This species is endemic to Lao PDR, where it occurs in the upper parts of the Nam Kading basin. Its range includes the middle and lower Nam Theun River (W. Rainboth pers. comm.) and the Nam Gnouang River (where the whole range is impacted by three reservoirs) (Kottelat 1998, 2001). It appears to be restricted to these rivers, and perhaps minor connected streams. This species is not able to exist in reservoirs which cover much of the upper parts of both the Nam Theun and Nam Gnouang rivers. It is not thought to be present above the Nam Theun II reservoirs, and its extent of occurrence is estimated to be less than 100 km² based on an estimated river length of 100 km.
The population of this species has decreased dramatically over the past five to ten years since the beginning of the construction of a number of dams, impacting its entire range. This has resulted in a sharp reduction of its area of occupancy (AOO). No exact population estimates are available, however, this species is now rarely seen by local people throughout its range. The population is expected to have declined by at least 80% over the past ten years, with no improvements to the situation expected in the future. Further population declines are expected because of very low recruitment rates and possible reduction in the number of spawning sites (M. Kottelat pers. comm. 2011).
The construction of the Theun Hinboun, Nam Theun 2 and Nam Gnouang dams over the past ten years have resulted in a significant range reduction of this species range and flooding a significant part of its AOO. Reduced flow downstream of the dams impacts the remaining AOO. Siltation in the Nam Phao also filled the riverbed. Logging, deforestation and agriculture occurs in the area, with associated impacts on the aquatic environment through soil erosion, sedimentation and agricultural pollution expected (M. Kottelat pers. comm. 2011).