The Secret Of The Abandoned Fish Mall

Down a nondescript soi in old town Bangkok lies a relatively unknown hidden gem. Without a good knowledge of Bangkok geography, one would be hard pressed to believe anything interesting lies behind this gate.

DSC_2078

The posted sign reads in Thai “strictly no entrance beyond this point”

New World shopping mall, a four storey former shopping mall. Originally constructed as an eleven storey building. It was found to be in breach of old town Bangkok’s four storey limit on building heights. The top seven floors were demolished to adhere to building codes in 1997. In 1999 the mall burned due to suspected arson committed by a competitor in the area. The disaster resulted in several casualties, and the building has remained abandoned ever since. Not having a roof, the basement floor remains under several feet of water year round. 

At some point in the early 2000′s an unknown person began introducing a small population of exotic Koi and Catfish species. The small population of fish began to thrive and the result is now a self-sustained, and amazingly populated urban aquarium. I will not tell exactly where it is, as locals somewhat discourage people visiting it. In fact we had to wait for a policeman who was parked on his motorcycle in front of the gate to leave before we timidly entered. Below are a few pictures to give you an idea of the absolutely staggering amount of fish. Enjoy! and if you are really curious as to where it is located, you can email me at jesserockwell26@gmail.com

There are 154 comments left Go To Comment

  1. msneill /

    Amazing find, I will have to watch the blog.

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      Thank You! Please do. I am very pleased you find it interesting.

  2. John /

    This is amazing! What a find! The degree to which they’re thriving is absolutely incredible.

  3. gordon /

    That is so wonderfully surreal.

  4. Nara Vajrathorn /

    Dear Jesse,

    This is an interesting find, well done. My partner & i will be in Bangkok for 2 weeks in middle of January and would like to check out this secret fish pond. Can you please provide us with the address of this abandon Mall.

    Kind Regards,
    Nara Vajrathorn

  5. Pingback: The Secret of an Abandoned Mall in Old Town Bangkok | theo's gallimaufry /

  6. Russell Gendolfe /

    Amazing what can happen when life and things are left alone and void of human intervention ! Life will find a way to grow and thrive without us . Nice work .

    1. vasal /

      Except that humans built the container and introduced the fish…

    2. Jonathan B /

      To be fair, it wasn’t really void of human intervention. It was humans that put them into the pond in the first place. They simply thrived when placed in a suitable environment with no natural predators.

  7. Gary /

    I wonder if locals eat the catfish?

  8. Lewie /

    The pictures show Tilapia, an introduced African species, I suspect this also has the distinction of being where a good portion of the neighborhood get their daily fish diet from.

  9. Kai /

    I wonder what does the fish feed on, and if they are themselves used as food.

    1. brain box /

      mossys and flys insects ect .. same as any normal fish

    2. Anthony /

      Paint chips, rust, and other – ahem – non-toxic things in the building.

  10. mykal /

    it is so incredible…how many fish u think… Thousands maybe

  11. Radcliffe Lewis /

    You know they are selling that fish. The fish are cute, but lord, the building is ugly. Someone needs to relocate all that fish, drop the building, and build a fish-quarium and mall filled with restaurants and fishy groceries. Cleaner, better, and not all that rust – paint, etc.

    1. david smith /

      people like you are why this place is kept secret, it’s not ugly. it’s a wonderful thing without all your restaurants and boutiques. get real.

  12. LerLer /

    wow. a great idea to prevent mosquitoes. It also helps to grow some food in abandon places. GOod Idea

    1. billybobthortonsucks /

      Great for squiters very very bad as food,,, think of the toxins in that water. Even the cement used in many other nations is pure poison!! They use things we banned decades ago!! Poor fish too. Living in that toxic swill!

  13. Adam Rosenberg /

    did you actually stand in water? how does one open the door? do you go in on the second floor

    i am intrigued by your shots but am interested in the locations in the mall you took them from, eg did you have to balance on a wall, hold anything to not fall in?
    Id be grateful for an explanation

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      No, there is a concrete area to stand on above the water. You can’t really get anywhere else without getting wet.

  14. RobRob /

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the locals are keeping it secret as a food source. Suddenly, I want to find a burnt out local building and stock it with some fish, maybe let some budgies go native…

  15. George /

    Why only take four pictures?

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      I have many more. They are under license now though….

      1. JimCondes /

        when are you going to post them.. invite me..thanks..

