First description: Steindachner, Fr. 1879.
Denkschr. Ak. Wien. Vol.XLI.; p.15; Plate.III; figure 2.
Diagnostic: Nostrils noticeably longer than other Channidae.
Meristic: D: 42-49 A: 30-35 C: rounded V: present Ratio: 28.4-33.8 %
Description: Vertical fin pigmentation is grey-green to dark olive
and spotted with tones of blue and green. The orange tinted pectoral fins are
also spotted. The upper body has a light olive brown background blending to a
clay grey colouration to shades of yellow grey.
A series of brown-black spots can be seen above and below the lateral flanks
whilst the region between has more distinct spots, which appear to give an
overall pattern of 8-10 chevrons facing the head. Here a broad blackish band
runs from the eye to the opercle, where it merges into a bold dark spot.
Finally another dark bar connects the eye to the rear corner of the jaw.
However, the colouration of P.africana is very variable, according to the
mood of the fish at the time and instead of the thick chevrons, a pattern
of spots can often be seen.
Juvenile differences in colouration:
Young fish are said to be yellow, with a broad lateral band extending to the
lateral line. (
Size: Attains a total of 320 mm in nature.
Channa africana, Ophicephalus africanus, Ophiocephalus africanus,
West Africa, and is known from the states of Benin, Cameroon and Nigeria.
Further details of collecting points can be located in the excellent
revision of the African Snakehead by
Bonou & Teugels (1985).
In courtship display both males and females turn almost completely black.
A vivid gold band appears on the side of the head and the gill covers.
All the fins turn black and the lips a lovely blue.