Channa striata

{pronunciation} stri-are-ta

Common name:

Shol (Bengal); Ruan (Borneo); gabus (Java); Trey Ras (Kampuchea); Aruan (Malaya) ; Dalag (Philippines) ; Striped Snakehead (Sri Lanka); Luhula (Sri Lanka); pla chorn (Thailand); Ca Loc (Vietnam).

First description:

Bloch, M.E. 1793
Ophicephalus striatus
Naturgeschichte Auslandischer Fische. Vol.7.; p.141-142.


D: 37-46 A: 23-28 C: 17 V: present Ratio: 2.7-3.9




Dorsal and anal colouration is white (all fins darken with age), freckled or streaked brown. The caudal is brownish with oblique dark bands (creamy flecks when older).

Upper body pigmentation can be greenish-brown to almost black (amber to tan with age). Oblique bars (similar to the caudal markings) give the impression of a forward facing, V-shaped pattern consisting of dark streaks and blotches. The lower half of the sides are white- silvery or light brown with similar blotches and streaks, at right angles to those of the upper group. This assumes a herring-bone configuration that disperses with adulthood. The belly and the lower surface of the head are white.

Juvenile differences in colouration:

The fry are a deep orange [brick red in Malaya, (Soong No date)] overall, until a size of 15mm, when a greenish tint appears, along with a shiny white spot, located high up, which can be repressed at will. At 25 mm, the pigment fades and leaves only a diffuse orange lateral stripe. The fins are pale yellow, with dorsal and anal displaying a dark margin. The characteristic dark stripes start to appear at 40 mm, along with a pseudo-ocellus in the posterior edge of the dorsal fin, which sometimes persists to maturity ( Deraniyagala 1929). A dark band runs from the corner of the mouth to suboperculum ( Weber & deBeaufort 1922) which fades with age. Between 50 mm and 80 mm the overal body colour is pale grey, lightening to silver on the belly. There are 14-16 thin, dark chevrons pointing towards the head, whilst 3 faint black lines radiate from the eye, across the head. The anal fin is edged with a thick black line and has a single row of spots.


To a size of 600 mm (900 mm; Weber & deBeaufort 1922)

Sub-species and colour variants:

Due to its vast distribution, several colour variations have been established. The following have been noted:

C.striata : Malayan form

An average number of dorsal rays (41-43) was counted by Cantor (1842) who also recorded a pale salmon colour between the blackish bands.

C.striata : N/East Indian form

Francis Hamilton, cites the fish as Ophiocephalus wrahl (synonym of C.striata). It had a higher than average dorsal ray count (43- 46) and the interspaces between the body bands were yellow( Hamilton 1822).

C.striata : Phillipines form

The body colour is pale muddy/brownish grey above. The pectoral fins are colourless, with dark spots. Anal and caudal are very dark with a bronze greenish cast ( Herre 1924).

C.striata : Sri Lankan form

Deraniyagala (1929) suggests that general colours vary with the nature of the water. The fins are olive, with a narrow longitudal band of white/orange on the dorsal and anal (which also has a light external margin. Along the base of the caudal, are three white/orange transverse stripes. The pectorals are a uniform olive/brown. The top of head has a few brown spots and there is a brown patch under the eye.

He also further classifies the geographical form into their ecological varieties namely :-

Flowing water type - which have white/pale green bellies with sparsely scattered spots. The head and back are olive- green.

Still water type - dark brown above, yellow/bright orange middle of body, white belly with more numerous dark streaks and spots.

Brackish water type - distinctive pink tinge to the sides of the body, while the white intervals between the dark bands are pale blue.


Ophicephalus striatus, Ophiocephalus striatus, Ophiocephalus chena, Ophiocephalus cyanospilos, Ophiocephalus planiceps, Ophiocephalus sowarah, Ophiocephalus vagus, Ophiocephalus wrahl.

Geographical location:

Nearly across the entire Oriental region, including many smaller islands. It has been said to be introduced in the Hawaiian and the Philippine islands ( Weber & deBeaufort 1922; Myers 1951).

Billiton: Beaufort (1939).

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

China: Nichols (1943); Reeves (1927).

India: Chattopadhyay (1975); Hamilton (1822); Jhingran (1982); Shaw & Shebbeare (1937).

Java: Oye (1921); Vaas and Schuurman (1949).

Kampuchea: Kottelat (1985).

Malaya: Alfred (1963); Cantor (1842); Cramphorn (1983); Dunker (1904); Herre & Myers (1937); Johnson (1967); Tweedie (1933) & (1949); Soong (no date).

Sri Lanka: Deraniyagala (1929); Munro (1955).

Thailand: Chote (1967); Fowler (1934); Hora (1923); Smith (1945); Geisler (1979).

Philippines: Herre (1933).

Vietnam: Kuronuma (1961).


It has been already demonstrated that this fish is the most widespread and common Snakehead in the Oriental region. It can live in in a variety of habitats and for this reason, has been widely cultured, and to some countries is a very important food fish. Due to the countless different water conditions it encounters, C.striata can be kept in a large aquarium without too much concern about p.H and dH levels, but the temperature should be tropical in nature, between 23 and 27 C. Except when breeding, it tends to be a 'lone wolf' mostly lying under cover, waiting for its prey of frogs, tadpoles, insects, worms and other fishes ( Soong, no date).


In Sri Lanka, the Striped Snakehead reproduces several times a year while in the Philippines they reproduce every month of the year ( Herre 1924). A crude attempt at nest making is made, mostly using leaves of water plants and the hatchery is hidden in dense vegetation. Up to 2,500 floating amber eggs (1.5 mm) are fertilized, which can hatch in 24 hours (2.8 mm) in nature and 48 hours in the aquarium. Like C.punctata, hatching is dependant on the intensity of the sun's rays. The young swim about in a mass, and one or other of the parents guards them at all times. The larva feed on algae and protozoa at this stage. Seven days after hatching, they have attained a size of 6.2mm and come to the surface for air in unison until they reach 50 mm. At the post-larval phase they consume large quantities of daphnids and Cyclops. The juveniles that survive the diseases and predators (including their parents, if hungry), will feed exclusively on a carnivorous diet of shrimps, prawns, aquatic insects and young fish. C.striata usually matures at 300 mm and an age of two years. Further accounts of the breeding, rearing and feeding of C.striata can be located in the following:- Battacharya (1946): Paramenwaran and Muregeson (1975); Willey (1909).