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Distribution of Betta Ocellata
Native to the Malaysian state of Sabah in northeastern Borneo plus the northern tip of Kalimantan Timur (East Kalimantan), one of the four Indonesian provinces on the island.
In Sabah it’s been recorded at various localities including Bettotan, Sandokan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kudat, and Bongon, while in Kalimantan Timur it’s known only from the Sebuku River basin. Populations from such localities are often labelled with collection details by collectors/enthusiasts to maintain accuracy and preserve pure bloodlines.
Habitat of Betta Ocellata
Has been collected from numerous habitat-types including clear, flowing streams and isolated, elevated pools around headwaters (Sabah) as well as more turbid forested streams, ox-bow lakes (Kinabatangan) and quiet ponds in oil palm plantations (Tawau).
In flowing headwaters and streams the fish tend to lurk in slow-moving or stagnant pools (e.g. at Lahad Datu) whereas in the forest streams and ox-bow lakes it was caught among marginal vegetation or among leaf litter and submerged tree roots.
Tan and Ng (2005) suggest that the specimens collected from the elevated pools may have got there by jumping as often only a single adult and numerous juveniles would be found in the leaf litter of each pool. In addition, the fish collected from the clearwater environments possess a marked blue/green colouration whereas those found in murkier waters are more of a yellow/brown colour.
In the Kinabatangan drainage basin B. ocellata was collected from ox-bow lakes and lowland streams with turbid water. In ox-bows it was found in shallow water among flooded grasses, and in the streams among submerged leaf litter and tree roots.
Sympatric species in the latter included Rasbora sumatrana, ‘Puntius‘ sealei, ‘P.‘ banksi, Pangio mariarum, Lepidocephalichthys sandakanensis, Nemacheilus olivaceus, Ompok sabanus and Trichopodus trichopterus.
In the Lahad Datu valley the species inhabits stagnant or slowly-moving pools of headwater streams containing clear water. Other fishes at these locations included Garra borneensis, Homaloptera stephensoni, Gastromyzon danumensis, G. lepidogaster, G. cf. punctulatus, Protomyzon griswoldi, P. whiteheadi, and Nemacheilus olivaceus.
At Tawau it was the most abundant fish species in quiet, murky pools among oil palm plantations.