RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube




Pethia erythromycter KULLANDER, 2008

Lipstick Barb

SynonymsTop ↑

Puntius erythromycter (Kullander, 2008)


Pethia: the generic vernacular name for small cyprinids in the Sinhala language.

erythromycter: from the Greek erythro, meaning ‘red’, and mykter, meaning ‘nose’, in reference to the red snout in male specimens.


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Cyprinidae


To date known only from the upper Ayeyarwady River basin in northern Myanmar with type locality ‘Hap Lap Chaung just south of Yuzana Myaing village, 8 kilometers left from Myitkyina-Myitzon road kilometer 11, Ayeyarwaddy River drainage, Kachin State, Myanmar’.

It’s been collected from small streams and tributaries close to the city of Myitkyina in Kachin State as well as in nearby Lake Indawgyi, the largest inland lake in Southeast Asia.

The lake and surrounding area were designated a protected zone by the Ministry of Ecotourism in 1999 and now form the Indawgyi Lake Wildlife Sanctuary.

Kachin itself is one of the world’s great biodiversity hotspots and contains many endemic species although large portions of the area have already been decimated due to illegal logging by both Myanmar and neighbouring China.


We haven’t yet been able to obtain clear information regarding the stream habitats in which the fish are found, but underwater images from Lake Indawgyi depict relatively clear water with dense growths of aquatic vegetation and various kinds of algae including Vallisneria, Elodea and Spirogyra species.

Substrate is apparently a soft, rich clay mixed with decomposing vegetation.

At the north east end is a stream named Indaw Chaung which forms the outflow of the lake.

Here the lake gives way to marshland and scrub swamp on either side of the stream which eventually empties into the River Mogaung, a tributary of the Ayeyarwady.

Maximum Standard Length

30 – 35 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Despite it’s diminutive adult size this species’ behaviour (see ‘Behaviour and Compatibility’) dictates that aquarium base dimensions of at least 90 ∗ 30 cm or equivalent are required.


Best-maintained in a densely-planted environment in order to provide plenty of broken lines of sight as fighting between rival males may prove too intense in open surroundings.

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.

Water Conditions

Temperature: In Kachin the air temperature varies between 80°F/26.6°C in summer and 60°F/15.5°C in winter. Under aquarium conditions this fish seems to be happiest between 18 – 24 °C.

pH: It’s been kept and bred successfully at a pH of around 7.0 – 7.5.

Hardness90 – 215 ppm


Like many barbs it’s a generalised omnivore likely to feed on a variety of small invertebrates, algae, diatoms and other organic debris in nature.

In the aquarium it’s easily-fed but the best condition and colours offer regular meals of small live and frozen foods such as bloodwormDaphnia, and Artemia, alongside good quality dried flakes and granules, at least some of which should include additional plant or algal content.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Can be kept in a community set-up provided tankmates are chosen with care since it may outcompete or nip the fins of slow-moving or long-finned companions.

However it does very well when kept alongside other small, robust species such as active cyprinids or nemacheilid loaches.

As always research your planned combination before purchase in order to avoid problems.

Males are aggressive towards one another and tend to spar constantly during daylight hours, particularly when maintained in small numbers or if space is restricted.

The most favourable solution is to purchase more females than males with a ratio of at least four to each male recommended. Keeping a large group comprising upwards of 20 individuals should also help.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males are more colourful than females, possessing red pigmentation around the mouth, with a thin strip of scarlet extending to the dorsal-fin in dominant individuals.

When in spawning condition the entire body of the male darkens to an inky-blue, and sexually mature females tend to be plumper and slightly larger than males.


Like most small cyprinids Pethia spp. are egg-scattering free spawners exhibiting no parental care.

When in good condition they will spawn often and in a mature aquarium it’s possible that small numbers of fry may start to appear without intervention.

However if you want to maximise yield a more controlled approach is required.

The adult group can still be conditioned together but a smaller aquarium should also be set up and filled with mature water.

This should be very dimly lit and the base covered with some kind of mesh of a large enough grade so that the eggs can fall through but small enough so that the adults cannot reach them. The widely available plastic ‘grass’-type matting can also be used and works well, as does a layer of glass marbles.

Alternatively filling much of the tank with a fine-leaved plant such as Taxiphyllum spp. or spawning mops can also return decent results.

The water itself should be of slightly acidic to neutral pH with a temperature towards the upper end of the range suggested above, and an air-powered sponge filter or air stone(s) should also be included to provide oxygenation and water movement.

When the adults are well-conditioned and the females appear gravid one or two pairs should then be introduced, and spawning should take place the following morning.

An alternative is to observe the group until a pair separates from the shoal to spawn before removing them.

