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Leptobotia microphthalma FU & YE, 1983


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Botiidae


Described from the Min River (Min Jiang), an upper tributary of the Yangtze River (Chiang Jiang), Sichuan province, southwestern China and also recorded from the Jialing River, another tributary of the Yangtze in neighbouring Gansu province.


Unconfirmed but presumably a riverine loach favouring clear, well-oxygenated, running water with substrates of rocks and/or gravel.

Other members of the genus are present in bedrock and boulder-filled headwater streams as well as larger, turbid river channels depending on the time of year, but the near-vestigial eyes and variable degree of hypopigmentation seen in many individuals of this species suggest a deep water or even subterranean existence.

Maximum Standard Length

The largest specimen in the type series measured 80 mm but it can apparently reach 150 mm+.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Aim for a footprint of at least 120 ∗ 45 cm.


Should be kept in a set-up designed to resemble a flowing stream with a substrate of variably-sized rocks, gravel and some water-worn boulders.

This can be further furnished with driftwood roots and branches arranged to form some shaded spots while lengths of PVC piping or similar can be used to provide additional cover.

Although most plant species will fail to thrive in such surroundings hardy genera such as MicrosorumBolbitis or Anubias spp. can be grown attached to the décor and bright lighting will promote the growth of aufwuchs.

Like many fishes that naturally inhabit running waters it’s intolerant to the accumulation of organic wastes and requires spotless water at all times in order to thrive.

It also does best if there is a high level of dissolved oxygen and a decent level of water movement in the tank so external filters, powerheads, etc., should be employed in order to obtain the desired effect.

As stable water conditions are obligatory for its well-being this fish should never be added to biologically-immature aquaria.

Water Conditions

Temperature: This species is subject to seasonal temperature fluctuations in nature and is active over the range 40 – 84°F/4.4 – 28.9°C, although prolonged exposure to conditions towards the upper or lower extremes is not recommended. Try to maintain a value between 15.5 – 21 °C for long-term care and be aware that in warmer climates a means of chilling the water may be necessary during the summer months.

pH6.5 – 7.5

Hardness90 – 357 ppm


Likely to be a benthic predator hunting insects, crustaceans and smaller fishes in nature.

Captive specimens should therefore be offered a varied diet comprising live or frozen bloodworm, Tubifex, chopped shellfish/earthworms and good quality, sinking dried foods.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Unlikely to prove aggressive but don’t keep it with much smaller fishes as they may be intimidated by its size and sometimes very active behaviour.

Slow-moving, long-finned species such as ornamental bettas, guppies and many cichlids should also be avoided. More suitable tankmates are peaceful but robust open water-dwelling cyprinids.

In terms of other bottom-dwellers this species should do well alongside most Botia spp., and some cobitid, nemacheilid, and balitorid loaches are also possibilities as are members of EpalzeorhynchosCrossocheilus and Garra plus many catfishes.

As always, thorough research prior to selecting a community of fishes is the best way to avoid problems.

Leptobotia spp. are sociable animals forming apparently complex social hierarchies meaning 3-4 specimens should be the minimum purchase.

When kept singly they can become withdrawn or aggressive towards similarly-shaped fishes, and if only a pair or trio are purchased the dominant individual may stress the other(s) to the extent that they stop feeding.

Sexual Dimorphism

Unknown but presumably females will be heavier-bodied once sexually mature.



NotesTop ↑

L. microphthalma is poorly known in the aquarium hobby although we know of one or two private collectors maintaining it.

It’s superficially similar to L. tientainensis but according to the formal description can be separated by a combination of characters including: more deeply-forked caudal-fin (shortest central rays fit 2.6-2.9 times in the outer rays vs. 1.7-2.5 times); significantly smaller eye (fits 26 times in head length vs. 10 times); caudal-fin with 1-2 dark bands at lateral edges vs. 2-3 irregular dull-to-dark oblique bands; lack of predorsal yellow spot vs. presence. The results of a subsequent study by Hong et al. showed that the size of the eye can vary, fitting 12.3-29 times in the head length with an average 18 times in their sample of 123 specimens.

L. elongata is the type species of the genus but according to current thinking there exist 13 members in total, all of which are endemic to China and northern Vietnam.

They’re diagnosable by the following shared characters: possession of a simple (non-bifurcated), short sub-ocular spine not extending beyond the posterior edge of the eye; a laterally-compressed body; relatively deep caudal peduncle; pelvic fins reaching origin of anal-fin; anus below base of dorsal-fin and equidistant between pelvic and anal-fin origins.

