Distribution: Betta cf. akarensis (The fish discussed in this article has been described in the literature as Betta chini -Ed.)
has so far only been identified in 2 places. On the one hand, it
appears it has only a thin strip of territory along a strip of
coastline above Sipitang, Sabah. On the other hand, it lives in lowland
blackwater but this strip of coastline has hardly any primary woodland
left. It seems that the 2 places where they are found are probably
small remnant blackwater biotopes, with little hope for the future.
Because of these criteria, it seems clear that this fighting fish is
already threatened, and only a very short time after its discovery.
found this fish in March 1993, on the road from Sipitang to Mesapol
(Sabah). About 2-3 km before Mesapol, a road crosses a small black
stream. If you follow the stream along, in an easterly direction after
about 100m, you meet a small tributary with particularly black water
which comes out of an overgrown corner of a plantation. We only found Betta cf.akarensis in
this small tributary, not in the stream itself. It seems that this
species has found a niche which is useful because it occasionally runs
Description of the stream: 1.
The bed of the stream is clay 2. Branches of trees and strands of grass
hang into the water of the tributaries. 3. The stream is shaded by
trees, for all of its course.. 4. The base of the stream comprises
branches and leaves. 5. There is hardly any water movement. 6. The
water colour is coffee-brown 7. The water temperature was 26.4 °C. 8.
The pH was 4.5-5.0, GH <3.
Other fish found in this locality wereTrichogaster trichopterus, Rasbora cf. einthoveni, Parluciosoma sumatrana s.l.
Shape: The total length is 8-10 cm., the length of the body 6-7 cm.. This makes it a comparatively small member of theB.akarensis group.
dorsal and pelvic fins are elongated. In the male, the last soft rays
of the anal fin as well as the caudal fin are elongated.
proper care, in acid, peaty water, with leaves on the base and a partly
shaded surface, the fish have a dark brown colour which becomes an
intensive wine-red on the fins. The whole of the fish is spotted with
light-blue, shiney scales. All fins have a white edge to them. In
contrast to other fish of this kind, these have no blue patches on the
operculum, pelvic or anal fins.
Sex differences: The
male is a little slimmer and longer. The centre of the anal fin is
clearly elongated, in adult males, this elongation nearly reaches the
end of the caudal fin. In the females, the fins are not elongated, and
the anal fin is slightly 'fringed' During courtship, the male is much
more highly coloured.
Colouration during courtship: The
female show the proximity of spawning with 2 dark horizontal very
contrasting stripes. The lower half of the body becomes very light.
This colouration at the start of courtship can also be followed, up to
a point, in the male. This is very showy in contrast to the normal,
rather regular dark colouration or the fright or camouflage pattern
with its dark, nearly black, vertical bands. As with most fighting
fish, the male is more intensively coloured, darker -nearly black on
the head on which the shiny blue scales stand out. During courtship,
the wine-red colour of the fins is also stronger than normal.
Spawning triggers: After
the temperature was raised from 23°C to 26°C, the courtship started in
a place free of floating plants, at the water surface. It progressed as
in most similar members of the B.akarensis group.
It is noticeable that the 3 different pairs, even when kept in
different places, spawn up to 3 times. all at the same time (of year).
The animals were in different places for 10-12 months but always
spawned on the same day!
Prelude to spawning: The
courtship always appeared to commence in the afternoon. First, both
animals were in 'female-dress'. The female swam toward the male, he
stretches all his fins and bends the rear half of his body into a
slight 'U' shape. Now his colour becomes very intense. The 2 fish now
are in a 'T' position to each other and the male lifts his head
slightly. Next, while they circle each other, a false spawning takes
place. In between, the two swim parallel to each other and harmoniously
visit the surface together for air.
cycles are repeated several times until the spawning takes place in
earnest the next morning. The male swims to the side of the female and
embraces her in the 'U' formed by his body as they then turn over, with
the female on top. They stay in that position and rise slowly 5-10 cm.
toward the water surface. During this time, the female releases 4-8
eggs of around 2mm, which rest on the horizontal anal fin of the male
who stays rigid after spawning. The female picks the eggs off the anal
fin and swims after those eggs which fall to the floor. This happens
several times, sometimes even when there are no eggs.
1-3 successful spawnings, the fish swim parallel to each other, led by
the female. Typically for this group of Bettas, she plays with the eggs
by spitting them out and catching them again- if the male is not faster!
The Betta cf. akarensis 'Sabah'*
female spits out some of the eggs in a horizontal or almost horizontal
position 1-8 times and catches them quickly again, before the male
eventually collects most of them. It was not observed that any eggs
were lost during the transfer. By the evening, the male has a
well-filled mouth and thus the courtship of about 1.5 days is over. he
now stands just under the water surface, or if there are no water
plants, in a shelter.
2- days, the young fish hatch and will be carried for about 12 days in
the throat pouch until they are able to swim freely. If the fish have
spawned in a smaller aquarium, it is advisable to take the female out
on the 2 nd. day, because she may chase the male rather a lot and the
stress may cause him to lose the larvae. This all depends, of course,
on the female who may act differently in some cases!
critical time for the breeder is after 2 or 3 days, when the fry hatch.
After the first spawning the male often eats all the young. If all goes
well, he releases 40-50 young after 12 days which he then ignores. The
young fish now have a length of about 6 cm. and feed immediately on
live brine shrimp naupilii. The growing fish love to be at the bottom
of the tank and their parents do not chase them much, if there is
Social behaviour in the aquarium: With
proper care, these are very peaceful fighting fish which like to be in
a small group. The spawning took place in a normal 60 l. aquarium in
which 3 other pairs of the same size, lived. The spawning took place in
this group so harmoniously and without any chasing and biting, that at
first it was not easy to recognise the spawning pair. However, this
behaviour will depend on the individual character of the fish,
particularly the female. In other cases, the male was chased terribly
by the female before spawning and had several wounds where it had been
is no problem, they take dry and frozen foods. Every 2-3 days it is a
good idea to feed them some larger food. My fish take earthworms, flies
and other live food.
Experiences in caring for them: We
were only able to find these fish in the slightly acid, dark brown part
of the stream. In the aquarium, they turn out to be surprisingly
sensitive to acid water. At a pH of around 4, several of the fish were
suffering from changes in the mucous lining on the head, which made
them look as though they had been bitten. After they had been carefully
transferred to less acid water, these wounds soon healed.
brown water is always good for them, with some leaves on the bottom and
plenty of floating water plants on the surface. In aquaria with too
much light, fish were often disturbed and would jump out of the
aquarium on every opportunity. They also only show their true beauty in
brown water Just like Rasbora cf. einthoveni,
which we caught in the same waters, they lost their colour in clear
water and only after a few days in brown water, did it return.
Betta cf. akarensis 'Sabah (B.chini)
is another representative of this behaviourally most interesting group
of mouth-brooding fighting fish. One can only hope that this attractive
but threatened fish will remain in existence, at least in captivity.
REPRODUCED WITH THANKS FROM 'DER MAKROPODE' AND TRANSLATED BY MRS R.ARMITAGE (WYNEKEN)