In either situation the adults will probably eat the eggs given the chance and should be removed as soon as any are noticed.

These should hatch in 36 – 48 hours with the fry free swimming 24-48 hours later.

They should be fed on an infusoria-grade food for the first few days until large enough to accept microworm, Artemia nauplii, or suchlike.

After 10 days or so they should be at a stage where crushed dry foods or grindal worms are accepted.

Thanks to Mick Wright.

NotesTop ↑

This species first appeared in the aquarium hobby in 2006 and is sometimes traded under the name ‘Tulip barb‘.

It was officially described by Kullander (2008) in a paper describing five new Puntius species from Kachin, all of which are superficially similar in possession of a dark band or blotch on the caudal peduncle.

P. erythromycter can be distinguished from all congeners by: a small adult size (to 33.1mm SL), presence of a dark band around the caudal peduncle, an abbreviated, curved lateral line, males with a reddish snout with tubercules in nuptial individuals, and absence of barbels.

The presence of tubercules on the snout is interesting as it’s not often a feature among the very smallest cyprinids.

In Lake Indawgyi it occurs syntopically with the similar-looking Pethia nankyweensis but can be told apart by the curved course of the lateral line scales (vs. straight in P. nankyweensis), absence of barbels (vs. presence of small maxillary barbels), dorsal-fin patterning comprising two rows of dark spots (vs. hyaline), plus some meristic counts.

It was formerly included in the Puntius conchonius ‘group’ of closely-related species alongside P. aterP. bandula, P. conchoniusP. cumingiiP. didiP. geliusP. khugaeP. macrogrammaP. manipurensisP. meingangbiiP. nankyweensisP. nigripinnisP. nigrofasciatusP. padamyaP. phutunioP. punctatusP. revalP. shalyniusP. stoliczkanusP. thelysP. tiantian, and P. ticto, but all of these were moved to the new genus Pethia by Pethiyagoda et al. (2012), as were P. melanomaculataP. pookodensis, P. muvattupuzhaensis, P. ornatus, and P. yuensis.

Pethia species are defined by the following combination of characters:  rostral barbels absent; maxillary barbels minute or absent; possession of a stiff, serrated last unbranched dorsal-fin ray; presence of a black blotch on the caudal peduncle, and frequently, black blotches, spots or bars on the side of the body; infraorbital 3 deep and partially overlapping the preoperculum.

The genus Puntius was for a number of years viewed as a polyphyletic catch-all containing over 100 species of small to mid-sized cyprinid until Pethiyagoda et al. (2012) published a partial review covering South Asian members.

The majority of sub-Himalayan Puntius species were reclassified and new genera Dawkinsia, Dravidia, and Pethia erected to accomodate some of them, with the remainder either retained in Puntius or moved to the existing Systomus assemblage, though the definition of the latter was altered meaning some Southeast Asian species formerly placed there are no longer members.

It subsequently became clear that the name Dravidia was preoccupied by a genus of flesh fly, therefore the replacement name Haludaria was made available by Pethiyagoda (2013).

No species from Indochina, China, or Indonesia were included in the study meaning a significant number of former Puntius are currently classed as incertae sedis, i.e., of uncertain taxonomic placement, and this also applies to a number of South Asian species of unresolved status.

They’re perhaps best referred to as ‘Puntius‘ for the time being whereby the genus name is surrounded by quotation marks to denote its questionable usage, and that is the convention used here on SF at the moment.


  1. Kullander, S. O., 2008 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 19(1): 59-84
    Five new species of Puntius from Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  2. Kullander, S. O. and F. Fang, 2005 - Copeia 2005(2): 290-302
    Two new species of Puntius from northern Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  3. Kullander, S. O. and R. Britz, 2008 - Electronic Journal of Ichthyology, Bulletin of the European Ichthyology Society 2: 56-66
    Puntius padamya, a new species of cyprinid fish from Myanmar (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  4. Marcus Knight, J. D., K. Rema Devi, T. J. Ingram, and M. Arunachalam, 2012 - Journal of Threatened Taxa 4(3): 2409-2416
    A new species of barb Puntius nigripinnis (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) from southern Western Ghats, India.
  5. Pethiyagoda, R., 2013 - Zootaxa 3646(2): 199
    Haludaria, a replacement generic name for Dravidia (Teleostei: Cyprinidae).
  6. Pethiyagoda, R., M. Meegaskumbura, and K. Maduwage, 2012 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 23(1): 69-95
    A synopsis of the South Asian fishes referred to Puntius (Pisces: Cyprinidae).

No Responses to “Pethia erythromycter – Lipstick Barb (Puntius erythromycter)”

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.