Traiphitthyakul said after the fish were relocated, the water would be drained before mosquito-killing chemical was sprayed in the building. Drainage of the water would continue as the gap in the collapsed roof had not been closed by the building owner, he said.