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Emperor Botia (Botia udomritthiruji)

by Martin Thoene last modified Oct 05, 2007 06:01 AM


Scientific Name: Botia udomritthiruji (pronounced oo-dom-reet-thee-roo-jee).

Common name: Botia species "Tenasserim River", Emperor Botia.

Distribution: Tenasserim River, Eastern Burma (now Myanmar)

Sexual Dimorphism: Female's abdomen plumper than male's.

Maximum size: 15cm (6") 

Similar to: Botia rostrata, Botia histrionica

Botia unknown01 - Group

Care: The tank should include lots of hiding places amongst rocks and driftwood. Excellent diggers that appreciate a sand substrate to protect the delicate barbels. Lighting should be subdued.

Feeding: Good quality flake, sinking pellets, algae wafers, chopped earthworms, thawed frozen Bloodworm, Mysis Shrimp, chopped Cocktail Shrimp.

Water parameters: pH:6.0-6.5, Hardness: Soft, Max dh: 8 degrees. 

Temperature: 76ºF to 82ºF (22-27.7°C)

Breeding: Not bred in aquaria.


This just described species (5th October 2007, by HH Ng) was first caught in about 1993 from the Tenasserim River. It was named after Kamphol Udomritthiruj (pronounced oo-dom-reet-thee-rooj), a long time contributor to Loaches Online and we send our congratulations to him for this well deserved recognition. While it bears a superficial resemblance to Botia rostrata, the base colour is yellow and appears substantially different to that species. The largest specimens seen have been 5 inches.

Botia unknown01 - First known specimenLoach enthusiasts often refer to the "Holy Grail". That highly desired species that is virtually unobtainable. For Botia lovers, this is definitely the species that fits that name. Despite having been known since 1993, very few fish have ever been exported and will always command a high price because of rarity and desirability.

This is the first known specimen

Part of the problem that creates the high price is the pure logistics of obtaining the fish from the wild. The Tenasserim area is dominated by the Tenasserim Range, which reaches a height of 6,801 feet (2,074 m), and is bisected by the Tenasserim River, which flows south to the Andaman.

This whole area of old Burma (now Myanmar) is a hot-bed of ethnic insurgent groups fighting government forces. Up until 2003, one supplier was able to obtain these fish using an illegal logging and cigarette smuggling route, but the route has since been blocked by Myanmar's military as part of their war against the local Karen rebels. Large areas are land-mined unfortunately, and this means nobody dares to enter the area.

The Tenasserim River can alternatively be accessed via the border with Thailand, but permits and armed escorts are required adding to costs. To bring fish out requires the assistance of porters and the journey takes 3 days and requires traversing two mountains.

It is hardly suprising that any examples of this species that actually make it out of their native country will command very high prices indeed. Even if hostilities finish, the land-mine presence will create long-term safe access restrictions.

So, even our favourite family of fish cannot escape the circumstances created by politics and the fight for ethnic recognition. We must satisfy ourselves by looking at the beautiful photographs of these fish taken by our friends in that part of the world, as it is unlikely they will ever swim in our aquaria.

Below are photographs showing different stages of development and comparisoms with examples of Botia histrionica. Note differences in proportions of nose to eye length, head profile and eye size to overall head size between the two species.

Botia unknown01 - Juvenile

A juvenile specimen

Botia unknown01 - 5" Adult

A 5" (13cm) adult

Botia unknown01 - Compare with rostrata

Comparison of adult fish. Emperor Botia (top), Botia histrionica (bottom)

Botia unknown01 - Compare with rostrata 2

B.histrionica (top), Emperor Botia (bottom)

Botia unknown01 - Compare with rostrata 3 (top view)

Emperor Botia (top, bottom), B. histrionica (left, middle)

Botia unknown01 - Compare with rostrata 4

Emperor Botia (rear, right), B. histrionica (front, middle)

Botia unknown01 - Compare with rostrata 5

B. histrionica (front,left), Emperor Botia (rear, right)

Botia unknown01 - Compare with rostrata 6

Emperor Botia (left)..............................B.histrionica (right)

Botia unknown01 - Compare with rostrata 7

Emperor Botia (left)............................................B.histrionica (right)

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