Inle Lake, Shan State, Myanmar

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Myanmar, Shan State, Nyaungshwe Township

Inle Lake is located in Nyaung Shwe Township, Shan State in Myanmar, and it is the second largest freshwater lake in Myanmar. The Lake covers a total area of 116 km2 and it is one of the highest at an elevation of 880m. During the dry season, the average water depth is about 2.1m, and the deepest point is about 3.7m. During the rainy season, this can increase by 1.5m. The Lake is home to 267 species of birds, over 20 species of snails, 49 species of freshwater fishes including 13 endemic species.

Inle Lake is also unique for the way the local inhabitants have adapted their lifestyle to their environment. Farmers from one of the dominant ethnic groups in the region, the Intha people, practice floating island agriculture, locally called “yechan”. It is recognized as an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Heritage Park and was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in June 2015.

Submitted by
Klementina Keresztes-André
Approved by
Greg Martin & Peter Unmack
20.3593349, 96.9072189
Geographical region
Southeastern Asia
Drainage Basin
Saluen River
River catchment
Nanlit Chaung
Water body type
Water body name
Inle Lake
Water body part
Water body course
Lower course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name

Videos above and below water

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
20-28 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

19 mg/l
8 mg/l
Dissolved Oxygen
70 %

Substrate in nature

Stone form
Submerged terrestrial vegetation

Aquatic Biotope

Date of collecting
Collecting area
Water depth
Air temperature


Human settlements
Human settlements
Surrounding area

The lake, which measures 22km long by 10 km wide, and sits in a valley between the Shan Hills. In villages and towns around the lake, wooden houses are built on stilts becouse of the flood.

The local Intha fishermen steer their one-man boats with a characteristic rowing style, wrapping one leg around their oar. Along with fishing, traditional handicrafts are an important part of the local economy: there are silk weavers and silversmiths plying their trade on the lake.

And as with all of Myanmar, religion plays a massive part in local life, and numerous pagodas and monasteries can be found on the lake and its shores. Around the villages you can see many floating gardens where locals grow vegetables, especially tomatoes.

Underwater landscape

Inle Lake is very shallow, with an average depth of 2 meters, which can increase by 1,5 m in the rainy season. The bed of the lake is clayey, sandy, which is home to many aquatic plants for example Ceratophyllum demersum, Najas tenuis or Potamogeton lucens.

The floating plants and seaweed form islands on the lake, which provides a hiding place for fish, but the vegetation is so rich that the locals have to thin it out regularly, otherwise their boats will not be able to navigate.

This rich habitat is home to more than 40 fish species, and more than 10 species are endemic like Danio erythromicron, Sawbwa resplendens and Petruichthys brevis.


  • Danio erythromicron (Danionidae)
  • Channa harcourtbutleri (Channidae)
  • Cyprinus intha (Cyprinidae)
  • Inlecypris auropurpureus (Danionidae)
  • Mastacembelus oatesii (Mastacembelidae)
  • Microrasbora rubescens (Cyprinidae)
  • Neolissochilus nigrovittatus (Cyprinidae)
  • Petruichthys brevis (Nemacheilidae)
  • Mustura shanensis (Nemacheilidae)
  • Poropuntius schanicus (Cyprinidae)
  • Sawbwa resplendens (Cyprinidae)
  • Anabas testudineus (Anabantidae)
  • Channa striata (Channidae)
  • Devario kakhienensis(Danionidae)
  • Garra gravelyi (Cyprinidae)
  • Lepidocephalichthys berdmorei (Cobitidae)
  • Notopterus notopterus (Notopteridae)
  • Pethia stoliczkana (Cyprinidae)

Aquatic plants:

  • Nymphaea pubescens (Nymphaeaceae)
  • Najas graminea (Hydrocharitaceae)
  • Najas tenuis (Hydrocharitaceae)
  • Vallisneria spiralis (Hydrocharitaceae)
  • Potamogeton lucens (Potamogetonaceae)
  • Pontederia crassipes (Pontederiaceae)
  • Utricularia aurea (Lentibulariaceae)
  • Ceratophyllum demersum (Ceratophyllaceae)
  • Ludwigia adscendens (Onagraceae)
  • Nelumbo nucifera (Nelumbonaceae)
  • Salvinia cucullata (Salviniaceae)
  • Pistia stratiotes (Araceae)
  • Nitella flexilis (Characeae)
  • Hydrilla verticillata (Hydrocharitaceae)
  • Nymphoides hydrophylla (Menyanthaceae)

Wetland plants:

  • Sagittaria trifolia (Alismataceae)
  • Monochoria hastata (Pontederiaceae)
  • Ipomea aquatica (Convolvulaceae)
Threats to ecology

Riparian zone

Trees near the aquatic habitat
Many - Alnus nepalensis
Trees near the aquatic habitat
Many - Barringtonia pendula

Comment by the expert

Peter Unmack:  –

Greg Martin: Very thorough and comprehensive.