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Boraras urophthalmoides (KOTTELAT, 1991)

SynonymsTop ↑

Rasbora urophthalmoides Kottelat, 1991


Boraras: anagram of the generic name Rasbora, in reference to the reversed ratio of abdominal and caudal vertebrae in this genus.

urophthalmoides: from the specific name urophthalma, and Greek εἶδος (eîdos), meaning ‘form, likeness’, because this species was formerly referred to erroneously as Rasbora urophthalma. The epithet urophthalma is from the Ancient Greek οὐρά (ourá), meaning ‘tail’, and ὀφθαλμός (ophthalmós), meaning ‘eye’, in allusion to the black spot on the caudal-fin base.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


Described from a freshwater swamp associated with the Sai Buri River in Pattani province, southern (peninsular) Thailand but currently considered to range throughout much of southern and central parts of the country, with the province of Narathiwat on the border with Peninsular Malaysia appearing to represent the southern limit of its range.

The full type locality is ‘Thailand: Pattani Province: swamp near Sai Buri River, 43 km northwest of Naratiwat on road 42, Ban La Han’.

Additional records are not extensive but it seemingly occurs throughout the Mae Klong and Chao Phraya river basins and has been recorded in both Vietnam and Cambodia where one notable population inhabits the moats and ponds of the Angkor Wat temple complex near Siem Reap.


Inhabits shallow bodies of water such as swamps, marshes, floodplains and rice paddies where it’s typically associated with submerged vegetation in predominantly clear water. It’s also known to move into temporarily inundated areas during the wet season.

Maximum Standard Length

12 – 16 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Though small it still needs space to swim and dominant males will form temporary territories when spawning so a group is best kept in a tank with base dimensions of at least 45 ∗ 30 cm.


Best kept in a densely-planted aquarium and is an excellent choice for the carefully-aquascaped set-up. The addition of some floating plants and driftwood roots or branches to diffuse the light entering the tank also seems to be appreciated and adds a more natural feel.

Filtration does not need to be particularly strong as it mostly hails from sluggish waters and may struggle if there is a fast current. Do not add this fish to a biologically immature tank as it can be susceptible to swings in water chemistry.

Water Conditions

Temperature:20 – 28 °C

pH6.0 – 7.0

Hardness18 – 179 ppm


Stomach analyses of wild specimens have revealed it to be a micropredator feeding on small insects, worms, crustaceans and other zooplankton.

In the aquarium it will accept dried foods of a suitable size but should not be fed these exclusively. Daily meals of small live and frozen fare such as Daphnia, Artemia and suchlike will result in the best colouration and encourage the fish to come into breeding condition.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

This species is very peaceful but does not make an ideal community fish due to its small size and rather timid nature. It will do best when maintained alone or with other diminutive species such as Microdevario, Sundadanio, Danionella, Eirmotus, Trigonostigma, pygmy Corydoras and small Loricariids such as Otocinclus.

It also makes an ideal companion for shy anabantoids such as Sphaerichthys, Parosphromenus or the more diminutive Betta species and in a planted set-up can be housed alongside freshwater shrimp of the genera Caridina and Neocaridina. We don’t recommend keeping it with other Boraras as hybridisation might occur.

It’s a shoaling species by nature and really should be kept in a group of at least 8-10 specimens. Maintaining it in decent numbers will not only make the fish less nervous but will result in a more effective, natural-looking display. Males will also display their best colours and some interesting behaviour as they compete with one other for female attention.

Sexual Dimorphism

Mature females are noticeably rounder-bellied and often a little larger than the slightly more colourful males.


Like many small cyprinids this species is an egg-scattering, continuous spawner that exhibits zero parental care. That is to say when in good condition and in the presence of both males and females relatively small numbers of eggs will be laid daily. In a well-furnished, mature aquarium it is therefore possible that small numbers of fry may start to appear without human intervention.

However if you want to increase the yield of fry a slightly more controlled approach is required. The adult group can still be conditioned together but one or more separate, perhaps 10-15 litre, containers should also be set up.

These should be very dimly lit with the base either left bare or covered with some kind of mesh of a large enough grade so that any eggs that fail to adhere to the plant can pass through but small enough so that the adults cannot reach them.

The widely available plastic ‘grass’-type matting can also be used and works very well. The water itself should be of pH 5.0-6.5, 1-5°H with a temperature towards the upper end of the range suggested above. A decent-sized clump of Java moss or other fine-leaved plant should also be added filling perhaps half the available space. Filtration is not really necessary but you can use a small, air-powered sponge filter if you prefer.

Two or three pairs of well-conditioned adult fish should then be introduced to each container. It is wise to make the transfer slowly in order to avoid excessive levels of stress but if conditions are to their liking they should begin to spawn the following morning.

While this species certainly will eat its eggs it appears not to actively hunt for them as is the case with many small cyprinids. Once spawning has commenced it should continue on a daily basis.

The pair(s) should be left in situ for no more than a couple of days before being removed as the first eggs should hatch by the second day after the initial spawning. The tiny young will survive on their yolk sacs for another 24 hours or so after which they will require Paramecium or other microscopic food.

