African snakehead

Parachanna obscura family

Channidae taxonomy

Ophiocephalus obscurus Günther, 1861, West Africa. other common names

German: Dunkelbäuchiger Schlangenkopf; Dinka: Abioth; Ga: Hauti; Hausa: Tuhi.

physical characteristics

Length 15.7 in (40 cm). Medium-sized, head somewhat concave, pointed in lateral view and depressed anteriorly; has small scales (LL= 65-78), patch of small scales near the tip of the underside of the lower jaw, and no large canine-like teeth on the upper jaw. Body brown to dark brown with several large black blotches, blackish mark at base of pectoral fins along with several rows of black spots. Young have broad blackish band on body sides and light-edged ocellar spot at the caudal fin base.


The White Nile and from the Senegal and Chad Rivers to the Congo River basin in western Africa; most widely distributed African species.


Slow-running to stagnant waters, preferably with heavy vegetation, including rivers, streams, lakes, lagoons, and marshes.


Adults are solitary ambush predators. Overland movement of this species has never been reported.

feeding ecology and diet

Juveniles feed on prawns, copepods, and aquatic insect larvae; adults prefer mostly fishes.

reproductive biology

Female lays 2,000-3,000 eggs in October and November which are probably deposited in a nest and guarded by the male for 4-5 days after hatching.

conservation status

Not threatened.

significance to humans

Of minor importance as a food fish within its distribution, cultured in ponds and also used to control tilapia in aquaculture. ♦

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