Channa pleurophthalma

{pronunciation} pleur-off-thal-ma

Common name:

Spotted snakehead; Kerandung (Borneo); srandang (Sumatra).

First description:

Bleeker, P. 1850
Ophicephalus pleurophthalmus.
Description Specierum Diagnosticae, Osphromenoidei.
Natuurkundig Tijdschrift Voor Nederlandsch Indie. Vol.I.; pp.270.


D: 40-43 A: 28-31 C: 14 V: present Ratio: 2.8-3.0




The colourless fins show indistinct light and dark crossbars. The upper body colour is brownish/ blue. The mid-section is a grey- brown with 4-6 black ocelli (surrounded by a yellowish ring) laterally along the body. The first ocellus is partially on the operculum, the second (sometimes missing), above the anus and the subsequent spots are about of equal distance to each other (The longest span is between occeli 5 and 6). The appearance of the lower part of the body is a yellowish-white.

The cross-section of the front end of this species is deeper than wide, which is unusual, as most snakeheads are rounded here.

On the head, two dark parallel bands run from the eye, obliquely downwards.

Juvenile differences in colouration:

At 150 mm, colour of the flanks and the upper body is lime green. The lower body and belly are a light yellow. The typical ocelli can be seen on the flanks. The sides of the body are fawn coloured (Weber & de Beaufort 1922).


Grows to a size of 400 mm. (Channa pleurophthalma var. spiritalis = 280 mm)

Sub-species and colour variants:

Channa pleurophthalma var.spiritalis

First description:
Fowler.H.W. 1904
Ophicephalus spiritalis.
A Collection of the Fishes of Sumatra.
Journal Academy Natural Sciences Philadelphia. Vol.12.; pp.530-531.; plate IX.

Meristic: D: 39 A: 28 P: 17 V: present Ratio: 3.0 Ll: 55


All fins have a dusky pigmentation. The dorsal and anal exhibit oblique, horizontal blackish lines in front, becoming more or less parallel with the fin posteriorly. A mottled, indistinct blackish pattern can be found on the caudal. The pectoral fins have four to five blackish vertical cross-bars.

The upper body background colouring appears dark or dusky, whilst the middle section is more or less brown, mottled with blackish-brown. The whitish or soiled brown lower part, includes a pale streak running from the opercle and below this there are four to five large blackish blotches. A dark streak obliquely crosses from the eye to the opercle, whilst a similar one can be seen starting from the lower margin of the eye. The opercle also has a dark blotch.


Summarizing the relationship of this type of Channa with other related species, Fowler recognised the similarities in markings of C.spiratis to C.lucia and C.pleurophthalma; Some 18 years later, Weber & de Beaufort (1922) refered to the possibility of hybridization between C.lucia and C.pleurophthalma (although even today, very little work has been done in this field). They finally decided, however, due to the lower scale count of C.spiritalis, (3 scales lower than C.lucia's parameter) that it should become a synonym of C.pleurophthalma .

c.spiritalis c.pleuropthalma c.lucia
dorsal fin 39 40-43 39-43
anal fin 28 28-31 27-30
ratio body/head 3.0 2.8-3.0 3.0-3.5
lateral line scales 55 50-58 58-65
lower body marks 4-5 blackish
4-5 black
ocelli with
a yellow ring
dark streaks
on belly

In the above table, the variations of the dorsal fin and in particular, the absence of ocelli in C.spiritalis can be seen. This local diversification should therefore be noted.


Ophicephalus pleuropthalmus, Ophiocephalus pleuropthalmus, Ophicephalus spiritalis, Ophiocephalus pleurophthalmus.

Geographical location:

This very attractive and easily identified, Snakehead can be found in the countries of :-

Borneo: Where Hardenberg (1936) claims it is a common fish ; Bleeker (1879); Vaas (1952); Vaillant (1902); Weber & deBeaufort (1922).

Sumatra: Vaas et al (1953); Bleeker (1879); Weber & deBeaufort (1922)

Fowler (1904) describes Channa pleurophthalma var. spiritalis from Padang,Sumatra; where both C.lucia and C.pleurophthalma can be caught ( Weber & deBeaufort 1922).


C.pleurophthalma inhabit the lakes and rivers of western Borneo and the fisheries of S/E Sumatra (see C.bankanensis) and are said to consume fish of all sizes, shrimps, prawns, crabs, and insects.