Parachanna africana

{pronunciation} af-ri-carne-a

First description:

Steindachner, Fr. 1879.
Ophiocephalus africanus
Denkschr. Ak. Wien. Vol.XLI.; p.15; Plate.III; figure 2.


Nostrils noticeably longer than other Channidae.


D: 42-49 A: 30-35 C: rounded V: present Ratio: 28.4-33.8 %




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. ( Boulenger 1916)


Attains a total of 320 mm in nature.


Channa africana, Ophicephalus africanus, Ophiocephalus africanus, Parophiocephalus africanus.

Geographical location:

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.