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Kichulchoia multifasciata (WAKIYA & MORI, 1929)

SynonymsTop ↑

Cobitis multifasciata Wakiya & Mori, 1929; Niwaëlla multifasciata (Wakiya & Mori, 1929)


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cobitidae


Known only from river basins of southwestern Korea with type locality the Rakuto River.


Restricted to 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.

Maximum Standard Length

100 – 120 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

An aquarium with base dimensions of 90 ∗ 30 cm should be the smallest considered.


Most importantly the water must be clean and well-oxygenated so the use of an over-sized filter is suggested.

Turnover should ideally be 10-15 times per hour so additional powerheads, airstones, etc. should 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 plus some driftwood roots and branches.

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 a tightly-fitting cover is necessary since it may jump at times, especially when introduced to a new environment.

While regular partial water changes are essential aufwuchs can be allowed to grow on all surfaces except perhaps the viewing pane.

Water Conditions

Temperature: For general care 20 – 24 °C is recommended but it should withstand warmer conditions provided dissolved oxygen levels are maintained.

pH6.0 – 7.5

Hardness0 – 143 ppm


Much of the natural diet is likely to be composed of benthic algae plus associated micro-organisms.

In captivity it will accept good-quality dried foods and meatier items like live or frozen bloodworm but may suffer internal problems if the diet contains excessive protein.

Home-made foods using a mixture of natural ingredients bound with gelatin are very useful since they can be tailored to contain a high proportion of fresh vegetables, Spirulina and similar ingredients.

For long-term success it’s best to provide a mature aquarium with a plentiful supply of algae-covered rocks and other surfaces.

If unable to grow sufficient algae in the main tank or you have a community containing numerous herbivorous fishes which consume what’s available quickly it may be necessary to maintain a separate tank in which to grow algae on rocks and switch them with those in the main tank on a cyclical basis.

Such a ‘nursery‘ doesn’t have to be very large, requires only strong lighting and in warmer climates can be kept outdoors.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Very peaceful although its environmental requirements limit the selection of suitable tankmates somewhat.

Species inhabiting similar habitats in nature include the genera BariliusDischerodontusGarraDevario, RasboraRhinogobiusSicyopterus and StiphodonGlyptothoraxAkysis and Oreoglanis spp.

Many loaches from the families Nemacheilidae, Balitoridae and Gastromyzontidae are also suitable but research your choices before purchase in order to be sure as some are excessively aggressive or otherwise competitive.

Most cobitids appear to enjoy the company of conspecifics so if you’re lucky enough to find this species on sale we suggest the purchase of at least 4-5 specimens.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males lack a lamina circularis (structure formed by two or more fused rays) on the pectoral fins meaning young specimens can be difficult to sex accurately.

Older females grow larger than males and apparently develop a deeper body shape.



NotesTop ↑

It’s unlikely that K. multifasciata has yet made its way into the western hobby though it is sometimes available in Korea and Japan.

It’s most easily told apart from K. brevifasciata, its only congener, by body patterning consisting of dark, vertical bars running along the dorso-ventral part of the body (vs. dark bars running alongside the midventral part of the body), lips with wrinkled surfaces (vs. smooth) and barbels short (vs. long).

The body bars are quite variable depending on the specimen, appearing broken in some cases, and there’s an additional bar at the base of the caudal-fin.

This species was originally described as a member of Cobitis but was moved to Niwaëlla  by Sawada and Kim (1977) on the basis of oral morphology and lack of lamina circularis in males.

However the results of a phylogenetic study by Šlechtová et al. (2008) suggested it to be more closely-related to the monotypic Kichulchoia brevifasciata with the two species forming a sister group to Niwaëlla , and it was moved again.

The main distinguishing characters for Kichulchoia spp. are the lack of lamina circularis in males plus possession of 4 branched anal-fin rays and 6 branched dorsal-fin rays, with the similarity to Niwaëlla possibly a result of parallel evolution.

The family Cobitidae, often referred to as ‘true’ loaches, is widely-distributed across most of Eurasia with the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and China representing particular centres of species diversity.

Phylogenetic analyses by Tang et al. (2006), Šlechtová et al. (2007) and Šlechtová et al. (2008) revealed that the group constitutes a separate genetic lineage to the family Botiidae (the two were previously grouped together under Cobitidae as subfamilies Cobitinae and Botiinae).

Microcobitis currently represents one of four generalised lineages within a ‘northern’ clade of the family Cobitidae comprising species distributed in Europe, western, northern and eastern Asia, Vietnam and Laos. These are as follows:

1) All species of Sabanjewia.
2) Microcobitis misgurnoides.
3) All MisgurnusParamisgurnus and Koreocobitis spp.
4) All Cobitis spp. plus IksookimiaNiwaëlla and Kichulchoia spp.

All cobitids possess sharp, motile, sub-ocular (below the eye) spines which are normally concealed within a pouch of skin but erected when an individual is stressed, e.g., if removed from the water. Care is therefore necessary as these can become entangled in aquarium nets and, in larger species, break human skin.


  1. Chen, Y.-F. and Y.-X. Chen, 2005 - Journal of Natural History 39(19): 1641-1651
    Revision of the genus Niwaella in China (Pisces, Cobitidae), with description of two new species.
  2. Kano, Y., 2000 - Ichthyological Research 47(2): 183-186
    Age and growth of the Ajime-loach, Niwaella delicata, in the Yura River, Kyoto, Japan.
  3. Kim, I.-S. and W.-O. Lee, 1995 - Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 42(3/4): 285-290
    Niwaella brevifasciata, a new cobitid fish (Cypriniformes: Cobitidae) with a revised key to the species of Niwaella.
  4. Kimizuka, Y., H. Kobayasi and N. Mizuno, 1982 - Japanese Journal of Ichthyology 29(3): 305-310
    Geographic distributions and karyotypes of Cobitis takatsuensis and Niwaella delicata (Cobitididae).
  5. Kottelat, M., 2012 - Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 26: 1-199
    Conspectus cobitidum: an inventory of the loaches of the world (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cobitoidei).
  6. Tang, Q., H. Liu, R. Mayden and B. Xiong, 2006 - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39(2): 347-357
    Comparison of evolutionary rates in the mitochondrial DNA cytochrome b gene and control region and their implications for phylogeny of the Cobitoidea (Teleostei: Cypriniformes).
  7. Šlechtová, V., J. Bohlen and A. Perdices, 2008 - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47(2): 812-831
    Molecular phylogeny of the freshwater fish family Cobitidae (Cypriniformes: Teleostei): delimitation of genera, mitochondrial introgression and evolution of sexual dimorphism.
  8. Šlechtová, V., J. Bohlen and H. H. Tan, 2007 - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 44(3): 1358-1365
    Families of Cobitoidea (Teleostei; Cypriniformes) as revealed from nuclear genetic data and the position of the mysterious genera Barbucca, Psilorhynchus, Serpenticobitis and Vaillantella.

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