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Parabotia lijiangensis CHEN, 1980


Named for the  Lijiang River, type locality of the species.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Botiidae


Described from the Li River (Li Jiang) drainage close to the city of Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southern China, but we’ve been unable to obtain details regarding its wider distribution thus far.

The Li merges with a couple of other rivers in Pingle County, near Guilin, to form the Gui River, a tributary of the Xi River which itself is the major western tributary of the famous Pearl River (Zhu Jiang).

The upper part of the Li is connected to the Xiang River, part of the Yangtze River system, by the man-made Lingqu Canal which may facilitate movement of fishes between the two.


Probably 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.

Maximum Standard Length

The largest officially-recorded specimen measured 83 mm but it may grow slightly larger.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

An aquarium with a base measuring 120 ∗ 30 cm or similar should be the minimum considered.


Best maintained 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. Hardy plants such as MicrosorumBolbitis or Anubias spp. can be grown attached to the décor.

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

Temperature20 – 24 °C

pH6.0 – 7.5

Hardness90 – 357 ppm


Likely to be an opportunistic, benthic predator feeding on insects, crustaceans and perhaps fish fry in nature.

Captive specimens aren’t fussy but should be offered a varied diet comprising live or frozen bloodwormTubifex, chopped shellfish, earthworms and good quality, sinking dried foods.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Not especially aggressive but much smaller fishes might be intimidated by its size and sometimes very active behaviour. Slow-moving, long-finned species such as fancy bettas or guppies and many cichlids should also be avoided as trailing fins may be nipped at.

More-suitable tankmates include peaceful, open water-dwellng cyprinids, and it can also be maintained alongside other Chinese botiids including Leptobotia and Sinibotia spp., as well as Botia spp. from India and Myanmar.

Some cobitid and nemacheilid 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.

Parabotia spp. are generally quite peaceful with conspecifics and as with other botiids seem to appreciate being maintained in a group, meaning that 3-4 specimens should ideally be the minimum purchase.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexually-mature females should be heavier-bodied than males.


Unrecorded in aquaria, but presumably a seasonal, perhaps migratory, spawner in nature.

NotesTop ↑

It’s unlikely this species has been exported for the aquarium hobby, though it’s possible the occasional specimen may be found among shipments of similar-looking relatives such as Sinibotia spp.

It’s told apart from congeners by a combination of characters as follows: large scales present on body and sides of head; caudal fin deeply forked with subequal lobes; 10-13 dark, vertical bars on the body; a dark, ocellated spot in the centre of the caudal-fin base; two bars on top of head, dorsal-fin with two rows of greyish spots; caudal-fin lobes with 3-4 dark bands on each; anal-fin with one indistinct band and another, more distinct, submarginal band; ventral fins with two indistinct bands.

The genus Parabotia was described in 1872 and remained valid until 1936 when Fang synonymised it with Hymenophysa. It was reestablished by Chen (1980) and has been accepted since with Nalbant (2002) listing the defining characters as: body slimmer than in Leptobotiasuborbital spine bifurcated (divided in two); cheeks scaled; body with vertical stripes; a black spot at the base of the caudal-fin.

In their definition Naseka & Bogutskaya (2004) list the characters above plus: relatively slim caudal peduncle (depth fitting 1.5-1.6 times in its length); pelvic-fin reaching midway between pelvic-fin origin and anal-fin origin; anus located distinctly posterior to dorsal-fin base and relatively closer to anal-fin base (midway between tip of pelvic-fin and anal-fin origin); dark body stripes relatively thin and numerous.

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

It’s 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.

Parabotia 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. Chen, J.-X., 1980 - Zoological Research 1(1): 3-26
    A study on the classification of the botoid fishes of China.
  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. Naseka, A. M. and N. G. Bogutskaya, 2004 - Zoosystematica Rossica 12: 279-290
    Contribution to taxonomy and nomenclature of freshwater fishes of the Amur drainage area and the Far East (Pisces, Osteichthyes).
  7. 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).
  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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