Emperor loach, Botia udomritthiruji

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Matt Clarke on the Emperor loach, Botia udomritthiruji.

Common name: Emperor botia, Emperor loach

Scientific name: Botia udomritthiruji Ng, 2007

Origin: Known only from the Tenessarim River drainage in the Taninthayi division, southern Myanmar, but it is possible that it also exists elsewhere too.

Size: Most of the type specimens are under 11cm long, but the species may grow a little larger than this.

Diet: Natural diet not recorded, however, it is likely to include insect larvae and small crustaceans. Captive specimens are unfussy about food and accept flake and granular foods, as well as frozen bloodworms.

Water: Not known, but likely to be slightly acidic. Like other botiines, this species seems to adapt well to harder water.

Aquarium: There's been little mention of the habitat of the species, but one assumes that it's similar to that of kubotai, which lives in rocky streams with a smooth gravel or sand substrate. I'd keep it in a large tank (over 120cm/4') and furnish it with lots of smooth water-worn pebbles and boulders and go for a soft sandy substrate to allow it to dig without causing barbel damage. Add some additional powerheads to create a torrential flow and it should feel more at home. It really ought to be kept in a group, but the current price of the species makes this unfeasible at present, so you may as well mix it with other botiid loaches. It should mix OK with medium-sized barbs, Devario and Barilius.

Notes: This species was described in October by Practical Fishkeeping website contributor Dr Heok Hee Ng. (See Stunning Emperor botia gets name, News, 5th October, 2007.) The species is named in honour of the fish collector Kamphol Udomritthiruj, who collected the specimens for Ng to base his description upon. The scientific name is pronounced Bo-tee-ah oo-dom-reet-thee-rooj-eye.

Similar species: These are unlikely to be imported under the wrong name, given the high price. However, there are two other Botia found in Myanmar with which this species might be confused - Botia histrionica and Botia kubotai. All of them have colour patterns that change dramatically as the fish matures, so they can often look very different depending on their size.

Identification: Unlike B. kubotai, B. udomritthiruji has 12 dorsal fin rays rather than 13-14. It has a deeper body (23.4-27.7% of SL) than Botia almorhae (formerly lohachata) at 19.7-24%.

Availability: This species has been imported by a number of specialist stores. We spotted this one at Wildwoods. The fish are from a remote and very dangerous part of Myanmar so they are currently commanding high prices and are likely to remain expensive.

Price: On sale for £49.99 each when we spotted them back in 2007, but in 2010, they have been selling for around half that price.

This article was first published in the January 2008 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.