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Sinibotia superciliaris (GÜNTHER, 1892)

SynonymsTop ↑

Botia superciliaris Günther, 1892


Order: Cypriniformes Family: Botiidae


Described from the foot of Mount Emei (aka Omei Shan) in Sichuan province, western China and since recorded from Guizhou province which borders Sichuan to the south. All known localities lie within the middle section of the Yangtze River (aka Chiang Jiang) drainage.

Kottelat and Chu (1987) identified specimens collected from the upper Mekong basin in Weixi County, Yunnan province as S. superciliaris though we’ve been unable to locate any additional records from the Mekong, and thus the full extent of its range remains unclear.


This species is found in both main river channels and tributaries and during surveys made by Yang and Chen (1992) was collected from swiftly-flowing, moderately clear to turbid stretches with rocky substrates.

Sympatric species included Coreius guichenoti, Rhinogobio ventralis, Saurogobio dabryi, Xenophysogobio boulengeri, G. meridionalis, Garra imberba, Pseudogyrinocheilus prochilus, Glyptothorax fokiensis, Silurus asotus, and Pseudobagrus vachellii.

Maximum Standard Length

100 – 110 mm.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

An aquarium base measuring at least 120 cm x 30 cm or equivalent is recommended.


All botiid loaches need a well-structured set-up although the actual choice of décor is more-or-less down to personal taste.

A natural-style arrangement could include a substrate of sand or fine gravel with plenty of smooth, water-worn rocks and pebbles plus driftwood roots and branches.

Lighting can be relatively subdued and plants able to grow in such conditions like MicrosorumTaxiphyllum, or Anubias spp. can be added if you wish. These have an added benefit as they can be attached to pieces of décor in such a way as to provide useful shade.

Otherwise be sure to provide plenty of cover as botiids are inquisitive and seems to enjoy exploring their surroundings. Rocks, wood, flower pots and aquarium ornaments can be used in whichever combination to achieve the desired effect.

Bear in mind that these fish like to squeeze themselves into small gaps and crevices so items with sharp edges should be omitted, and any gaps or holes small enough for a fish to become trapped should be filled in with aquarium-grade silicone sealant. A tightly-fitting cover is also essential as they may jump at times.

Sinibotia spp. appear to prefer faster-flowing water than most botiids and can be maintained in larger hill stream-style set-ups, though provided the water is well-oxygenated with a degree of flow very turbulent conditions aren’t mandatory.

They are however intolerant to accumulation of organic wastes and requires spotless water in order to thrive.

For this reason they should never be introduced to biologically immature set-ups and adapt most easily to stable, mature aquaria. In terms of maintenance weekly water changes of 30-50% tank volume should be considered routine.

Water Conditions

Temperature: Somewhere within the range 20 – 25.5 °C should be fine for general mainatenance. At a habitat sampled in November 1990 the water temperature was 66.2°F/19°C and in winter the average air temperature in eastern Sichuan is between 37.4 – 46.4°F/3 – 8°C.

pH6.5 – 8.0

Hardness36 – 268 ppm


This species is primarily a micropredator; stomach contents of wild specimens comprised coleopterid and ephemerid larvae (Yang and Chen, 1992).

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.

Once settled into the aquarium feeding behaviour can be somewhat vigorous with the fish often ascending into midwater to feed.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

This species is typically reclusive and tends to occupy quieter areas of the tank or remain under cover when not feeding. It’s also very peaceful and safe to keep with many other fishes provided they can cope with the same environmental conditions.

Particularly suitable tankmates include pelagic cyprinids such as many DevarioRasbora, ‘Puntius‘, Mystacoleucus, and some Danio spp., while in larger tanks members of BariliusLuciosomaBalantiocheilos, and Barbonymus become options.

In terms of other bottom-dwellers this species should do well alongside most Botia and Sinibotia spp. and in very large tanks, Chromobotia macracanthus. Many balitorid, cobitid, gastromyzontid 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.

Sinibotia spp. are gregarious and seemingly form complex social hierarchies, therefore 3-4 specimens should be the minimum purchase.

When kept singly they occasionally 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

Unconfirmed but females should be heavier-bodied once sexually mature.


Unrecorded in aquaria; presumably a seasonal, possibly migratory spawner in nature.

NotesTop ↑

This species is rarely-seen in the trade with commercial exports from the middle Yangtze basin sporadic.

It looks very similar to S. pulchra but can be told apart by the fact it lacks irregular, brownish markings and spots on the side of the head (vs. present in S. pulchra), and like most congeners it has a highly flexible, sinuous body which makes it very interesting to observe.

It can be further differentiated from other Sinibotia spp. by the following combination of characters: snout longer than post-orbital length of head; head with 4-5 yellowish stripes; no brownish vermiform markings or spots on sides of head; suborbital spine clearly extending posterior to eye; tip of folded pelvic-fin not reaching anus; caudal peduncle depth 104-126.9% of its length; body with 8-9 dark vertical bars; dorsal-fin with broad dark band; anal, pectoral and pelvic fins with a poorly-defined, dark, submarginal band; caudal-fin with 2-3 broad, oblique dark bands.

The genus Sinibotia currently contains six species, all of which are native to China plus in at least one case, Laos. All were also previously considered to belong to Botia.

Not a great deal of information has been published since the turn of the century but Yang and Chen (1992) stated that it can be separated from related genera by the following combination of characters: suborbital spine strong and bifurcate; top of cranium without fontanelle; possession of three pairs of barbels and one pair of mental ‘buttons’ (rounded mental lobes in lower lip); minute scales; cheeks scaleless; dorsal-fin located closer to caudal-fin base then snout; caudal-fin forkedanterior portion of swim bladder usually enclosed in a partial-to-completely ossified capsule, posterior portion of swim bladder not enclosed.

The family 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.

Sinibotia 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. Kottelat, M., 2012 - Raffles Bulletin of Zoology Supplement 26: 1-199
    Conspectus cobitidum: an inventory of the loaches of the world (Teleostei: Cypriniformes: Cobitoidei).
  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 botiine nomenclature and diagnosis of a new genus.
  3. Kottelat, M. and X. Chu, 1987 - Zoological Research 8(4): 393-400
    The botiine loaches (Osteichthyes: Cobitidae) of the Lancangjiang (Upper Mekong) with description of a new species.
  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. Nichols, J. T., 1943 - The American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA: 1-322
    The freshwater fishes of China. Natural history of Central Asia: Volume IX.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. Yang, J.-X. and Y.-R. Chen, 1992 - Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters 2(4): 341-349
    Revision of the subgenus Botia (Sinibotia) with description of a new species (Cypriniformes: Cobitidae).
  10. 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.
  11. 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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