The 'Big, Yellow Bettas' from Malaysia

by David Armitage

Peter Ng and Maurice Kottelat have clarified the naming of the Betta waserispecies group, probably best known to we hobbyists, as the big, yellow, mouth-brooding Bettas which occur in Malaysia and Indonesia. These are mouthbrooders without iridescent gill covers (such as are possessed by B.pugnax) although the males do have scattered iridescent gold scales on their flanks. They have a brown body with one stripe running from eye to tail spot, and another narrow one just above the anal fin. The lower lip is black and the throat has various oval black marks. In the past they have been referred to as, 'Betta macropthalma' ( a synonym of B. pugnax) or as B. anabatoides.

Betta waseri was first described from aquarium specimens but only one was preserved. This was about 9 cm, although the largest wild specimen is only about 8 cm standard length. The main character is its distinctive throat marking, a black lower lip with two black, tear-drop spots on the throat. Males have sharper heads than females and the latter have more distinct stripes. The original locality near Kuantan is now heavily disturbed but specimens were also found 30 Km from Kuantan on the road to Pekan. Here they occurred in slowly flowing shaded black forest streams of pH 4-5 with leaf litter beds, among roots. Other anabantoids occurring here were Betta bellica, B. tussyae, Parosphromenus nagyi, Sphaerichthys osphromenoides, Trichogaster trichopterus and Belontia hasselti.

The 7 cm Betta hipposideros is a new species which takes its specific name from the horse-shoe like throat markings. It has a ladder-like pattern of vertical bars on the tail membranes of both sexes. It occurs in blackwater peat swamps of pH 3.5-3.7 in Selangor and Perak along with Betta bellica, B.livida, Parosphromenus harveyi, Sphaerichthys osphromenoides, Trichogaster leeri, T.pectoralis, T.trichopterus and Belontia hasselti.

Betta tomi is a new species, named after professor 'Tom' Lam Toong Jin of Singapore University. Like B.hipposideros, it is shorter at 7 cm and stouter than B.waseri but it lacks the ladder markings of the caudal.. The throat has two oval spots which do not merge with the lower lip. It was collected in Johor, in shaded, shallow streams of a freshwater swamp forest in pale tea-coloured water with a pH of 5.5 along with Betta pugnax andTrichogaster trichopterus. Males have a broad, dark-green margin on the anal fin. Specimens taken in Singapore by Herre co-incide with this species but it no longer occurs on the island.

Betta spilotogena is a new species, 7 cm long, which takes its name from the spots on the gill-cover. The throat has 2 broad oval spots which may join to each other, but not to the lip. It occurs in the Riau archipelago, Indonesia, specifically Pulau Bintan, in shallow tea-coloured water of pH 4.9-5.5.

There are clearly more species of this group yet to be described and I suspect that we can expect to hear more in due course.

Ng, P.K.L. and Kottelat, M. 1994. Revision of the Betta waseri species group (Teleostei:Belontiidae). Raffles Bull. Zool. 42, 593-611. DMA.

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