Iwas planning a trip to Southeast Asia and was faced with the choice of traveling to Sumatra or peninsular Malaysia. Sumatra would be a new destination that would allow me the possibility of collecting anabantoid species I was unfamiliar with, such as Betta coccina, B. simorum, Parosphromenus sumatranus, and even the recently rediscovered B. rubra. Malaysia, on the other hand, would allow for easier collection due to its modern highways and very accessible roads. However, in 2000 I found that a lot of the peat swamp areas were being cleared to make way for palm plantations. This clearing affected most of the fish species that inhabited the swamp areas, and they were no longer as abundant as when I had first collected there with my friends David and Dennis in 1996. But there was an added incentive to visit Malaysia because I could also catch up with my college friends in Kuala Lumpur. Dennis informed us that we could likely collect wo newly described mouthbrooding Betta species, B. kuehnei and B. stigmosa, as well as the elusive B. coccina from the Muar area of southern Malaysia, which he had finally located. I ultimately decided upon peninsular Malaysia. Our schedule would be flexible for fishing. We would start out from Kuala Lumpur, travel south toward Johore and Singapore, come back up the east coast, and then go up north to do more fish collecting before returning back to Kuala Lumpur. Finally, as our plans crystallized, a Channa specialist from the UK, Paul Jordan, asked if he might be able to join us. October arrived and I found myself on a flight from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur. I arrived at Kuala Lumpur’s airport on October 8 at midday.
Channa gachua can typically be found navigating the waters of sandy streams.
Pipefish were found sharing the waters with barbs and bettas.
Day 1: Collecting in
Close to 10 a.m. we packed our luggage
into the SUV Dennis had arranged for our
trip, headed out of Kuala Lumpur, and
proceeded south on the motorway. While
it was hot and humid outside, it was nice
and cool in the car. Dennis was our driver
and expedition leader because he knew
the locations of the fishing sites.
We arrived at 1 p.m. at a small blackwater
stream flowing though palm plantations in
southern Selangor. My initial dips from the
grassy banks yielded the usual blackline
rasboras and shrimps. Then I found a large
chocolate gourami followed by several
small ones. But after 15 minutes of trying,
I found none of the blackwater bettas that
Dennis told us to expect. They turned
out to be hiding in the leaf litter that had
collected near the road.
Swamp Forest Remnant
We proceeded to the remains of a swamp
forest between the oil palm plantations
outside Muar. Here was a population of B.
persephone, which has so far escaped the
clearing of the swamp. We went to work
looking in the small puddles in the forested
area. In a few minutes, we had collected quite
a number of small B. persephone, and we also
found Boraras maculatus, Betta bellica, and
even a few of the blackline rasboras Rasbora
einthovenii. We packed our collection and set
off to another site where Dennis had found
the rare Malaysian B. coccina We arrived
at the site, which again turned out to be a
small swamp forest amid palm plantations—
blackwater trickled out of the drain from this
swamp and then flowed into another under
the hot sunshine. Here we collected B. coccina
in deeper water, a few tiny B. persephone fry,
loaches, Puntius hexazona, blackline rasboras,
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