Native to southeastern Mexico, central Guatemala, southern Belize, and northwestern Honduras. Its known range extends south from the Río Nautla (alternatively referred to as the Río Filobobos) in central Veracruz state, Mexico, to the Rio Usumacinta drainage in Guatemala, the Río Sarstún (aka Sarstoon) at the border between Guatemala and Belize, and the ríos Copán and Chamelecón in Honduras.
Within these boundaries it also occurs in various river systems in the Mexican states of Campeche, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, and Tabasco.
Type locality is ‘Orizaba, Mexico’, which corresponds to the city of that name in Veracruz state.
It has been widely introduced to other river basins in Mexico and throughout the world, and is now present on all major continents except Antarctica. Countries or territories in which feral populations exist include Panama, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Bahamas, United States, Hawaii, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, Réunion, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Indonesia, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Caledonia, and Fiji.
Choice of décor is not especially critical though it tends to look best in a heavily-planted set-up with a dark substrate. Wild forms should also suit an aquarium arranged to resemble a flowing stream with water-worn rocks and small boulders.
The addition of some floating plants and driftwood roots or branches to diffuse the light entering the tank also seems to be appreciated and adds a more natural feel.