Channa melanoptera

{pronunciation} mel-an-op-terr-a

Common name:

Toman Jela, (Malayan).

First description:

Bleeker, P. 1855
Ophiocephalus melanopterus.
Negende. bijdr. ichth.Borneo. Natuurkundig Tijdschrift Voor Nederlandsch Indie. Vol.IX; p.420.


The original describer, Bleeker (1879), states that this fish is nearest to C.marulioides. Differences are the bands in the dorsal and anal fins and the absence of the caudal ocellus. The head is shorter and the upper jaw longer. The author, however, relays doubts about whether these differences are significant enough to seperate the species.


D: 44-48 A: 28-31 V: present Ratio: 3.5-3.8




All vertical unpaired fins are blackish. The anal and dorsal are freckled whitish, the obliquely blue stripes, placed more posteriorly in the latter. The caudal has no ocellus, but with the basal half dotted blue. The upper background colour is bluish-brown, becoming lighter below. The markings just below the lateral line, comprise of groups of about 6 scales, which are black and these form a longitudal series of irregular blotches.


650 mm.


In their 'Key to the Indo-Australian species of Ophiocephalus' (1922), the respected icthyologists, Weber & de Beaufort (1922)Weber & de Beaufort. separated C.marulioides and C.melanopterus by the following :-

a) The head length when divided into the length of the body (from tip of snout to caudal peduncle) gives a ratio of :-

(i) 3.1 for C.marulioides.
(ii) 3.5 - 3.8 for C.melanopterus (i.e. the head is shorter)

b) The presence of a black, white edged ocellus at the upper part of the base of caudal fin :-

(i) C.marulioides has an ocellus.
(ii) C.melanopterus has no ocellus.

In the opinion of these authors, the characters for the separation of the two species in modern taxonomy are doubtful and insufficient.

a) Several authors, in detailed studies of the species of Channidae, find the head/body ratio is not a constant and varies considerably in older fish. In the excellent detailed study of the Russian/Chinese species, Channa argus warpachowskii, Amanov (1974) states 'there are relative reductions with age in the head and snout length of the Snakehead, interorbital distance, greatest body depth, predorsal distance and the length and height of the fins.' So this would not be a reliable character to isolate a species of Channidae.

b) Tweedie (1949) writes that his specimen of C.marulioides has no dark, lateral spots, as mentioned by , and writes 'but patterns of this kind often become obsolete in large specimens'. A similar occurrence can be found in the Sri Lankan species, Channa marulia ara, where Deraniyagala (1927) records that the identically positioned ocellus of this fish, is only present in fish under 260mm. In Bengal, India the same species, C.marulia, has an ocellus which persists until 515 mm, whilst those of Punjab specimens disappear at 2 years. So this would indicate that the the eye spot is variable.

The size of the two specimens of C.melanopterus examined by :-

Tweedie (1949) was 520mm
Weber & de Beaufort (1922) was 650mm

Size would therefore fall into the previously mentioned variable catagories,so this character is also dubious for separating the species.

In the light of the previous discussion; C.melanopterus would become a junior synonm of C.marulioides and in turn it could be suggested that C.marulioides is closely related to C.marulia.

Geographical location:

This species is said to range from Malaya to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo in the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Tweedie (1949) mentions that it is rare in Malaya and Bleeker (1879)Bleeker (1879) and Weber & de Beaufort (1922) both give Sumatra and Borneo as countries of origin. Kuronuma (1961) states this fish can be found in Vietnam, but this must be doubtful.