After a week to ten days they should be large enough to accept Artemia nauplii/microworm etc. As the days pass additional fry should start to appear from later spawning events. It’s best to wait a week or two before starting to perform small water changes in order to avoid unduly shocking the young fish.

NotesTop ↑

This species appears to vary in colouration depending on collection locality which has led to some confusion with B. brigittae as some populations can develop a strong orange/red stripe above the dark lateral marking when in good condition.

B. urophthalmoides can be easily identified by its smaller adult size, distinct round, dark blotch on the caudal peduncle, comparitively long, unbroken lateral stripe and less uniformly red patterning. Its sometimes seen on sale under the trade names of ‘sparrow rasbora’ or ‘exclamation-point rasbora’, the latter in reference to the distinctive pattern formed by the dark body markings.

Boraras was erected in 1993 in order to separate a small group of species from the larger Rasbora assemblage on the basis of differences in morphology and reproductive strategy.

In older literature they are therefore referred to as members of Rasbora and following Liao et al. (2010) the genus is a member of the rasborin sub-group within the subfamily Danioninae (the other sub-group contains the danionins).

This group is further subdivided into six clades (clusters of closely-related species) of which Boraras (or at least B. brigittae; the only species involved in the study) is included in ‘clade three’ alongside Horadandia atukorali, Rasboroides vaterifloris, Trigonostigma heteromorpha and three species previously included in Rasbora but moved into new genera by the authors; Trigonopoma gracile, T. pauciperforatum and Rasbosoma spilocerca.

Of these it was found to form a monophyletic group with Rasboroides meaning these two derived from the same common ancestor. The results for B. brigittae and T. heteromorpha were found to be inconclusive in some respects and further work regarding their phylogenetic position was recommended.

Shortly afterwards a paper investigating systematics of the subfamily Danioninae was published by Tang et al. (2010) Their results differed from those of Liao et al. and their conclusion was to synonymise the four new genera plus Boraras and Trigonostigma with Rasbora based on an incomplete knowledge of relationships within the group, an approach they describe as ‘more conservative’. This has not been followed by the majority of authors, however, and the separate groupings are maintained in the extensive work by Kottelat (2013), which is followed here.

The small adult size in Boraras species evolved via a process known as miniaturisation, characterised by sexually mature adults with a significantly reduced size of less than 20 mm SL.

Among bony fishes cyprinids are one of the few groups in which this phenomenon occurs repeatedly with all BarboidesDanionellaMicrodevarioMicrorasboraHoradandiaBorarasPaedocyprisSawbwa and Sundadanio species representing miniaturised taxa along with a few members of DanioLaubuca and Rasbora. All show a preference for still or slow-moving waters, often in nutrient-poor habitats such as forest peat swamps.

The anatomical structure of miniaturised cyprinids can vary greatly, and there are two principle ‘groupings’ with some species possessing intermediate features to some degree. The first contains those fishes which though small are essentially proportionally dwarfed versions of their larger relatives, e.g., Barboides, Microdevario, Microrasbora, etc.

The other includes those in which anatomical development stops at a point where adult still resemble a larval form of their larger ancestor, i.e., Danionella and Paedocypris.

The latter are usually referred to as ‘developmentally truncated’ or ‘paedomorphic’ and are thought to have evolved via a process known as ‘progenetic paedomorphosis’ i.e. paedomorphosis brought about by accelerated maturation. They typically exhibit a simplified skeletal structure along with species-specific morphological peculiarities.

Britz et al. (2009) consider that developmental truncation may have facilitated the development of such novelties ‘by freeing large parts of the skeleton from developmental constraints, dissociating developmentally linked pathways and creating a greater potential for more dramatic changes’.

Boraras species from the Malay Archipelago (B. brigittaeB. maculatus and B. merah) tend to have a slimmer, more elongate body profile than those from Indochina (B. microsB. urophthalmoidesB. naevus) which may assist when attempting to identify them.


  1. Kottelat, M., 1991 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 2(2): 177-191
    Notes on the taxonomy of some Sundaic and Indochinese species of Rasbora, with description of four new species (Pisces: Cyprinidae).
  2. Conway, K. W., 2005 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 16(3): 249-264
    Monophyly of the genus Boraras (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  3. Conway, K. W. and M. Kottelat, 2011 - Zootaxa 3002: 45-51
    Boraras naevus, a new species of miniature and sexually dichromatic freshwater fish from peninsular Thailand (Ostariophysi: Cyprinidae).
  4. Kottelat, M., 2013 - The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 27: 1-663
    The fishes of the inland waters of southeast Asia: a catalogue and core bibiography of the fishes known to occur in freshwaters, mangroves and estuaries.
  5. Liao, T. Y., Kullander, S. O. and F. Fang, 2009 - Zoologica Scripta 39(2): 155-176
    Phylogenetic analysis of the genus Rasbora (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  6. Mayden, R. L., K. L. Tang, K. W. Conway, J. Freyhof, S. Chamberlain, M. Haskins, L. Schneider, M. Sudkamp, R. M. Wood, M. Agnew, A. Bufalino, Z. Sulaiman, M. Miya, K. Saitoh, and S. He, 2007 - Journal of Experimental Zoology, Molecular Development and Evolution 308B: 1-13
    Phylogenetic relationships of Danio within the order Cypriniformes: a framework for comparative and evolutionary studies of a model species.
  7. Tang, K. L., M. K. Agnew, W. J. Chen., M. V. Hirt, T. Sado, L. M. Schneider, J. Freyhof, Z. Sulaiman, E. Swartz, C. Vidthayanon, M. Miya, K. Saitoh, A. M. Simons, R. M. Wood and R. L. Mayden, 2010 - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57(1): 189-214
    Systematics of the subfamily Danioninae (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae).

