Jump to content

Channa micropeltes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Giant snakehead)

Channa micropeltes
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Anabantiformes
Family: Channidae
Genus: Channa
C. micropeltes
Binomial name
Channa micropeltes
(G. Cuvier, 1831)
  • Ophicephalus micropeltes Cuvier, 1831
  • Ophicephalus serpentinus Cuvier, 1831
  • Ophicephalus bivittatus Bleeker, 1845
  • Ophicephalus stevensii Bleeker, 1854
  • Ophiocephalus studeri Volz, 1903

Channa micropeltes, giant snakehead, giant mudfish or toman harimau, is among the largest species in the family Channidae, capable of growing to 1.3 m (4.3 ft) in length and a weight of 20 kg (44 lb).[2] It is native to the fresh waters of Southeast Asia (South Indian populations are now regarded as a separate species, C. diplogramma),[2][3] but has also been introduced elsewhere and is considered invasive in Taiwan. Other names include xal mas (শাল মাছ) in Assamese, red snakehead, redline snakehead, and ikan toman (where ikan is fish in Malay and Indonesian).


The young of the C.micropeltes are red in color, with orange and black lateral stripes appearing after about two months. As the giant snakehead matures, it loses its stripes and redness, and instead develops a bluish-black and white pattern on its upper body. Juveniles sold in the aquarium fish trade are commonly called "red snakeheads". They can get up to 1.3 m (4.3 ft) long and a weigh 20 kg (44 lb).[2]

Two-cm-long fry: Its color when young explains another of its names, the red snakehead.
After Bleeker, 1878; juvenile. USGS 2004[4]
Near-adult juveniles

The species has the ability to crawl onto land and breathe air, although they are only able to do this in muddy or swampy areas, hence the nickname "mudfish".

Its ability to breathe air using a primitive lung located just behind the gills allows it to survive in stagnant water where oxygen levels are low, by coming to the surface and taking a small gulp of air. It also enables the snakehead to travel short distances on land, although it is unable to hunt while on land, as it cannot support itself at all with its small fins in comparison to its large body.


Distribution of Channa micropeltes, USGS 2004.[4] The Indian population (red), referred to as "introduced", is actually C. diplogramma, which used to be considered a synonym of C. micropeltes[3]

C. micropeltes is found in Southeast Asia, Malay Peninsula, and Indonesia .[2] It used to be believed to have an oddly disjunctive distribution, inhabiting both Southeast Asia and southwest India, about 2,500 km (1,600 mi) apart. The Indian population was speculated to be from an early human introduction, prior to the 19th century.[5][6] In 2011, the Southeast Asian and Indian populations were found to be separate species, with the latter correctly named C. diplogramma (leaving C. micropeltes for the Southeast Asian population).[2][3]

This fish is reported to be highly suitable for culture in cages or ponds in combination with tilapia. It is found to be an effective tool in controlling the overpopulation of tilapia, which checks the stunted growth of tilapia.

As an invasive species[edit]

As the result of human introductions, C. micropeltes has been reported in six US states: Maine, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Maryland and Rhode Island.[7] It is not believed to be established in the U.S.,[8] however, unlike the northern snakehead (C. argus),[9] its temperate relative.

In Maryland, three specimens were caught in the early 2000s, two in open waters and one in the shallows of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore.[7] In 2003, an example was caught in Rock River, Wisconsin.[10][11] Biologists were concerned that warm water effluents could allow the tropical species to survive in colder climates,[10] but as yet there is no evidence of established populations anywhere in the United States, with all catches believed to be aquarium releases.[8]

In 2010, one was found dead on the shores of the Saint-Charles River, in Quebec City, Canada. It was obviously an aquarium release.[12]

The species is well-established throughout Taiwan and is considered invasive at least in Sun Moon Lake.[13][14][15] An attempt is made at controlling the species in Sun Moon Lake through a targeted fishery for mature pre-spawn females.[16]


In 2005, a specimen of C. micropeltes was reportedly caught by an angler while fishing for pike on the River Witham in Lincolnshire, England. The claim of this catch is highly peculiar, as it was reportedly caught in late winter, and being a tropical species, it would not have been able to survive, let alone feed in an English river during winter.[17] It was later determined to be a hoax; the fish had actually been found dead in a street.[18][19]

Use as food[edit]

Pla buang is a northern Thai dish of sun-dried and deep-fried giant snakehead

In Malaysia and Singapore, Indonesia are known locally as the Toman and are cultured in fish ponds and reservoirs as game fish because they put up a strong fight when hooked. The giant snakehead is also a good fish to eat, and is often served in Chinese restaurants.

In Thailand, this fish is prepared in a variety of ways, especially grilled, being a common food item offered by street vendors.

In traditional Chinese medicine theory, eating this fish is believed to help in healing of the body, for example, after surgery or severe cuts and scrapes.

In the aquarium[edit]

C. micropeltes, frequently referred to as the red or redline snakehead in the fishkeeping hobby, is a popular fish to be sold in the pet trade. Juveniles are commonly sold as pets. Some are even sold as feeders to be fed to larger carnivorous fish. They are voracious predators that will chase and eat anything that fits in their mouths. Due to this, they are called "freshwater great whites". They can successfully be housed, though, with silver arowanas, clown knifefishes, oscars, and other fish from same size group.