  16. Joey /

    Hey Jesse, fantastic photos! They were published on the Verge recently and I was inspired to make a quick painting, which you can check out here if you’re interested. http://princeling.net/post/90457855444/new-world-shopping-mall-5-hrs-was-really
    Keep taking adventurous shots!

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      Wow! I love it! Thank you for taking the time to do that.

    2. Nick /

      Joey, can i see more of your art work. More on mysterious and hidden garden theme. Do you sell your artwork?
      Thanks. Btw, just remove the red dressed girl in the middle would be glad.
      Email: n8cky@yahoo.com

    3. Sshar /

      Beautiful painting, Joey–how wonderful to be so talented. And what a subject…who would think an old, abandoned building would provide such beauty! (Lol…well, except maybe for Jesse Rockwell. Very interesting, Sir–thank you!)

  17. Heather /

    How did you get in? I would think if you opened a door on the ground level, water and fish would come pouring out… And where did you walk if it’s flooded? Did you have to wade through the water and fish? This is really cool though. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Rhurbarb Calypso /

    I love seeing nature take over like this. That shot of the escalator is priceless.

  19. ck lin /

    they look like red tilapia. what kind of feed do they live on is most puzlling.

  20. bisot /

    cant believe it, but i think this is a good idea for abandoned places

  21. DC /

    Amazing! But I wonder what do they feed on to survive?

    1. Creeps /

      The corpse of the ill fated individuals…. Just kidding… I think there are lots of organic sources down below (might be wood, soil, whatever) and probably vegetation grew through time providing the key for the success of this amazing ecosystem

  22. Wendy /

    Any idea what they eat? It’s incredible that it’s self sustaining and so many fish!

  23. Wp /

    I think it’s a fake but i still admired the idea

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      I can assure you it’s not fake!

  24. David King /

    Just shows you how badly governments have managed the worlds ecosystems.

  25. Amy /

    This is amazing! I have lived in Bangkok for 5 years now and I really wanna check this place out for myself! Where you allowed into the area without any hassle? These photos are brilliant!

  26. Byron Perry /

    More photos and history of the New World Mall here, y’all!
    http://bangkok.coconuts.co/2013/06/19/bangkok-fishbowl-exotic-species-swim-free-abandoned-mall

  27. Ms. Z to A /

    Amazing! Wonder how many genus and species of fishes are there…. I hope this gets preserved for this is a miracle of nature :) amidst abandonment, life still thrived and fluorished

    1. nick /

      This is not nature or a miracle, this is farming. I only see two species at most.

      I would be shocked if there were any native species living in that body of water due to the crowding and poor water quality. Dissolved waste levels are likely off the charts when compared to a natural system..
      I would also imagine that they are being fed with byproducts of the city including human waste.

  28. Andy /

    How can anyone find this disgusting thing amazing? at mall should never be build and become a junk on nature…poor fishes… i wish those fishes would be on their lovely lakes and rivers….

    1. nick /

      Those “poor fishes” are not native to the area, they are being cultured as a food source. While I’m sure they have been introduced in to natural bodies of water in the area, dumping all of them into a pond or stream would likely wipe out any natives species.

  29. Dennis Rito /

    Hi Chef Jesse, some sites who republished your blog post call some of the fishes to be Koi and Catfish. But upon close examination, I think most of the fish are red tilapia and oreochromis niloticus (nile tilapia) varieties right? Correct me if I’m wrong. Thanks and regards.

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      I am no fish expert, but I think the consensus is tilapia.

    2. Baku /

      Black ones could be Nile Tilapia or Mozambique Tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus).

  30. Helen Eldridge /

    I assume the local people are feeding them and looking after them as a private food source. I just wonder whether there is any inflow or outflow of water, as it must surely get pretty filthy after a time, and I would think the health of the fish would suffer.

    1. Bob Lim /

      Helen,

      Bangkok’s ground water is very close to the surface. The location of the mall is also not far from a “Klong” (aka Canal) so I am sure that if the location is the basements the water could have seeped in. Also if it is open to rain – it could easily fill up during the monsoon seasons. The local should be glad the Tilapia’s are there otherwise it would have become a breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

    2. sandyakeman /

      This type of fish thrives in low quality water and over stocking. Considering they’ll eat almost anything and do very well in situations most other fish can’t tolerate, they’re a good choice for this “venue”. The fish themselves help ‘clean’ the water, and they grow rapidly. They’re a very lucrative, popular, easy, farm fish.

  31. Bangkok-resident /

    There are too many fish to live on insects alone. Which means someone has turned the building into an unofficial fish farm, feeding the fish to sell later when they are grown.

