Rabbitfish 白肚鱼 for Chinese New Year

Rabbitfish is one of the must-buy food during Chinese New Year(CNY). The species commonly eaten is White-Spotted Rabbitfish. Its stomach region is usually bitter. CNY period coincides with their mating season, as a result, the fish taste great. Rabbitfish contains fish roe and milt(fish semen) during this time. Rabbitfish Milt tastes like soft tofu and with a tinge of seafood flavour. This is viewed as an abundance by the Chinese and will also buy it for its taste.

Photos from Flickr: Felix Chia

Rabbitfish as a symbolic dish in Chinese New Year(CNY)

Fish is one of the most eaten food during the Chinese New Year(CNY). The word Fish (鱼yú) has the same pronunciation(余yú) as Chinese idiom 年年有余 (nián nián yǒu yú). Traditional Chinese idiom represents surplus all year round. It is one of the popular auspicious blessings during CNY festive season. Chinese choose Rabbitfish as one of the preferred fish even calling it “发财鱼” prosperous fish. Thus, it is common to buy Rabbitfish as a custom is to wish their loved ones prosperity and living in abundance during reunion dinner.  There will often be some leftover fish to symbolise surplus that matches the idiom. Most importantly, CNY reunion dinner is once a year, Chinese will definitely buy it during CNY.

About White-Spotted Rabbitfish

White-Spotted Rabbitfish is also known as Spinefoots and they belong to the Siganidae family. Rabbitfish is a diurnal animal (active during the day). At night, it often hides in between rocks and corals. Younger rabbitfish form large schools, while the adults are usually seen in smaller schools. Some species can reach up to a length of 40 cm. White-spotted Rabbitfish is more commonly found up to 15cm.

The rabbitfish elevated spines contain poison glands on its fins. These spines can be found on their fins. As Rabbitfish have venomous spines on their fins, you must act with caution when handling rabbitfish. Although not lethal, its sting can inflict great pain to people. While rabbitfish are not aggressive in nature, however, they do not hesitate to sting predators in self-defence.

White-spotted Rabbitfish for CNY
White-Spotted Rabbitfish


Rabbitfish is mainly herbivorous. Its diet is based mostly on algae. Some species of rabbitfish eat zooplankton, seaweed and corals.

Where can you find White-spotted Rabbitfish (Siganidae)?

 White-spotted Rabbitfish can be found in the warm tropical waters of Indo-Pacific. It is a deep-sea fish and is generally found in waters between 100 and 1000 metres deep. Besides living in deep say, they also live in brackish water (water with more salinity than fresh water). Rabbitfish usually inhabits coastal waters, lagoons and coral reefs. These fishes may be common around Singapore with corals and seagrass. It can be found along breakwaters near some seagrass species. Although the fish is primarily vegetarians, they can also be caught with shrimp as fish bait.

White-Spotted Rabbitfish name in different local languages 

When you go to the local market to buy it, different fishmongers call white-spotted rabbitfish different names. Fishmongers know White Spotted Rabbitfish in the common language in the region:

  • English
  • Mandarin
  • Hokkien
  • Teochew
  • Cantonese
  • Malay
  • Tiếng Việt

Scientific name: Siganus canaliculatus

English NameWhite-spotted Rabbitfish or Spinefoot
Mandarin  鱼名发财鱼(fā cái yú), 白肚鱼 (Bái dù yú), 拜年鱼(Bài nián yú), 长鳍篮子鱼 (Zhǎng qí lánzi yú)
HokkienBai Jia Hir, Peh Tor
TeochewBai Jia Hu, Pek Touw
Cantonese 粤语泥鯭 (Nai Maan)
MalayIkan Capok, Dengkis, Ketang Surat, Dingkis
Tiếng ViệtCá Dìa
DeutschWeißfleckiger Kaninchenfisch
DutchWitgevlekte konijnenvis
White-Spotted Rabbitfish in different languages

Where to buy White-Spotted Rabbitfish during Chinese New Year in Singapore?

During Chinese New Year, their roe and milt are present in the fish in this mating season. Below are some of the places that you can buy Rabbitfish:

1) Jurong West 505 Market & Food Centre
Address: 505 Jurong West Street 52, Singapore 640505

2) Tekka Market
Address: 665 Buffalo Road, Singapore 210665  

3) Geylang Serai 
Address: 1 Geylang Serai, Singapore 402001

4) Chinatown Wet market
Address: Chinatown Complex, 335 Smith Street, Singapore 050335

5) Ghim Moh Market
20 Ghim Moh Road, Singapore 270020

6) NTUC FairPrice (selected outlets)

White-Spotted Rabbitfish Pricing in Singapore

Rabbitfish pricing is seasonal. With factors affecting its prices like market demand and external weather conditions causing a decrease in supply from fishing, as a result affecting the pricing to fluctuate. Chinese New Year period will have a strong demand for the fish affecting the price of the fish to increase。

Non Peak Period (other dates)$15-$25/kg
Peak Season (usually 2 weeks before Chinese New Year (CNY) and during CNY period)$30-$80 /kg
White-Spotted Rabbitfish Pricing estimates depending market conditions

In Conclusion

Although prices may be expensive during Chinese New Year, Chinese will buy Rabbitfish as a tradition during this period. During this CNY period, Rabbitfish is also perceived as a delicacy containing roe and melt.

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