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Bhavania australis (JERDON, 1849)

SynonymsTop ↑

Platycara australis Jerdon, 1849; Bhavania annandalei Hora, 1920


Bhavania: named for the Bhavani River, Tamil Nadu state, India.

australis: from the Latin australis, meaning ‘southern’, in reference to this species’ natural distribution.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Balitoridae


Endemic to the Western Ghats mountains in southern India with records existing from the states of Kerala (Chalakudy/Chalakkudy, Periyar, Muvattapuzha, Achankovil, Pamba, Chandragiri, Bharathapuzha, Kallar, Uruttipuzha, Bhavani, Chinkannipuzha, and Chaliyar river systems), Tamil Nadu (Kaveri, Tamiraparani, Aliyar, Chittar, and Kothayar rivers) and Karnataka (Kaveri and Bhadra rivers)

Type locality is ‘Mountain stream in the Walliar jungle, Nilgiris, India’.


An obligate dweller of shallow, fast-flowing, highly-oxygenated headwaters and minor tributaries characterised by stretches of riffles and runs broken up by pools or cascades in some cases.

Substrates are normally composed of smaller rocks, sand and gravel with jumbles of boulders, and while riparian vegetation and patches of submerged leaf litter are common features aquatic plants aren’t usually present.

The most favourable habitats contain clear, oxygen-saturated water which, allied with the sun, facilitates the development of a rich biofilm carpeting submerged surfaces.

During periods of high rainfall some streams may be temporarily turbid due to suspended material dislodged by increased (sometimes torrential) flow rate and water depth.

Maximum Standard Length

90 – 100 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

An aquarium with base measurements of 120 ∗ 30 cm or equivalent should prove sufficient.


Most importantly the water must be clean and well-oxygenated so we suggest the use of an over-sized filter as a minimum requirement.

Turnover should ideally be 10-15 times per hour so additional powerheads, airstones, etc. should also be employed as necessary.

Base substrate can either be of gravelsand or a mixture of both to which should be added a layer of water-worn rocks and pebbles of varying sizes.

Aged driftwood can also be used but avoid new pieces since these usually leach tannins that discolour the water and reduce the effectiveness of artificial lighting, an unwanted side-effect since the latter should be strong to promote the growth of algae and associated microorganisms.

Exposed filter sponges will also be grazed, and some enthusiasts maintain an open filter in the tank specifically to provide an additional food source.

Although rarely a feature of the natural habitat aquatic plants can be used with adaptable genera such as MicrosorumCrinum and Anubias spp. likely to fare best.

The latter are particularly useful as their leaves tend to attract algal growth and provide additional cover.

Since it needs stable water conditions and feeds on biofilm this species should never be added to a biologically immature set-up, and while regular partial water changes are essential aufwuchs can be allowed to grow on all surfaces except perhaps the viewing pane.

Water Conditions

Temperature16 – 24 °C

pH6.0 – 7.5

Hardness36 – 215 ppm


Bhavania spp. are specialised grazers feeding on biofilm, benthic crustaceans, insect larvae and other invertebrates.

In captivity some sinking dried foods may be accepted but regular meals of live or frozen Daphnia, Artemia, bloodworm, etc., are essential for the maintenance of good health, and it’s highly preferable if the tank contains rock and other solid surfaces with growths of algae and other aufwuchs.

Balitorids are often seen on sale in an emaciated state which can be difficult to correct.

A good dealer will have done something about this prior to sale but if you decide to take a chance with severely weakened specimens they’ll initially require a continual, easily-obtainable source of suitable foods in the absence of competitors if they’re to recover.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Not an aggressive fish although its particular requirements limit the choice of suitable tankmates.

Species inhabiting similar environments include Barilius, Garra, Devario, some Rasbora, gobies of the genera Rhinogobius plus Glyptothorax, Akysis and Oreoglanis spp. catfishes.

Many loaches from the family Nemacheilidae and most from Balitoridae are also suitable although harmless squabbles may occur with the latter group in particular. Research your choices before purchase to be sure.

It’s found living in aggregations in nature so buy six or more to see it at its best as when kept singly or in smaller groups it’s less bold.

NotesTop ↑

This species is very rarely seen in the international aquarium trade but is maintained by a number of Indian aquarists.

Like all balitorids Bhavania spp. possess morphology specialised for life in fast-flowing water, i.e., the paired fins are orientated and extended horizontally, head and body flattened, belly depressed.

These features form a powerful sucking cup which allows the fish to cling tightly to solid surfaces.

The ability to swim in open water is greatly reduced and they instead appear to crawl and hop their way over rocks and other surfaces.

The family Balitoridae as recognised by Kottelat (2012) is widely-distributed across much of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and China.


  1. Kottelat, M., 2012 - The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 26: 1-199
    Conspectus Cobitidum: an inventory of the loaches of the world (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cobitoidei).
  2. Raju Thomas, K., C. R. Biju, C. R. Ajithkumar and M. J. George, 2000 - Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 97(3): 443-446
    Fish fauna of Idukki and Neyyar wildlife sanctuaries southern Kerala, India.
  3. Raju Thomas, K., M. J. George and C. R. Biju , 2002 - Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 99(1): 47-53
    Freshwater fishes of southern Kerala with notes on the distribution of endemic and endangered species.
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