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Snakeheads belong to the Channidae family. They are distributed in southern Asia and tropical Africa. They are distinguished by their elongated body, long dorsal and anal fin bases, and protruding lower jaw. Most species possess large scales on the head which are reminiscent of the epidermal scales on the heads of snakes.

Snakeheads are freshwater fish with some species entering brackish water. They often rise to the water surface to take gulps of air. They have a supplementary breathing apparatus in the form of paired suprabranchial chambers located behind and above the gills, lined with respiratory epithelium. These chambers allow them to breathe atmospheric air and survive in low water oxygen conditions or even out of the water for a considerable period of time. They are known for their ferocious feeding behavior taking on fishes, frogs, birds, insects, and even small mammals.

There are 2 genera and about 38 species worldwide. Malaysia has about 9 species.

Scientific Name: Channa micropeltes  (Cuvier, 1831)
English Name: Giant Snakehead, Red Toman, Indonesian Snakehead
Mandarin Name | 鱼类中文名: 巨型鳢鱼 (Jùxíng lǐyú), 多曼 (Duō màn)
Local Malay Name: Ikan Toman
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาชะโด (Plā chado)
Local Hokkien: Toman
Main Identification Features: Body torpedo-shaped. Scales on top of head and body comparatively small. Head resembles a snake, is somewhat depressed with eyes located in a dorsolateral position on the anterior part of the head. Mouth large, terminal with prominent canine teeth. Caudal fin rounded. Blue, green, purple or pink patterns along with black irregular lateral stripes on body. Juveniles have two clear lateral stripes.
Size: Maximum standard length 130 cm, commonly 50 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Large freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia. Occurs in deep pond, lakes, wetlands, large streams and canals, usually deep bodies water with standing or slow flow. The species has a preference for areas with dense vegetation or submerged structure. It builds nest by clearing circular areas in aquatic vegetation. Young fish school and feed in packs usually under watch by adult from below. Capable of overland migration and survive drought by burying into mud and aestivating. Primarily a daytime predator, consuming fishes, frogs, crustaceans, crabs, birds, mammals and anything that moves.

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Scientific Name: Channa marulioides  (Bleeker, 1851)
English Name: Emperor Snakehead
Mandarin Name | 鱼类中文名: 似眼鳢 (Shì yǎn lǐ)
Local Malay Name: Ikan Jaloi, Haruan Kerandang, Toman Bunga
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาช่อนข้าหลวง (Plā ch̀on k̄ĥāh̄ lwng), ปลาช่อนทอง (Plā ch̀on thxng)
Main Identification Features: Body scales large, scales between lateral line and anterior rays of dorsal fin 3 1/2. Lateral line curves downward abruptly at lateral line scales 17-20. No canines on prevomer or palatines. Body golden yellow to dark brown with white belly. Often with a series of dark patches of scales, some scales margined posteriorly white, along the sides of the body. Large ocellated spot with orange/white margin on the upper part of the caudal fin base (may disappear with growth). The iris of the eye is orange or red.
Size: Maximum total length at least 60 cm, commonly 30 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Freshwater fish native to South Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Inhabits rivers and inland lakes.

Scientific Name: Channa striata  (Bloch, 1793)
English Name: Snakehead Murrel, Striped Snakehead
Mandarin Name | 鱼类中文名: 线鳢 (Xiàn lǐ), 生鱼 (Shēng yú), 鳢鱼 (Lǐ yú), 雷鱼 (Léi yú)
Local Malay Name: Ikan Haruan, Toman Paya
Bahasa Indonesia: Ikan Gabus, Ruan
Thai Name | ชื่อสามัญภาษาไทย: ปลาช่อน (Plā ch̀on)
Local Hokkien: Lay Hu
Main Identification Features: Body elongate. Head broad and flattened, resembles snake. Mouth large with only small teeth on palate. Body scales relatively large. The dorsal surface and sides is dark and mottled with a combination of black and brown faint oblique bars.
Size: Maximum standard length 100 cm, commonly 50 cm.
Habitat and Ecology: Freshwater fish native to Pakistan, Peninsula India, southern China, southeast Asia and Indo-Malay archipelago. Inhabits a wide range of habitats ranging from rivers, swamps, ponds, canals, lakes, and rice fields, prefering stagnant muddy waters with dense vegetation. Able to tolerate to adverse environments due to its hardiness and air-breathing capability. Feeds on fishes, amphibians, and crustaceans.