Striped snakehead

Channa striata family

Channidae taxonomy

Ophicephalus striatus Bloch, 1793, Tranquebar, Malabar coast, India.

other common names

English: Chevron snakehead, snakehead murrel; German: Quergestreifter Schlangenkopf; Burmese: Nga-yan; Khmer: Trey raws; Bengali: Shol; Laotian: Pa kho; Malay: Aruan; Indonesian: Ikan gabus; Thai: Pla chon; Vietnamese: Ca lok.

physical characteristics

Length 23.6 in (60 cm). No scales on underside of the jaw, no large canine-like teeth on the upper jaw, moderately large scales (lateral line scales 50-61). Generally dark brown above, extending into irregular blackish bands below; no bands or spots on pectoral fins. Juveniles have black spot (sometimes forming an ocellus) at posterior end of dorsal fin, but this disappears as fish reaches maturity.


The most widely naturally distributed snakehead, occurs from Pakistan through Southeast Asia east to Yunnan, southern China. Has also been introduced and established in tropical islands, including Madagascar, Hawaii, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Sulawesi, Indonesia.


Tropical stagnant to slow-running lowland waters (prefers the former) with muddy bottoms, such as ponds, swamps, and ditches.


Can move over land during rainy season. Reported to survive in cavities in the bottom mud of lakes, swamps, and canals that have dried up.

feeding ecology and diet

In native waters, feeds on smaller fishes, frogs, prawns, and worms.

reproductive biology

Spawns year round, builds a nest in shallow (11.8-39.4 in/ 30-100 cm), swampy stagnant areas near waters' edge. Male and female use mouth and tail to clear away dense vegetation to make donut-shaped floating nest about 11.8 in (30 cm) in diameter, into which the translucent yellow nonadhesive eggs (about 0.06 in/0.15 cm in diameter) are placed. Hatching period lasts about three days, during which male guards the nest until a short while after the vivid reddish orange fry hatch. After hatching, fry move in a dense school while foraging, still protected by male.

conservation status

Not threatened; common in almost all areas within its distribution.

significance to humans

One of the most common and important freshwater food fishes in tropical Asia, also used for control of tilapia in pond aquaculture. In Myanmar, included in a spiritual ceremony to help a sick person recover. ♦

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