Myanmar Freshwater Fishes

Myanmar Topography

Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is situated between latitudes 09º 32′ North and 28º 31′ North and longitudes 92º 10′ East 101º 11′ East. It is one of the Southeast Asia countries. The total land area of Myanmar is 677,000 square kilometers. It stretches for 936 kilometers from east to west and 2051 kilometers from north to south.

The topography of Myanmar can be divided into three regions: Western Hill Region, the Central Valley Region and Eastern Hill Region.

In the Western Hill Region, Western Yoma is a continuation of Himalayan Range and runs to south up to the end of Rakhine State. The central region is broadest land area consisting of the Ayeyarwady, Sittaung and Chindwin River basins. The Eastern Hill Region is the Shan Plateau, which is 1000 to 1300 meters above sea level. This region has high mountain ranges and Than Lwin River, which flows through the Shan Plateau to the Northern Taninthayi Costal Strip. Shweli, Myitnge, Zawggi and Pan Laung Rivers empty into the Ayeyarwady River.

The climate of Myanmar is mainly divided into three seasons: summer, rainy and winter seasons. Summer season starts from March to mid-May where as the rainy season is from mid May to the end of October, and winter season starts in November to the end of February. Generally, tropical monsoon climate is prominent in Myanmar.

Natural Habitats of Freshwater Fishes in Myanmar

Myanmar has many rivers, natural lakes and streams. These are good habitats of many species of freshwater fishes including ornamental fishes. Among the freshwater lakes, Indawgyi Lake in Kachin State of Northern Myanmar and Inle Lake in Southern Shan State, are two large lakes and considerable importance in the abundance of freshwater fishes.

Indawgyi Lake

Lake Indawgyi, the mouth of the Nant Yen Khan Chaung. Photo Sven O. Kullander

It is the largest freshwater lake of Myanmar locating in Myitkyina District of Kachin State in northern parts of Myanmar, between Northern Latitude of 25o.5′ and 25o.20′; and Eastern Longitude of 96o.18′ and 96o.23′. And it is situated at an altitude of about 150 meters above sea level. The lake is oval shape. In the dry season, the length of the Lake is about 25 km and the width is approximately 10 km. However, during the rainy season, the surface area of the lake is larger due to flooding of the surrounding areas.

The water of the Lake is usually crystal clear; but the large mass of microscopic floating algae gives it a distinct greenish color. The soft blackish clay near the shore covers the bottom of the lake while in the deeper regions, on the bottom; there is a large amount of sand mixed with the clay.

The pH of the water varies from 7.5 to 7.9, the conductivity was 120 μS. The total dissolved solid was 60 ppm. This data was from the author’s observations in December 1999.

Inle Lake

Fisherman on Inle Lake. Picture by Ye Hein Htet (Hein Aquarium).

Inle Lake is the place at which, one can see the In-tha, who lived around the lake. They use a very peculiar way of rowing boat in the Lake. Instead of rowing with hands in a dugout slender canoe, the fishermen of the Lake use the leg to propel the boat. Fisherman can be seen standing at the stern of a small slender dugout canoe, rowing with one leg moving against a backdrop of distant, mist shrouded mountains and set in the royal blue Inle Lake.

The lake is situated at Nyaung Shwe Township of Southern Shan State. It is about 22 km long and 6 km wide and located at 1000 m above sea level. The lake is surrounded by marshland, composed of dead and living vegetation matted together and floating on the surface of water.

The lake has many endemic fish species. The cyprinid genera: Sawbwa and 14 of 31 species have been suggested as endemic to the lake and its rich fauna (Kullander, Ferraris and Fang, 2007.)

Freshwater Fishes

The history of study of Myanmar freshwater fish started in the year 1858 by E. Blyth. Later, Francis Day, N. Annandale, B. Prashad, D.D. Mukerjii, S.L. Hora,B.N. Chopra and other studied and identified Myanmar fish species and described them in different volumes of Records of the Indian Museum.

After the Second World War, Robert R. Tyson is the first person to study and described the Myanmar fishes. His paper about the new genus, Danionella and species, Danionella transluater was publishes in 1986. Later, Karl J. Ferraris, Jr.; Sven O. Kullander; Fang Fang Kullander, Maurice Kottelat, Ralf Britz; Heok Hee Ng studied the Myanmar freshwater fishes and published the papers. There are over 80 new species and re-valided species of Myanmar freshwater fishes up to now.

According to these fish scientists, the freshwater fish fauna of Myanmar is one of the least known in Southeast Asia. They estimated that there will be almost 400 species of freshwater fish fauna in Myanmar, and most of them are apparently endemic.

