There are a large number – over 300, of which over 200 are considered valid species – of scientifically described Schistura species; only very few of these have found their way into aquaria to date. One of the most beautiful is the species previously known as Schistura cf. balteata from Thailand, which was recently (October 2023) described as Schistura atarensis. So far, the species has only been known from the catchment of the Ataran River. The larger part of the Ataran flows through Burma, but the upper reaches belong to Thailand, where it is also known as the Kasat River. There are two colour varieties; according to the Thai exporter, one originates from the area around Ranchaburi; this population can be recognized by its spotted dorsal fin. Another location is near Kanchanaburi, where the dorsal fin only has a stripe directly above the back.
The biotope is said to be a small rivulet, the water never deeper than 20 cm. The water is fast running, cool, and rich of oxygen. The rivulet is running through a wood.
We obtain these fishes about 5-6 cm long. At that size the sexes are recognizable (males have a proportionally broader head). We have heard rumours of about 10 cm long specimens in the internet, but have never seen such large animals ourselves.
Schistura balteata has been described from Birma in 1948. The species has a vertical double band over the middle of the body. Specimens imported from Birma always showed a beige body color, while in Thai specimens the frontal portion of the body can become dark olive and the tail bright red or yellow with dark bars. It is unknown wether the red ones (which are currently imported) and the yellow ones occur together. They have been imported together in the past occasionally. Specimens that do not show the red or yellow tail pattern (this is mood depending) look the same. These loaches can change their coloration drastically and very fast. It is very interesting to observe their behaviour.
These types of Schistura are territorial fish and defend their territory against other fish. So it is necessary to keep these loaches in tanks with a lot of hiding places.
For our customers: the fish have code 454933 on our stocklist. Please note we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.
Dvořák, T., Bohlen, J., Kottelat, M. & Šlechtová, V. (2023): Revision of the Schistura cincticauda species group (Teleostei, Nemacheilidae) using molecular and morphological markers. Scientific Reports, 13: 16996, 15 pp.
Text & photos: Frank Schäfer