Betta livida Ng & Kottelat, 1992
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat
Betta livida Ng & Kottelat, 1992
by Mr. Tan Kok Kiat

The fighting fish, commonly known as Betta, is a freshwater ray-finned fish found in the Southeast Asia region. Betta is usually small in size, but they are energetic and colourful. Currently, there are around 75 species of Betta recorded worldwide, with Malaysia having approximately 28 species, with 10 of them being endemic.

The emerald-spot fighting fish or Betta livida, is one of the endangered fighting fishes, which is rare and endemic to the northern Selangor and southern Perak states in Peninsular Malaysia. It belongs to the family Osphronemidae and is locally known as ikan picat or laga sungai besar in Malay (Zakaria-Ismail et al., 2019).

Betta livida inhabits peat swamp areas and blackwater streams, which is highly acidic and have a pH value of five or less. In general, this species occurs in well shaded shallow and stagnant water, which is less than one meter (Zakaria-Ismail et al., 2019).

The species epithet is derived from the Latin word, lividus meaning jealousy, which refers to the green eyes of this fish species. The flanks of this species have an iridescent green blotch. Betta livida exhibits sexual dimorphism, whereby the males are more colourful and have longer dorsal fins than the females when they reach maturity. Also, the posterior rays of the male can reach beyond the base of the caudal fin and up to one-third of the caudal fin (Zakaria-Ismail et al., 2019). It can grow up to 36.3 mm in length. Its diets include insects and small invertebrates (Ng & Kottelat, 1992).

Betta livida is currently assessed as Endangered species under the IUCN Red List. This is because their habitat, mainly in peat swamp forests, have been depleted and converted to monoculture plantations and industrial-scale forestry on a massive scale. There are hobbyists who catch the Betta for aquarium fish trade and conservation, but the latter is an alternative to the survival of the species. Recently, a group of hobbyists has released the endangered B. persephone back into the wild in Ayer Hitam Forest Reserve, Muar, Johor (Zakaria, 2022). This event also could be a viable solution to ensure the survival and conservation of B. livida in the remaining peat swamp forests in Selangor and certain parts in Perak.

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