Orders, Families and species of Freshwater Fishes of Myanmar

Based on Taxonomic classification of Nelson (Published in 2006), Orders, Families and species of Myanmar Freshwater Fish can be described as follows:

Order Myliobatiformes (16) stingrays


Subfamily Pastinachinae flag-tailed stingrays
Genus   Makararaja
  Makararaja chindwinensis Robert, 2007
Order Osteoglossiformes (22) – bony tongues

Family Osteroglossidae (65)-osteoglossids or bonytongues

Sub-family Osteoglossinae
Genus    Scleropages
Species  Scleropages formosus (Schlegel & Muller, 1844)
The Asian Arowana (Myanmar)

Family Notopteridae (66)-featherfin knifefishes

Genus    Notopterus
Species  Notopterus notopterus (Pallas, 1769)

Order Anguilliformes (Apodes) (25) – eels

Family Anguillidae (74)-freshwater eels

Genus     Anguilla
Species   Anguilla bengalensis
(Gray, 1832)
Anguilla bicolor M’Clelland, 1844

Family Ophichthidae (81) snake eels (OR) worm eels

Genus    Pisodonophis
Species  Pisodonophis boro (Hamilton, 1822)

Order Clupeiformes (27) – herrings

Family Engraulididae (95) – anchovies
Family Clupeidae (97) – herrings

Order Cypriniformes (29) – carps

Family Cyprinidae (102) minnows and carps

Genus    Amblypharyngodon
Species  Amblypharyngodon atkinsonii (Blyth, 1860)
Amblypharygodon mola (Hamilton, 1822)

Genus    Barillius
Species  Barillius barila (Hamilton, 1822)
Barillius dogarsinghi Hora, 1921

Genus    Catla
Species  Catla catla (Hamilton, 1822)

Genus    Chagunius
  Chagunius nicholsi (Myers, 1924)

Genus    Chela
Species  Chela laubuca (Hamilton, 1822)

Genus    Cirrhinus
Species  Cirrhinus mrigala (Hamilton, 1822)

Genus    Crossochellus
Species  Crossochellus burmanicus Hora, 1936#

Genus    Cyprinus
Species  Cyprinus intha Annandale, 1918

Genus    Danio
Species  Danio albolineatus (Blyth, 1860)
Danio aesculapii Kullander & Fang, 2009
Danio choprei Hora, 1928
Danio erythromicron Annandale, 1918)
Danio feegradei (Hora, 1937)#
Danio kyathit Fang, 1998
Danio margaritatus (Robert, 2007)
Danio nigrfasciatus Day, 1870
Danio quagga Kullander, Liao & Fang, 2009
Danio tinwini Kullander & Fang, 2009
Danio flagrans Kullander, 2012

Genus    Danionella
Species  Danionella dracula Britz
Danionella mirifica Britz 2003
Danionella translucida Roberts, 1986

Genus    Devario
Species  Devario affinis (Blyth, 1860)
Devario Annandale (Chaudhuri, 1912)
Devario auropurpureus (Annandale, 1918)
Devario browni (Regan, 1907)
Devario jayarami Barman, 1984
Devario kakhienensis Anderson, 1879
Devario shanensis Hora, 1928
Devario sondhii Hora & Mukerji, 1934#
Devario spinosus Day, 1870
Devario strigillifer Myers, 1924
Devario xyrops Kullander & Fang, 2009
Devario yuensis Kumar & Singh, 1998 (Kullander, 2009)

Genus    Esomus
Species  Esomus caudiocellatus Ahl, 1923
Esomus altus (Blyth, 1860)

Genus    Garra
Species  Garra gravely (Ananndale, 1918)
Garra salweenica Hora & Mukerji,1934#
Garra flavatra Kullander & Fang, 2004
Garra nigricollis Kullander & Fang, 2004
Garra poecilura Kullander & Fang, 2004
Garra propulvinus Kullander & Fang, 2004
Garra rakhinica Kullander & Fang, 2004
Garra spilota Kullander & Fang, 2004
Garra vittatula Kullander & Fang, 2004

Genus    Labeo
Species  Labeo boga (Himilton, 1822)
Labeo calbasu (Himilton, 1822)
Labeo gonius (Hamilton, 1822)
Labeo rohita (Hamilton, 1822)

Genus    Microrasbora
Species  Microrasbora rubescens Annandale, 1918

Genus    Microdevario
Species   Microdevario gatesi Here, 1939#
Microdevario kubotai Kottelat & Witte, 1999
Microdevario nana Kottelat & Witte, 1999

Genus    Neolissochilus
  Neolissochilus nigrovittatus(Boulenger,1893)

Genus    Osteobrama
Species  Osteobrama belengeri (Valenciennes, 1844)
Osteobrama cunma (Day, 1888)
Osteobrama feae (Vinciguerra, 1890)

Genus    Pethei
Species  Pethei didi (Kullander & Fang, 2005)
Pethei erythromycter (Kullander, 2008)
Pethei macrogramma (Kullander, 2008)
Pethei nankywensis (Kullander, 2008)
Pethei padamya (Kullander & Britz, 2008)
Pethei stoliczkana (Day, 1871)
Pethei thelys (Kullander, 2008)
Pethei tiantian (Kullander & Fang, 2005)

Genus    Puntius
Species  Puntius burmanicus (Day, 1878)
Puntius chola (Hamilton, 1822)
Puntius pugio Kullander, 2008
Puntius schanicus (Boulenger, 1893)
Puntius sophore (Hamilton, 1822)