Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ikan Puyu - The Mystical Fish

I was browsing Yahoo Answers and I noticed a rather unusual question. Im posting the entire question and answer verbatim here:

"Why almost every race in Malaysia believed that ikan puyu has a mystical power? and that fish are capable of fighting black magic from entering the owner house"

And the answer given was:

In mystical arts, the climbing perch (puyu) is seen as a fish that dwells in two realms (which makes it unique) and it has the ability to live without water for days (if in a proper environment) which is quite symbolic for certain qualities which humans don't have (as fishes are supposed to be dependent on water, humans are dependent on air, but in the case of this fish, it is able to dwell in both realms). These abilities are seen as special and unusual, which is another feature that makes this fish 'special'.

It is said that here are two kinds of uses for these fishes.

(1) It can be used to repel 'pest-like' spirits, those of the 'weaker' kinds. Spirits that can be mischievious such as toyols and certain dwarf-like beings (kerdil). Some versions of this explains that these beings are actually not afraid of the puyu at all, but uses them as 'toys' to play with.

(2) It can also be used to repel demonic spirits, those with grosser bodies (in the case of Djinns) as these beings are said to dislike its sharp bodies.

There's also a third use of these fishes. It can be used as a sacrifice for removal of cursed objects (santau) by transferring those objects into the body of those fishes (though it is not commonly practiced). Some uses the puyu as a medium to send cursed objects instead.

I guess all races 'accept' these fishes for their uniqueness and attracted to the stories of old rather than having any understanding whatsoever about these fishes. As a matter of fact, not many 'modern' Malaysians know the uses of these fish anymore unless they are being brought up with proper guidance in the old ways. It is more like an adaptation as the climbing perch is a native only to Southeast Asian countries and can also be found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma, parts of Indonesia and Borneo...

These fishes have NO 'mystical' powers of its own without any 'divine' assistance and usually it has to be done with proper conjurations and spells. Black magic is a term referred to certain practices which involves darker intentions of one's practice. In reality, there is no such thing as 'black' or 'white' magic. The intention of one's heart determines the cause and effect of its spells. Through the powers of these spells, certain beings are being used to 'work' for a particular person (eg. witchdoctors/bomoh), and thus the climbing perch is used for the purposes as mentioned earlier above.

Hope this helps...

I do not wish to make this too lengthy, but basically mention the 'idea' about keeping these fishes for the purpose of 'preventing' black magic.

TheBear V2.0 (Happy Bearian)

Yahoo Answers


The ikan Puyu is also called ikan Betuk in malay. And in English, it is called the Climbing Perch (
Anabas Testudineus). The ikan Puyu is a common fresh water fish in Asia. It is a very hardy and unusual fish. During the drought, it has the ability to aestivate (hibernate) in the mud and emerge during a more favourable period.

Whilst I do not know about its mystical powers, what I do know is that the ikan Puyu is an important source of protein amongst the villages. The ikan Puyu are also kept as pets and help keep the mosquito population in check.

Give me some feedback guys, what do you know about the Puyu fish ?



Babysmooches on August 5, 2007 at 8:33 PM said...

Hi, interesting blog. On the ikan puyu, I personally have not heard about its so-called mystical powers. But then, a myth may be a legend. Or it may be from some experience the local folks have gone through :-)

The Malaysian Life on August 6, 2007 at 11:11 AM said...

Thanks. I didnt know about the ikan Puyu and its mystical powers until I read about it in Yahoo Answers. I suppose it is a common believe amongst south east asians. I was told that the arowana fish is supposed to bring luck - the Chinese particularly believe this.

Plume de Nom said...

My family used to keep a pair of ikan puyu as pets. They were hardy fishes and grew quite large so we let them go at a pond nearby. My mom kept them to "ward off black magic" or something like that.

Ipohchai on August 7, 2007 at 8:56 PM said...

i duno there are such belief tho
but puyu r delicious tho hehehe

azman said...

when i was young my gardener used to get betuk for me as pets. He goes to the swamps and padi fields to fish and catches a few betuk for me. I used to rear them in a small plastic aquarium. They could live in dirty water for more than 1 year. Amazing. Will eat anything.

Anonymous said...

Puyu masak lemak cili padi very delicious. Not easy to find a restaurant which sell this.

Diyna on August 11, 2007 at 10:22 PM said...

true this puyu fish do have some kind of mystical powers. last year there were "disturbances" in my rented room - i couldnt sleep, study or anyting. i reared a small puyu in a glass container I got from ikea. within a week everything turned out normal. cant be sure if it was the puyu but i really do think so.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha.. we are talking about "ikan puyu!" One of my favorite dishes. Slurrrpppp.... Very tasty. Easy to catch it.

My grandmother told me about puyu myth.. "Toyols like to plays with them" - she said. but I have no idea about it. I'm just ignored whatever she said! maybe right.. maybe wrong.

The Malaysian Life on September 20, 2007 at 4:05 AM said...

Very consistent comments about this fish - its delicious and a "supernatural repellent"

karipap on January 26, 2010 at 3:38 PM said...

i know people who rear this fish (just one) in a bottle placed in the house.

Zaleha on February 6, 2010 at 2:08 PM said...

Few wks ago I saw my two betuk SWMG against each other. Last wk onQe betuk seems pregnant. Then early this wk I think it laid eggs which I am not sure. How does betuk eggs look like? What to do when betuk lay eggs in aquarium?

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