Walking snakehead

Channa orientalis family

Channidae taxonomy

Channa orientalis Bloch and Schneider, 1801, India "orientali" (presumably Sri Lanka).

other common names

English: Smooth-breasted snakehead; Sinhalese: Kola kanaya. physical characteristics

Maximum length 3.9 in (10 cm); one of the smallest snake-heads. Pelvic fins absent; body scales relatively large (LL= 39-43), and a single large scale is on each side of the underside of lower jaw. Body often has bluish cast with 8-11 black descending bands on a grayish to dark brown dorsal background blending into a whitish ventral, with an orange to red outer margin on the dorsal, anal and caudal fins, a black spot at the base with 3-8 concentric black bands on the pectoral fins. Single orange or yellow-rimmed black ocellus at the back end of the dorsal fin in young usually fades away by maturity.


Endemic to tropical rainforest environment of southern Sri Lanka.


Small, shallow rivulets barely deeper than its body, and also in mountain streams, small ponds, and ditches.


Known to effectively transverse land. feeding ecology and diet

Feeds mostly on terrestrial and aquatic insects, caddisflies, and small fish.

reproductive biology

Mouth brooders. Around 40 eggs are deposited in the floating nest, then 9-10 days after fertilization the male takes the eggs into his mouth for hatching. After hatching, either parent may hold the brood, which exits and enters through the gills, not the mouth. Fry feed on eggs laid later by their mother.

conservation status

Not threatened, but a decline in the number of unpolluted streams and shrinking rainforests in Sri Lanka will probably affect future populations in the future.

significance to humans

A small number have been exported for the aquarium fish trade. ♦

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