Channa micropeltes

{pronunciation} my-crow-pell-tease

Common name:

Red Snakehead, ikan toman (Borneo); toman (Sumatra); pla sa-do (Thailand); Ca Bong (Vietnam); Trie Chhdor ( Kampuchea)

First description:

Cuvier, G. & Valenciennes, A. 1831
Ophiocephalus micropeltes
Histoire Naturelle Poissons. Vol.VII.; pp.427.


D: 42-47 A: 25-28 V: present Ratio: 2.6-2.8


82- 110


The dusky-toned dorsal fin is heavily marked with irregular black longitudal bands or blotches, whilst the sporadic creamy-white anal has a black longitudal band, with further faint markings. The slightly triangular and fan-shaped caudal is dusky with light markings in the upper part. The pectoral fins are a uniform dark grey. Ventral fins are white or cream.

In the upper body, there are 8-12 (Tweedie,1949; 15-20) narrow, bluish-green irregular vertical bars, which cross the lateral line overlaid by a brassy blue-green sheen. The greenish-grey mid-section includes an area around the gill cover which is tinted turquoise. There are large, continuous areas of black blotches with light grey spotted markings intermixed. The lower region is normally light grey.

Juvenile differences in colouration:

The bright markings of this regulary imported young fish may tempt the novice aquarist to buy this Snakehead for the community aquarium, with dire consequences !

Juvenile body colour is grey-green dorsally and below, the belly is creamy white. There are two black parallel longitudal bands. The upper one runs from the snout through the eye, to the base of the caudal fin, whilst the other begins just above the corner of the mouth, runs through the pectoral fin base and onto the caudal. The interspace between these bands is coloured brick red, which fades to a light pink (150 mm-300 mm in size) with age. Dorsal and anal fins are unmarked (Weber & de Beaufort 1922) and transparent. In Malaya, Tweedie (1949) describes several stages of colour phases in Channa micropeltes and illustrates the red interspace at a size of 150 mm (the intermediate juvenile stage) and at around 280 mm, when the bars break up and eventually become the adult pattern (400-600 mm).


to 640 mm


Ophiocephalus micropeltes, Ophiocephalus bivittatus, Ophiocephalus diplogramme, Ophiocephalus serpentinus, Ophiocephalus stevensii, Ophiocephalus studeri.

Geographical location:

The distribution of this well-known species includes India, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, the Malay Archipelago and the islands of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Further information:-

Billiton: Beaufort (1939).

Borneo: Vaas (1952) ; Vaillant (1902) ; Hardenberg (1936)

Indo-Australian Archipelago.: Weber & deBeaufort (1922).

Kampuchea: Kottelat (1985).

Malaya: Alfred (1966) ; Herre & Myers (1937) ; Tweedie (1936)
Tweedie (1949).

Sumatra: Vaas et al (1953).

Thailand: Smith (1945).

Vietnam: Kuronuma (1961).


In Thailand 'pla chado' is rated highly as a food fish and is sent to market alive in tubs of water. When the fish is sold live it is promptly stunned and decapitated. It is a voracious creature whose habitat is mainly large rivers or ponds. So, in light of the above circumstances, water conditions are not critical although a temperature between 25 and 28 C is needed. In the region of West Borneo, Vaas (1952) Vaas (1952) lists this large predator as preferring to eat fish of all sizes, shrimps, prawns and crabs.


Very destructive towards other fish when guarding its eggs and has been known (as in other Channa species) to even attack humans at this time (Tweedie 1949).