2 Responses to “Boraras urophthalmoides (Rasbora urophthalmoides)”

  • zeleni_zub

    I have 17 of these for about 7 months now in my aprox. 50 liter tank along with 2 Ottos and numerous shrimps.
    They are doing very well in planted tank with anubias, microsorum, java fern and many ceratophyllum demersum and lemna minor floating on the surface providing shade.
    I think that choice of water flow isn’t crucial although very strong flow is not a option. For some time I had medium flow and fishes ocasionally liked to swim in front of it and into the water current no matter where I directed it.
    Now I have small flow and it seems that they enjoy it the most.
    I don’t measure my water stats, although I know that my local tap water is very hard and rich with buffers and minerals.
    I always leave water to stay in open canister for 5-7 days before I make 20-25% water change every 7-10 day.
    They seem to like it, and I put in half of catappa leaf, 2-3 brown of white oak and half of walnut leaf in aquarium every 2 weeks and let them to rot or the shrimps eat them. I’ve heard that it have benefits on fish health and my water is light yellow as becouse of released tanins.

    My aquarium was cycling for about 2 months before fishes came and firstly I put 6 of them(that was all of these in shop at the moment)and they were shy, hiding in the anubias that is attached to the mopan wood.
    When I bought 11 more they shoal and become more brave and relaxed, although they are still sometimes scared when somebody suddenly come near the aquarium. So my advice is that these need to be kept in minimum number of 10.

    I feed them with flakes that i crush between my fingers to make almost dust of them, with hard crushed spirulina cychlid chips and 2-3 times a week with frozen food(Corethra plumicornis in Corethra crystalinus larvae the eat like crazy and they love Chironomus plumosus larvae too). Larvae need to be cut down to 2 or 3 pieces before boraras could eat them!

    i have 3-4 dominant males that have fascinant colours and sometimes they make some small territories and chase all other fish that swims through that area. They crush at other males but also females, which I don’t know why becouse I’ve red that they attack other males when they are reday to spawn but not other females. I don’t know were they spawned or not, never seen it, never found any eggs or fry(my shrimps are top cleaners if there were any). I think that for spawning water really need to be softer and with lower PH.
    But I’ve seen that ”interesting behaviour” that males sometimes perform in fornt other males and group, I call it ”crazy dance”, it is really funny to watch.

    To conclude, these fishes are really amusing and funny to watch, they fit in very small nano tanks, they are sociable in their group, sometimes they have little fights over territory but nothing with bad consequences, and they look like some forest dwarfs when they are coming from the plant bushes one by one when they know they will eat.
    They shoal tightly sometimes(suppose when they are scared or insecure) but most of the time they are not in formation and swim loosely in groups of 3-4 or even every fish by itself.

  • Jirajustin

    Started out with 11 specimens in a well planted 20 gallon tank. They were initially very active, and shoaled very beautifully moving and exploring the hardscape.
    Within a week of keeping them in this tank, there was significant spawning behaviour.
    This would occur in the early morning after lights were first turned on.
    Males will temporarily gain vibrant iridescent blue colouration whilst defending small plots in the aquarium next to bushier plants like Blyxa Japonica and Java Moss.
    They would then display against each other in small mock fights, before pursuing females in groups of two or three.
    Once a female managed to get away and was left alone with a male, he would quiver and seemingly lure her into the moss or plant they were nearest two before performing a side by side mating twist.

    Unfortunately, whether due to a change in conditions or a settling in of the species to the tank, this behaviour has now ceased and they are the shyest species of fish in the tank. Always remaining hidden in thick planting at the back of the tank and barely coming out even when being fed.
    This condition has improved on two occasions. First with the introduction of two B. Maculatus which schooled with the species temporarily seeming to provoke more activity.
    Second with the introduction of 15 B. Brigittae. Their similar looking stripe and active nature seems to encourage B. Uropthalmoides to come out more into open water. However this more active behaviour is often contained to mornings/evenings and feeding times.

    I am soon getting 10 more specimens to join the current group of B.Uropthalmoides in the hopes that this addition will be a tipping point, encouraging much more active behaviour.

    I would recommend that this fish be always kept with its own species in significant numbers of more than 15. (Will report back on whether an increase in number improves behaviour.)
    The only video to be found of them in nature on Youtube shows hundreds schooling together amongst dense reed like vegetation.
    This may suggest that to achieve a fully active and confident display, significant cover and significant numbers are required.

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