Modern studies have resulted in various changes to the taxonomy of both the family Botiidae and its constituent genera although Leptobotia has been mostly unaffected.

Botiidae has been widely considered a genetically distinct grouping since Nalbant (2002), having previously been considered a subfamily (Botiinae) of the family Cobitidae. Nalbant also moved some previous members of Botia into the new genus Yasuhikotakia based on a number of morphological characters.

Later Kottelat (2004) made further modifications to the taxonomy, raising Chromobotia for B. macracanthus and confirming that species previously included in the genus Hymenophysa should instead be referred to Syncrossus.

The former alteration was based on colour pattern plus some morphological characters and the latter because Hymenophysa not only represents a spelling mistake (McClelland’s original spelling was Hymenphysa) but is a junior synonym of Botia.

More recently Kottelat (2012) erected the genus Ambastaia to accommodate A.nigrolineata and A. sidthimunki, two former members of both  Botia and Yasuhikotakia.

As a result of these works the family Botiidae is thus divided into two tribes within which Botia appears to be the most basal lineage:

Tribe Leptobotiini – LeptobotiaParabotiaSinibotia.
Tribe Botiini – AmbastaiaBotiaChromobotiaSyncrossusYasuhikotakia.

Phylogenetic studies by Tang et al. (2005) and Šlechtová et al. (2006) have largely confirmed this system to be correct although the latter disagreed with the placement of Sinibotia, finding it to be more closely related to the tribe Botiini.

Ambastaia nigrolineata and A. sidthimunki were found to be more closely-related to both Sinibotia and Syncrossus than Yasuhikotakia, despite being considered members of the latter at the time. Šlechtová et al. also proposed the use of subfamily names under the following system:

Subfamily Leptobotiinae – LeptobotiaParabotia.
Subfamily Botiinae – BotiaChromobotiaSinibotiaSyncrossusYasuhikotakia.

Within these Botia appears to be the basal, i.e., most ancient, lineage and in a more-detailed phylogenetic analysis Šlechtová et al. (2007) confirmed the validity of the family Botiidae with the genera listed above as members rather then being grouped into subfamilies. This more recent, simpler system is the one we currently follow here on SF.

Leptobotia spp. also possess sharp, motile, sub-ocular 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 those of larger specimens can break human skin.

Botiids are also susceptible to a condition commonly referred to as ‘skinny disease’ and characterised by a loss of weight. This is especially common in newly-imported specimens and is thought to be caused by a species of the flagellate genus Spironucleus.

It’s treatable although the recommended medication varies depending on country. Hobbyists in the UK tend to use the antibiotic Levamisole and those in the United States Fenbendazole (aka Panacur).


  1. Fu, T.-Y. and M.-R. Ye, 1983 - Zoological Research 4(2): 121-124
    On a new species of the family Cobitidae Leptobotia microphthalma, sp. nov.
  2. Kottelat, M., 2004 - Zootaxa 401: 1-18
    Botia kubotai, a new species of loach (Teleostei: Cobitidae) from the ataran River basin (Myanmar), with comments on botiinae nomenclature and diagnosis of a new genus.
  3. Kottelat, M., 2012 - Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 26: 1-199
    Conspectus cobitidum: an inventory of the loaches of the world (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cobitoidei).
  4. Nalbant, T. T., 2002 - Travaux du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle 'Grigore Antipa' 44: 309-333
    Sixty million years of evolution. Part one: family Botiidae (Pisces: Ostariophysi: Cobitoidea).
  5. Nalbant, T. T., 2004 - Travaux du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle 'Grigore Antipa' 47: 269-277
    Hymenphysa, Hymenophysa, Syncrossus, Chromobotia and other problems in the systematics of Botiidae. A reply to Maurice Kottelat.
  6. Tang, Q., B. Xiong, X. Yang and H. Liu, 2005 - Hydrobiologia 544(1): 249-258
    Phylogeny of the East Asian botiine loaches (Cypriniformes, Botiidae) inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences.
  7. Šlechtová, V., J. Bohlen, J. Freyhof and P. Ráb, 2006 - Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39(2): 529-541
    Molecular phylogeny of the Southeast Asian freshwater fish family Botiidae (Teleostei: Cobitoidea) and the origin of polyploidy in their evolution.

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