  1. ^ Allen, D.J.; Ng, H.H. (2020). "Channa micropeltes". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T172432A89799044. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T172432A89799044.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2014). "Channa micropeltes" in FishBase. May 2014 version.
  3. ^ a b c Benziger A, Philip S, Raghavan R, Anvar Ali PH, Sukumaran M, et al. (2011). Unraveling a 146 Years Old Taxonomic Puzzle: Validation of Malabar Snakehead, Species-Status and Its Relevance for Channid Systematics and Evolution. PLoS ONE 6(6): e21272
  4. ^ a b Courtenay, Jr., Walter R. and James D. Williams. Chiana Micropeltes Archived 2006-11-15 at the Wayback Machine USGS Circular 1251: Snakeheads (Pisces, Chinnidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. 2004-04-01. Retrieved 2007-07-15.
  5. ^ Ebanasar, J. 1995. "Studies on some aspects of the Culture of murrels Channa micropeltes, Channa marulius and Channa striatus." PhD Thesis University of Kerala.
  6. ^ Ebanasar, J. and V. Jayaprakas. 1995. "Cage culture a conservation strategy for an endangered murrel Channa micropeltes." Proceedings of Seventh Kerala Science Congress.
  7. ^ a b Maddern, Mark (14 November 2014). "Channa micropeltes (giant snakehead)". Invasive Species Compendium. United Kingdom: CAB International. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  8. ^ a b Nico, Leo G.; Fuller, Pam L.; Neilson, Matt (26 May 2020). "Giant Snakehead factsheet". Nonindigenous Aquatic Species. U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  9. ^ "Northern Snakehead". National Invasive Species Information Center. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Giant snakehead found in Wisconsin waters (News item)". Nonindigenous Aquatic Species. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. 19 September 2003. Archived from the original on 21 August 2007.
  11. ^ The Associated Press (24 September 2003). "'Snakehead' fish found in Wisconsin". NBC News. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  12. ^ "Des espèces dangereuses pour la faune aquatique - Un poisson tête-de-serpent découvert dans la rivière Saint-Charles". Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (in French). 29 April 2010. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012.
  13. ^ Chieh-yu, Hsieh; Madjar, Kayleigh (19 July 2021). "Nantou urges action on giant snakeheads". www.taipeitimes.com. Taipei Times. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  14. ^ K. T. Shao. "Channa micropeltes". Taiwan Fish Database. Academia Sinica Center for Digital Cultures & Biodiversity Research Center. Retrieved 2022-11-05.
  15. ^ Hongji, Huang (25 November 2021). "日月潭外來魚強勢魚種魚虎危害生態 南投縣府與清華大學專家、漁民聯手移除魚虎邁入第三年 新竹射魚虎好手來相挺". JALife (in Chinese (Taiwan)). Retrieved 2022-11-05.
  16. ^ Everington, Keoni (18 May 2023). "Man catches record-breaking giant snakehead fish in Taiwan's Sun Moon Lake". taiwannews.com.tw. Taiwan News. Retrieved 19 May 2023.
  17. ^ Chew, M. K. (2008-02-19). "Attack of the killer fish?". New Scientist. Vol. 301. p. 52. doi:10.1126/science.1085274. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  18. ^ Clarke, Matt (April 2008). "Snakehead catch 'a hoax'". Practical Fishkeeping.
  19. ^ Webster, Roy (2008-03-05). "Picture perfect haul delights Harris". Norfolk Eastern Daily Press. Archived from the original on 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2008-04-01.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ebanasar J. and V.Jayaprakas 1995b. Culture of three species of murrels with mossambique tilapia at three predator-prey densities in earthen ponds. J. Aqua . Trop. 10: 221-229.
  • Ebanasar J. and V.Jayaprakas 1996. Food utilization of Channa micropeltes (Channidae: Pisces) fed three diets of animal origin. Indian J. Exp. Biol. 34:1261–1264.
  • Ebanasar J. and V. Jayaprakas 2000 Influence of predator size on satiation and gastric evacuation of a predatory fish Channa micropeltes. Indian Journal of Comparative animal Physiology 18 : 44-55
  • Ebanasar, J., B.D.Sheeja and R.Narayanan 2001. Nutritive value and Bio-chemical composition of selected freshwater fishes. Journal of Social Medicine 55-57.
  • Ebanasar. J and V. Jayaprakas (2003) Growth and food utilization of Juvenile giant murrel Channa marulius and striped murrel Channa striatus fed with diets of animal origin. Symposium on physiological approaches to conserve biodiversity and to tackle environmental health hazards. Indian Society for comparative animal physiology. Tirupati.
  • Jayaprakas. V and J.Ebanasar (2003) Enzymes activity in the alimentary canal of malabar snake head Channa micropeltes fed with different diets. Symposium on physiological approaches to conserve biodiversity and to tackle environmental health hazards. Indian Society for comparative animal physiology. Tirupati.

External links[edit]