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Family: Cobitidae, Subfamily Botiinae

Common Names: Angelicus Loach, Burmese Border Loach, Polkadot Loach

Origin and Habitat: Endemic to the headwaters of the Salween River basin along the border of Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand. Inhabit slow-flowing clear rivers having a substrate of gravel, sand and rock in shaded forest areas.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful although very active and playful, it absolutely must be in a group which sholuld number at least five. Will "play" with other peaceful loaches; the writer (Byron) has frequently observed this species interacting with the dwarf loach. Suitable as bottom fish in any aquarium of non-aggressive fish, particularly barbs, rasbora, gourami which all share the same water parameters.

Angelicus Loach Diet

Primarily carnivorous in nature, they will eat vegetable matter and readily accept prepared sinking foods that should offer a good variety of fish/meat and vegetable matter. Frozen bloodworms and live worms are relished; smaller earthworms would be a treat for full-grown fish. Several aquarists have mentioned that loaches will sometimes eat live plants, with swords (Echinodorus sp) being particular favourites; signs of this will be several small holes eaten in the leaves. Other plant species (crypts, Aponogeton, Anubias, Java Fern) are left alone. Tophat665: I have observed B. kubotai extracting pond snails from their shells and eating them. Note that they will also eat vegetables. I supplement mine with occasional spirulina tablets, and I have read that they are big fans of sweet potato.


The maximum size is about 5 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

48 inches.

Water parameters for Angelicus Loach

Soft (< 10 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.5) water, temperature 24-28C/75-82F. As all fish will be wild-caught, soft acidic water is the preference.


Although it has only been known for a few years, this loach is already a favourite with aquarists, and very deservedly so. It is beautiful, peaceful and not too large. The species is quite variable in pattern and this will change as the fish matures. (Tophat665: Young B. kubotai have a pattern of 3 horizontal stripes intersected with 5 vertical stripes. As they age, these stripes merge into the familiar polka-dot pattern.) The photos below illustrate the pattern variety from fish to fish. This species shares a remarkable similarity especially in juveniles to B. histrionica and B. rostrata.

In keeping with the natural habitat, the species should be maintained in a well-planted aquarium with a sand or fine smooth gravel substrate, with several pieces of bogwood containing tunnels. The fish is fond of "disappearing" for a rest, and will be continually stressed if hiding places are not prevalent. Floating plants will help to reduce the light, as this fish occurs in shaded portions of the forest. It also enjoiys digging tunnels in the substrate under rocks and chunks of wood.

Like all Botia, the fish form complex social hierarchies and for this reason must be kept in groups. As part of their interaction they regularly make clicking sounds, believed to be made by grinding the pharyngeal (throat) teeth. Periodically, usually shortly before darkness, they will rest on the substrate, often flopping over on their sides. When maintained singly or in pairs, they become stressed and frequently will be aggressive to other fish.

This species is playful and boisterous once completely accustomed to their tank environment; they may chase each other, alternating back and forth like a game of tag, for several minutes at a time. (Tophat665: I have noticed that they are much less boisterous than B. almorhae, about on par with B. striata). From time to time a fish may "gray out" as it is commonly called, usually two together and often during "fights" or when feeding. The base colour darkens considerably at such times. Females are rounder, and have a rounded snout compared to the longer snout of males.

Like all Botia species, this one possesses a pair of very sharp spines under the eye sockets; these spines can be extended when the loach feels threatened, and care must be taken not to entangle the spines in nets as it can damage the fish.

Being scaleless fish, they are rather prone to ich and skin parasites. When using medications, please be careful. Like other loaches, they will react very quickly to strong dosage. Use only half of the recommended dosage.

Do not buy them if they appear to have a chronic skinny disease which is very common among wild-caught specimens. Levamisole hydrochloride or Fenbendazole are the recommended treatments.

This loach is frequently seen under various common names including Burmese Border Loach, Polkadot Loach, Marble Loach, and Cloud Botia; Angelicus Loach derives from their original "pseudo-scientific" name, Botia angelicus.

The species was discovered in 2002 and described by Maurice Kottelat in 2004 and named Botia kubotai. The species epithet honours Katsuma Kubota, an aquarium exporter in Thailand who purchased the first catch and sent them for identification.

The genus Botia [the name derived from the Asian word meaning warrior or soldier] was erected by Gray in 1831, and belongs to the Botiinae, a subfamily of the Cobitidae. In his description of the subject species, Dr. Maurice Kottelat (2004) proposed to divide the genus into four related genera:
Botia for the Indian loaches (shorter body);
Chromobotia for the single species, C. macracanthus (the clown loach);
Syncrossus for tiger loaches (elongated body); and
Yasuhikotakia for the Mekong [river system] loaches (shorter body).
The genus Parabotia was erected previously for mainly Chinese loaches.

Significant taxonomic revision has been proposed by Kottelat(2004) and Nalbant(2002, 2004) with basic concurrence by Tang (2005) and Slechtova (2006). If adopted, as seems likely, this would raise the subfamily to the rank of family (Botiidae) with seven genera divided between two tribes.


Nalbant, T.T. (2002), "Sixty million years of evolution. Part one: family Botiidae (Pisces: Ostariophysi: Cobitoidea)," Travaux du Museum d'Histoire Naturelle "Grigore Antipa" 44, pp. 309-333.

Kottelat, Maurice (2004), "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," Zootaxa 401, pp. 1-18.

Tang, Q., B. Xiong, X. Yang and H. Liu (2005), "Phylogeny of the East Asian botiine loaches (Cypriniformes, Botiidae) inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences," Hydrobiologia 544(1), pp. 249-258.

Slechtova, V., J. Bohlen, J. Freyhof and P. Rab (2006), "Molecular phylogeny of the Southeast Asian freshwater fish family Botiidae (Teleostei: Cobitoidea) and the origin of polyploidy in their evolution," Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 39, pp. 529-541.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: redchigh, Byron


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