Thought to mostly inhabit peat swamps and associated black water streams though may also found in some clear water habitats. The former are located in forested areas and contain water that is typically stained dark brown by humic acids and other chemicals released from decaying organic material.
This results in a negligible dissolved mineral content and the pH can drop as low as 3.0 or 4.0. The dense rainforest canopy above means that very little light penetrates the water surface and the substrate is normally littered with fallen tree branches and rotting leaves. Aquatic plant species may include representatives of genera such as Cryptocoryne, Blyxa, Barclaya, Eleocharis, Utricularia, and Lymnophila.
Due to human activity vast tracts of primary forest have been altered or lost entirely throughout Borneo, and in the Kapuas region water pollution and other environmental degradation due to illegal gold mining, deforestation, conversion of land to agriculture, overfishing, the introduction of exotic species and the aquaculture industry have increased dramatically since the late 1990s. According to the IUCN attempted conservation efforts have thus far failed and a significant percentage of S. vaillanti populations may have already been lost.
At the type locality there were no aquatic plants and the fish were collected among submerged tree roots in clear, slightly tannin-stained water. the pH was 5.3, conductivity 20 µS/cm and water temperature 85.1°C/29.5°C.
Kottelat & Widjanarti (2005) noted that it is not an abundant fish in the Danau Sentarum system and that it’s normally collected in small creeks among leaf litter and other debris where it’s colour pattern and swimming behaviour apparently assist in mimicry of a dead leaf.
Provided adequate cover and structure is available this species is unfussy with regards to décor with ceramic flowerpots, lengths of plastic piping and other artificial materials all useful additions. A more natural-looking arrangement might consist of a soft, sandy substrate with wood roots and branches placed such a way that plenty of shady spots and caves are formed.
The addition of dried leaf litter (beech, oak or Ketapang almond leaves are all suitable) would further emphasise the natural feel and with it the growth of beneficial microbe colonies as decomposition occurs. These can provide a valuable secondary food source for fry, whilst the tannins and other chemicals released by the decaying leaves will aid in the simulation of a blackwater environment. Leaves can be left in the tank to break down fully or removed and replaced every few weeks.