Eurasia: with disjunct range of distribution. Subspecies Rhodeus sinensis amarus found in central and eastern Europe, the Russian republics adjacent to Europe and Turkey (Ref. 683). Subspecies Rhodeus sinensis sinensis found in the Jangtze basin (Ref. 556). In Appendix III of the Bern Convention (protected fauna).
Occurs in ponds, lakes, marshes, muddy and sandy pools and backwaters of rivers (Ref. 5723). Feeds mainly on plant material but also on small larvae of insects. Its occurrence is related to those of the bivalve Anodonta cygnea and other freshwater mussels (Ref. 30578).