Channa barca

{pronunciation} bar-ka

Common name:

Bora Cheng or Borna (northern Bengal), Changa (Assam).

First description:

Hamilton, F.(formerly Buchanan) 1822
Ophiocephalus barca.
An account of the Fishes found in the Ganges and its Branches.
Publ. Archibald Constable. Edinburgh. p.67.


Dhar & Chatterjee (1984),
in their study of protein (isozyme analysis) state that C.barca is close to C.striata.


D: 47-52 A: 34-36 C: 19 P: 16 V: present Ratio: 4.0-4.5

Lateral line scale count:

'There is no distinct lateral line' (Hamilton (1822)).
Shaw & Sherbeare (1937): 78 scales.
Sen (1985) : 60-65 scales.


The dorsal and caudal are shaded yellowish-olive and edged with red. The anal is yellowish-olive and the pectorals reddish. All fins have numerous black spots.

The upper body appears dark green, toned to yellow in the mid-section and white underneath. Inlaid are many black, irregular spots with a few red intermixed. Similar spots on top of the head) are clustered around a common centre so as to resemble the rays of a star.

Juvenile differences in colouration:

At 15 cms, the overall colour of the upper body is black, while the lower part is golden. Spots, forming a chevron pattern, point towards the head, which is covered with blue/gold dashes.

The dorsal fin is covered with four wavy rows of black spots running it's full length. The anal fin is spotted black on the yellow upper margin. The pectorals have five black vertical stripes, whilst the outer margin is a light blue. Where this fin joins the body, the area is an irridescent deep blue. The round caudal fin has black/gold stripes and spots.


According to Hamilton (1822) 'It is found up to three foot' or approx. 900 mm. The longest fish reported by Sen (1985) was 329 mm.

Sub-species and colour variants:

C.barca var.amphibius

Although recognised as a synonym of C.barca by Francis Day (1878), Shaw & Sherbeare (1937), the authors of 'The fishes of Northern Bengal', described this variant by taking the original name. The ground colour is blue/green, depending on the light intensity and the brightest blue can be found on the upper lip on the head.

There are also 13-16 bright orange vertical bands bordered with brown on the body. The dorsal colour is split horizontally with the upper margin blue/green and the lower brown/orange. The top outer edge of the fin is pale blue/white. The anal fin is iridescent blue/green, with a narrow dark outer border. The pectorals are deep orange. The caudal is brown at its base with an iridescent blue/green inner. There are dark rays with a narrow bluish white border.

C.barca Assam form

Sen (1985) describes a striking colour variation, where the body is dark violet with the belly white and speckled purple. The pectorals are reddish with numerous spots.

Synonyms: Ophicephalus amphibeus, Ophicephalus amphibius, Ophiocephalus barca.

Geographical location:

Hamilton (1822)found this fish in the River Brahmaputra, near Golalpara, (Assam) India, giving a brief outline of its enviroment, where it inhabits perpendicular holes in the sides of the banks of the river. In these,the Snakehead waits for its prey, ready to pounce, with its head out. Apart from the strong, variegated colours, it is an ugly animal, although considered to be an excellent food by the natives.

Shaw & Sherbeare (1937) specimens all came from the Chel River, the original area of McClelland's 'Ophicephalus amphibeus'. It is also reported east of Torsa. It is rare and difficult to catch according to
Sen (1985).


Young fish can be often found in flooded paddy fields enclosed by forests.