Bullseye snakehead

Channa marulius family

Channidae taxonomy

Ophiocephalus marulius Hamilton, 1822, ponds and freshwater rivers of Bengal.

other common names

English: Great snakehead; Thai: Pla chon ngu hao, pla kalon; Burmese: Nga yan dyne; Laotian: Pa gooan; Khmer: Trey raws; Bengali (West Bengal): Sal, gajal; Sinhalese: Ara.

physical characteristics

Among the largest of snakeheads (48 in or 122 cm maximum length). It has 4-6 large round black blotches on the body; some populations have white margins and small white spots on these blotches. Also has a white or orange-rimmed ocellus on the upper portion of the caudal fin base (sometimes absent or indistinct in indiviuals over 300 mm SL), moderately large scales (LL=52-70), and no scales on the underside of the lower jaw. Also, young may have an orange longitudinal band running from the tip of the head to the caudal fin that fades as the fish matures.


Widely distributed in tropical Asia from the Indus River basin of Pakistan and the whole Indian subcontinent, including Sri Lanka, through Myanmar and Indochina. Also introduced and established in Florida, United States.


Large rivers, lakes, and reservoirs; prefers clear stretches of water with a sandy and rocky bottom.

feeding ecology and diet

Known to feed mainly on fishes. It probably also eats other vertebrates and invertebrates such as frogs and crustaceans.


The species is capable of terrestrial movement. reproductive biology

In West Bengal this species spawns from April to June. Parents use their mouths to cut elaborate passages through the weeds leading to the floating bubble nest, where 2,000-40,000 light red-yellow eggs (0.08 in [2 mm] in diameter) hatch in about 54 hours. The pair also guards the fry.

conservation status

Not threatened.

significance to humans

Readily seen as a food fish in India and some parts of Southeast Asia. A number of interesting local beliefs are attributed to this fish. In central Thailand, the common name means "cobra snakehead" and comes from the superstition that its bite is very poisonous, leading to death. In Myanmar, the Karen people regard it with awe and avoid eating it, practices that arise out the belief that these fish were formerly humans who were changed into fish for their sins, as well as the belief that if a person eats one, he or she will be transformed into a lion.

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