    1. Jesse Rockwell / Post Author

      There are a ton of foodstalls right next to it ;o

  32. yiliang /

    The first picture, on the right, is the gate to access the place? and the alley on the left is some eatery?

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  34. Ananth /

    Wonderful post. Particularly liked the post on Kathmandu: Homecoming.

    Keep posting.

    Regards

    Ananth V

  35. Pingback: The Koi of Bangkok’s abandoned mall | The Quarter /

  36. LilstarUk /

    Great finding Jess! I wish I was still living there, could that be near soi 23?

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  38. Rahnos /

    If they are Tilapia, I suspect they will be eating each other…

  39. Mike H /

    Thats awesome .. any idea what they eat?

  40. firdaus /

    They (the pink ones) are actually tilapias, not koi.

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  48. p /

    Actually, the sign in the first photo doesn’t say “strictly no entrance beyond this point”.
    If you tried to get it translated correctly, you would know that it is actually a message about restricting people from putting stuff by the gate area. Don’t think that having a photo of a sign in a strange foreign language allows you to mislead people to better suit a story. This isn’t CNN.

  49. p /

    Secondly, for full disclosure, you should tell your audience what the little sign to the right of the big sign says (in the first pic).
    It says: “fish food” and gives the price of 10 Baht. What does this suggest? Maybe that locals are in fact not afraid or discouraging people to visit it? Why would someone discourage you from going in, but also be selling fish food right outside the entrance?

    Do some proper translation, and maybe you’ll be able to ask some proper questions of the environment and the people within it.

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  54. Pai /

    Very cool! P.S. Regarding the caption, the posted sign on the gate actually says, “Do not leave things around this area.” Just FYI from a Thai :)

  55. Baku /

    They are Tilapias, not catfish and carps. Pink ones are hybrid. You can find this fish in many local restaurants — possibly in the restaurant in the first picture as well?

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  58. Herron /

    I would love to have seen this in video style…. Please if you go back try to a video tape…..

  59. Merlin /

    these fish are not koi and i dont really see any catfish, probably the catfish are at the bottom … most of the fish shown in the picture and local river or pond fish, the edible but non-tasty type …

    1. Merlin /

      yes, someone said tilapia, thats probably correct too, found throughout the few countries here in south east asia

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  61. nicki /

    very neat, loved this , will follow you now :)

  62. bk /

    What an amazing found Jesse! How did you chance upon it in the first place? Is the place still there at this moment as we discuss? :)

    Sure hope can take a look at this one day.

  63. Egle Eye /

    Fantastic!

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  65. Ahmad Rizudin /

    I wonder how the rest of the mall looks like underwater.

    Pity that you can’t even go swimming in there. Not that you should, but I’m just curious about how this artificial eco-system manages to thrive. That’s a lot of fish in there, and I think that your photos barely scratch the surface about what lies beneath.

    Just how deep was that basement, you reckon?

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  68. john /

    Based on the number of fish, that is definitely a privately maintained food source. I am sure the locals dont want alot of attention because the fish that are being sold from there are paying some nice profits & ownership of the building has long since collected on the insurance policy and moved on. The police too probably receive a nice cut for their job as part time security. Those fish are fed to people everyday despite the questionable conditions, there is no doubt in my mind.

  69. Steve /

    Obviously at that stocking level they are being fed artificially as well as any natural food.
    If there are 2000 fish in there (conservative estimate) then they would need 30kg of food per day…that’s 900kg per month and thats every day of every month at the 5% nutritional intake that they need to survive. Not possible in a “natural only” biotope for the biomass that is there.
    I actually think it’s a great use of wasted space to help boost food and income in a poor area (if thats what’s happening).

    And to Andy, who said “How can anyone find this disgusting thing amazing? at mall should never be build and become a junk on nature…poor fishes… i wish those fishes would be on their lovely lakes and rivers….”…well, tell you what, why dont you make a stance and give up your home, knock it down along with all the stores that you use for your groceries and the powerstation that supplies you with electricity and give it back to nature so that those lovely bugs, birds, mammals and herptiles can look lovely back in their beautiful meadows, streams, woodlands and marshlands that were destroyed and made it possible for you to sit at your computer and complain that someone is making use of dereliction and that other nature is also moving into this ecological niche….Hypocrisy much?

  70. traveler /

    Author Jesse Rockwell forget the location or doing for purpose so people can contact with him..! i think all tourist know about this place and address..!

