Betta: from ikan betah, the vernacular Malay for species of this genus.
persephone: named for the Greek goddess Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus and queen of the Underworld, in allusion to the largely blackish colour pattern.
Appears to be endemic to forested areas around the towns of Ayer Hitam, Muar, and Kluang in southwestern Johor state, Peninsular Malaysia.
Type locality is ‘Asian highway No. 2, 1°56’20.00″N, 103°09’40.00″E, at road bridge about 3 kilometers north of Ayer Hitam, Malaysia’.
A stenotopic inhabitant of peat swamp forests and associated streams. The dense canopy of branches above means very little light penetrates the surface of such environments, although they are increasingly disturbed by human activity.
The water is typically stained darkly with humic acids and other chemicals released by decaying organic material. The dissolved mineral content tends to be negligible and pH can be as low as 3.0 or 4.0.
The substrate is usually covered by fallen leaves, branches and submerged tree roots and at certain times of year the fish may be forced to survive within the moist leaf litter for several weeks since permanent water is not always available.
The majority of its original habitats have been heavily modified as much of the area has been turned over to oil palm plantations. It is now restricted to a few remaining pockets of primary peat swamp forest and has been listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 1996.
Maximum Standard Length
30 – 35 mm.
Can be maintained in a fully-decorated aquarium although many breeders prefer not to use a substrate for ease of maintenance. Driftwood roots and branches can be used and placed such a way that a few shady spots are formed, while clay plant pots or lengths of piping can also be included to provide further shelter.
The addition of dried leaf litter offers additional cover and brings with it the growth of microbe colonies as decomposition occurs. These can provide a valuable secondary food source for fry, while tannins and other chemicals released by the decaying leaves are considered beneficial for fishes from blackwater environments. There is no need to use natural peat, however, the collection of which is both unsustainable and environmentally-destructive.
Like others in the genus this species seems to do best under fairly dim lighting. Aquatic plant species that can survive under such conditions include Microsorum, Taxiphyllum or Cryptocoryne spp., while floating vegetation is also appreciated by the fish.
This species requires acidic conditions with negligible carbonate hardness and very low general hardness, meaning a reverse osmosis unit or other method of obtaining soft water may need to be employed. This can be further acidified using phosphoric acid or similar if necessary.
As it naturally inhabits sluggish waters filtration should not be too strong, with an air-powered sponge filter set to turn over gently adequate. Keep the tank well-covered and do not fill it to the top as like all Betta spp. it requires occasional access to the layer of humid air that will form above the water surface, and is an excellent jumper.
Temperature: 22 – 28 °C
pH: 4.0 – 6.0
Hardness: 18 – 90 ppm
Likely to prey on small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates in nature.
Captive fish will normally accept dried products once they are recognised as edible, but should be offered plenty of small live or frozen foods such as Daphnia, Artemia or chironomid larvae (bloodworm) regularly to ensure development of optimal colour and condition.
Take care not to overfeed as Betta spp. seem particularly prone to obesity.
Behaviour and Compatibility
Not recommended for the standard community aquarium. Its care requirements and disposition mean it is best kept alone or with very peaceful species. Some small cyprinids and loaches that inhabit similar environments in nature are suitable, but proper research prior to purchase is essential and in most cases it is best maintained alone.
Provided the aquarium contains plenty of cover this species can be maintained in a group, although it is preferable to isolate pairs for breeding purposes.
Males are more intensely-coloured and develop more-extended fins than females as they mature.