Giant snakehead

Channa micropeltes family

Channidae taxonomy

Ophicephalus micropeltes Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1831, Java.

other common names

English: Red snakehead; Khmer: Trey chhdaur; Laotian: Pa do; Malay: Ikan toman: Thai: Pla chado; Vietnamese: Ca bong.

physical characteristics

Length 51.2 in (130 cm); one of the largest snakeheads. Has very small scales (LL=83-106); patch of small scales near underside tip of lower jaw; large canine-like teeth on upper and lower jaws. Juveniles have vivid black horizontal stripe above and below a bright orange to red stripe running head to tail. Coloration fades into bluish black and white dappled upper body in adults.


Widely distributed in Southeast Asia (excluding Myanmar and northern Vietnam) and coastal region of southwestern India.


Large, slow-running to stagnant waters in open country.


The most aggressive snakehead; has not been reported to travel over land.

feeding ecology and diet

Extremely voracious, consumes fishes of all kinds and sizes, frogs, and even juvenile ducks and water birds, killing far in excess of need. Young or subadults tend to school when hunting for smaller fishes.

reproductive biology

Male and female build donut-shaped floating nest from surrounding aquatic vegetation into which the floating eggs are placed. Parents aggressively guard and care for eggs and fry. Once fry hatch, they soon form and forage as a dense school.

conservation status

Relatively to very common in Southeast Asian range; status of population in southwestern India is unknown.

significance to humans

One of the most popularly marketed snakehead fishes in Southeast Asia. Adults are primarily game fish, juveniles are recognized worldwide as aquarium fish. ♦

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