Channa maculata

{pronunciation} mack-yule-are-ta

Common name:

Ca Qua (Vietnamese); hei-yu (Chinese, Hunan area)

First description:

Lacepede, B.G.E. 1803
Bostrychus maculatus.
Histoire Naturelle Des Poissons; Vol.III.; pp.140,143.


The body is similar to Channa argus, but the head is rather long (Shih 1936). The caudal is round, coming to a slight point at the centre.


D: 43-46 A: 26-30 C: round (slightly pointed at the centre rays) V: present Ratio: 2.6-3.1




At 380 mm this fish is fully mature. The colour of the dorsal is a brownish-black, the upper two-thirds are dark with about 10-13 dusky blotches at the base of the fin. The anal fin is a brownish-dark grey, becoming lighter at the edge and streaked dark, as is the brownish-black caudal. The pectorals are dark grey, tipped with orange and come to a slight point on the outside edge of the fin. The ventrals are plain grey.

The basal upper-body colouration is dark brown with a double (sometimes treble) row of closely spaced dusky blotches (up to 10, sometimes edged with silver) just below the dorsal fin. From behind the gills and level with the eye on the greyish white middle part, run 10 large patches, ending in a point, level with the posterior of the dorsal fin. A further two, complete dusky bands cross the caudal peduncle. The lower lateral section has a series of blotches (about 11 in number), slightly smaller than the middle row and some fish have narrow dusky stripes between the anal fin.

On the head, the top series of blotches on the body merge to form a band, starting at the upper opercle which carries on to the eye. This continues into the middle row of patches, which are irregulary streaked from the eye to the pectoral base. Sometimes there are up to four irregular spots on the crown of the head with a fine silver/gold outline. The eyes are small, the outer margins grey. The nostrils are hardly visible and not extended.

Sub-species and colour variants:

Channa maculatus var. aspilota

First description:
Sauvage, H.E and Dabry de Thiersant, P. 1874.
Ophicephalus aspilotus.
Notes sur les poissons des eaux douces de la Chine. Ann. Sci. Nat. Paris Zool.; ser.1; Vol.6; Part 5; p.4.


Blanc (1963) places this fish in synonymy with Channa maculata. If this is the case we suggest
it is entitled at least to the status of a specific variant on account of the following:

C.aspilota C.maculata
(Nichols 1943) (Nichols 1943)
Dorsal fin count 45 44-46
Anal fin count 30 28-30
Ratio: length of body/depth 7.0 5.1
Ratio: length of body/head 2.3 2.7
Ratio: length of head/eye 5.0 6.6
Body markings-upper Unmarked Double row of dark marks
Body markings-middle Unmarked Base of caudal and peduncle with pale
and dark cross bands
Body markings-lower : Unmarked Dusky streaks
Scales on the top of head Large Small
Lateral line scales 60 55-56
Size 85mm 110 mm to 225mm (Blanc, 1963)


Bostrychus maculatus , Ophiocephalus guentheri, Ophiocephalus aspilotus , Ophiocephalus taneatus.

Geographical location:

Channa maculatus is a common fish in the southern Chinese provinces of Hunnan, Fujian and Canton including Hong Kong; where it is often sold livein large numbers in the markets (Nichols 1943, Herre & Myers 1931). Further south-west it has been recorded from Hainan Island (Herre 1932) and also Vietnam (Kuronuma 1961) where it has an individual vernacular name; 'Ca Qua'.


In it's native waters this Snakehead lives in ponds, lakes and ditches which normally have a sand or mud bottom.