Channa punctata

{pronunciation} punk-tar-tar

Common name:

Taki (Bengal); green snakehead; spotted or dotted snakehead; Mada (mud) ara or Mada kannaya (Sri Lanka), Murrel (India).

First description:

Bloch, M.E. 1793
Ophicephalus punctatus.
Naturgeschichte Auslandischer Fische. Vol.7.; p.139.


This description from Deraniyagala (1929) is of the Sri Lankan form.


D: 29-32 A: 20-23 C: 12-14 V: present Ratio: 2.9-3.0




The parallel, top and bottom fins are a pale yellow-dark olive colour with a light gold border (also caudal) and a shiny green-gold overlay. The markings dorsally, are four to five longitudal rows of spots; the lowestseries is the largest. Sideward on the anal (bottom) fin there are three-four rows of spots. The pale yellow to dark olive, rounded caudal has four-five dark, transverse bands with a light olive transverse band. The round caudal fin is also spotted. Five transverse bands are arranged on the pectorals.

On the body, the upper (olive) and lateral section (greenish-yellow) markings consist of a well-defined black shoulder mark above the pectoral fin and six to seven dark transverse triangular bands, descending from base of dorsal fin to the lateral line. Overlaid occasionally, there are numerous minute black spots. A configurative colouration of white and pale green, mingles to yellow ventrally, where are imprinted ten dark streaks.

The throat is sometimes a bluish green. On the head there is a well-defined brown stripe running from mid-eye to top corner of opercle, another runs downwards from the eye to the corner of the mouth, extending to the opercle. Here can also be viewed two-three pairs of blotches and three-four dots.

Juvenile differences in colouration:

In Sri Lanka, the young have a chocolate-coloured body with three yellow stripes which are lighter ventrally. There is also a golden lateral stripe from the snout, through the eye to the middle of the caudal fin. At 13 mm, black body scales appear along with three dark bands on the caudal fin. Adult colouration arrives at a size of 70 mm upwards ( Deraniyagala 1929).

In India, Banjeri (1974), observing 20 day old fry, refers to the 'characteristic iridescent lemon yellow and dull longitudal blotched bands'. At 150mm the fish are dark brown on the upper sides and a lighter creamy colour lower down. Blotches and spots cover the fish all over with a shiny green/gold overlay.

The fry bred by one of us (S.C.) at a size of 5 mm initially had 2 crisp bands above and below the lateral line, the mid-section was cream with a diamond-shaped white patch on the top of the head. After 3 months at a size of 50 mm., the stripes broke into the characteristic, blotched pattern.


to 250 mm.

Sub-species and colour variants:

C.punctata variety A

This form was first realized by Dhar 1984, 1986 in a study of this species which spanned 3 years. A chromosome count of 34 was recorded and their geographical location was the Gauhati North Bank, Assam (India). A type of the same count from the river Yamuna, Delhi (India) was also noted by Nayyar (1966).

C.punctata variety B

This varient has 32 chromosomes. This seems to have a wider dispersion, although many years of further research is needed to give a more comprehensive pattern of geographical distribution. It is known from Gauhati South Bank, Silchar, Shillong ( Dhar 1984, 1986 )and Kalyani, West Bengal ( Manna & Prashad 1974).

C.punctata Bengal form

Shaw & Shebbeare (1937) describes a browner bodied fish with 12 rays in the caudal fin. Unlike other varieties, the pectoral fin is not spotted or striated and it has a higher than average lateral scale count (37-40).


Ophicephalus punctatus, Ophiocephalus punctatus, Ophiocephalus affinis, Ophiocephalus indicus, Ophiocephalus lata, Ophiocephalus karrouvei, Ophiocephalus karruwey .

Geographical location:

This fish's distribution is throughout India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma. Claims of colonization outside of this area must be taken with caution or attributed to human interference. Other authors contributing to the range of this common Indian fish are:

Chattopadhyay (1975); Chaunan (1947); Hora and Gupta (1940); Jayaram and Singh (1977); Jhingran (1982); Shaw & Shebbeare (1937); Sen (1985); Qayyum and Qasim (1962);

In Sri Lanka C.punctata has been reported by Deraniyagala (1929) and Munro (1955).


In India, Qayyum and Qasim (1962) claims that it is one of the most common freshwater fishes in this country and lives in ponds and rivers.

They are also found in 'tanks' ( Chaunan 1947) which are man-made, more or less square, enclosures of water (from half to 10 acres in area), with high embankments. These are used by the natives for bathing, washing and also drinking !

It is refered to as the second most important food fish by Sri Lankans and can be found for sale in most markets. It's habitat includes ponds and large 'tanks' in the low lying country, but rarely running water.

Although this is a medium-sized Snakehead and it can live in harsh conditions, C.punctata prefers filtered waters but without a deal of water movement. Water temperature and p.H can be of average aquarium conditions.

Forage fish such as Puntius sophore, Oxygaster bacaila and Barbus stigma are used as live food in India ( Jhingran 1982) but these can be supplemented in the aquarium by beast heart, worms and other small fishes.


Sexual differences were mentioned by Jhingran (1982), where the male was discovered to have pin head black spots on its yellow under-belly. The females, as well as their swollen abdomens may be distinguished by the diffused black blotches in the ventral region.

Temperatures from 26-29 C, brought about by cool rainy weather are an important factor in the spawning, as well as larval development ( Banjeri 1974). The striped young of C.punctata have been collected at different times of the year in Sri Lanka, which would indicate that they have several breeding seasons.

The amber-coloured eggs (1.2 mm) are laid in shallow water, where no nest is constructed. Like all 'Channidae' eggs, they contain an oil globule in the yolk and float on the surface Deraniyagala (1929). Hatching occurs in 24 hours (26.5-28 C ), when the dull brown fry are 2.7 mm long and at 20 days, they measure 7.2 mm (Banjeri, 1974). They are guarded by both parents (in particular the female) which, even when confronted with hunger, would not harm their offspring ( Qayyum and Qasim 1962). The foods consumed by the young C.punctata at the size, 15-30 mm, are mainly cyclops and daphnids ( Qayyum and Qasim 1962).

An aquarium spawning was achieved by one of us (S.C.) in a 9,100 litre, 9.8 x 2.4 x 2.4 m tank in water of 1.6-3.2 cm depth. The fry were found in the shallow water.