  71. swishy /

    U should visit india for a far more extent of adventure

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  80. Zak /

    Great pics Jesse! I remember being in Bangkok the day that building went on fire, went to see the whole ordeal as I was staying nearby… Who would have imagined the abandoned shopping mall would have turned up the way it did!

  81. JP /

    What I find the most interesting about this is that the water must have a filtration system, somehow. That many generations of fish would never exist if it was just stagnant standing water. Therefore, the water, and thus some of the waste produced by all those fish shitting all day long, must be drained out somehow. The next question becomes: How does the water-level replenish itself? Must be enough rainfall to sustain whatever the drain rate is.

    This is really interesting and Bangkok ought to investigate how this is happening. Clearly the water is leaking out of however many cracks exist in the foundation of that building. It is leaking out at such a rate as to maintain a ‘steady’ depth compared to rainfall and also as to remove enough waste produced by these fish for the habitat to remain viable. The insects are probably washed in when it rains – the larvae that were otherwise sitting in puddles get washed toward this building. The fish then eat these insects at whatever point during their lifecycle, and those insects who don’t get eaten decide that this ‘pond’ is a rather nice place to lay some more eggs. The insects must be those that eat some specific type of mold/bacteria or other parasite that would be present in a moldy old building. The mold must be surviving on some of the waste produced by the (dead) fish and human waste.

    I would argue that this is a very interesting habitat and that it is, in fact, sustainable. However, there are several caveats to calling this sustainable. First, if there is some flood or other major event that washes the fish away or causes the building to collapse entirely, then all bets are off. Next, when the cracks in this old building become too far deteriorated to maintain the water level, then the water will drain faster than it is replenished, and the fish will all die off. Finally, if humans somehow intervene negatively, such as by “feeding the fish” bread or crackers or whatever, then that will offset the balance. Something will eat too much of that extra food source, produce too much waste, and disrupt the food chain. It may have a chance to recover from this type of catastrophe

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  84. Jamie /

    I have a background in marine biology, and I once worked at an aquarium, and well I don’t have much specific knowledge of fish aquaculture, I agree, that the fish densities look like those found in fish farms, and that it seems highly unlikely that the fish are being sustained by insects, and natural algae growth alone. I strongly suspect that someone is using the place as a surreptitious fish farm – maybe even the venders in the market in a communal way, who knows? Regardless, thanks for sharing. Cool to see. I wish more of our abandoned urban spaces would be used in creative ways.

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  86. Owen Cuales /

    This is so cool. Credits to the author.

  87. how /

    Self sustaining by what study/standards? It does look extremely overpopulated. If it is the photographers opinion, that it’s self sustaining, that sounds like a speculation. Catfish are predatory so I guess the carps are screwed…

  88. Flyingfish /

    It seems to me an illegal fishfarm: the genus is most likely Tilapia, thus edible, and there are too many fish for being a no-feed input system. Unless all the fish are grouped under the light and the building surface is huge.

  89. Ivy Joel Moriga /

    Waaaa… this is really interesting. Love this kinda story. Saw this on fb. Someone posted.

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  91. James /

    Excellent pictures thanks.
    but on the bottom mid right of picture DSC_2088.
    Is that a discarded condom?
    Bet the fish are yummy!!

  92. James /

    sorry bottom mid left of course

  93. photonyz /

    This place looks like Chernobyl. I’ve really liked the entire post, hope to see more interesting places on this blog.

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  95. Terry /

    So cool! I love Bangkok and the Thai people. Thanx for sharing!

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  98. sum kitteh /

    I reposted this on Facebook and it gave me a cluster of “related” stories about how City of Bangkok is shutting this place down? WtF? I think it’s great – I’m planning to build one of my own…

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  100. Raquel /

    Absolutely disgusting. One of the sources of critics over fish farms is the health of the fish, given the fact that they are in tanks that not cleaned properly from fish own waste… so can you imagine how filthy that water should be, since it is completely still and crowded with fish. No room to reproduce the fish. And nobody to even clean the tank. arThis is not the work of nature. This is the criminal mind of man. Who threw the fish in there? a human. And now this is an horrendous conditions private fish farm.

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  105. Andy Wrathall /

    Since you’ve said this place is ‘self-sustained’, other places have reported the same thing without really thinking about it. Self-sustaining means there is no external food source, but tourists have been feeding these fish every day. Even in your picture there is a sign next to a bucket that translates as ‘fish food 10B’.

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  109. Lars /

    Wow, what an amazing discovery. Reblogged it with greetings from Berlin! Cheers Lars

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