With fish and turtles swimming around them, divers performed an underwater lion dance in a Malaysian aquarium on Friday, in a fresh take on the traditional Lunar New Year performance.

Two people wearing a multi-coloured lion suit performed in one of the tanks at Aquaria in Kuala Lumpur, as musicians played cymbals and drums outside.

Turtles and colourful fish glided past the lion as it lumbered around in front of a rock formation.

"The underwater lion dance is something unique... here in the aquarium," Aquaria executive director Daryl Foong told reporters.

To undertake the tricky task, the divers get special training and use suits that are light enough for them to perform while underwater, he added.

Aquaria has put on the underwater dance several times in recent years.

Lion dances are traditionally performed in China and among ethnic Chinese communities all over the world to mark the Lunar New Year, which falls at the start of February this year.

In the traditional art form, two or more performers put on a colourful head and cloak, and try to mimic a lion's movements, accompanied by music.

Some believe that the dance can help ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

About a quarter of Muslim-majority Malaysia's 32 million inhabitants are ethnic Chinese.