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Channa lucius (Cuvier, 1831)
Splendid Snakehead

Channa lucius - Splendid Snakehead - click to enlarge

    Upper image: adult. Lower image: juvenile. Reprinted with permission from P.K.L. Ng from: Lee, P.G., and P.K.L. Ng. 1991. The snakehead fishes of the Indo-Malayan region. Nature Malaysiana 16(4):112-129.

Channa lucius - Splendid Snakehead - click to enlarge

After Bleeker, 1878

Original description: Ophicephalus lucius Cuvier in Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1831:416. Histoire naturelle des poissons 7:i-xxix + 1-537, pls. 170-208. Type locality: Java. Holotype: RMNH, whereabouts unkown.

Synonyms: Ophiocephalus polylepis Bleeker, 1852:578.
                   Ophiocephalus bistriatus Weber and de Beaufort, 1922.
                   Ophiocephalus bivittatus Kroli, 1822. Name preoccupied by
                           Ophiocephalus bivittatus Bleeker, 1845, changed to
                           Channa bistriata by Weber and de Beaufort, 1922.
                   Ophicephalus siamensis Gunther, 1861 (Musikasinthorn and Taki, 2001).
                   Channa bistriata Weber and de Beaufort, 1922 (young of C. lucius [Alfred, 1964]).

Common names: splendid snakehead; forest snakehead; ikan bujok or ikan ubi (Malaysia), runtuk (Kalimantan), trey kanh chorn chey (Cambodia); bujok (Mayay; Lim and Ng, 1990).

         Native range: Rivers of southeastern Sumatra and the Kapuas basin of western Kalimantan (southern Borneo; Roberts, 1989); Mekong basin of Laos (Kottelat, 2001a). Kottelat (1985) and Ismail (1989) included China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Kalimantan, Java, and Sumatra in the native range. Peter Ng (personal commun., 2003) collected this species during November 1999 and April 2000 in central Sumatra, southern Sarawak, and the Mahakam and Kayan basins of eastern Kalimantan.

         Introduced range: No introductions known.

         Size: To 40 cm.

         Habitat preference: Kottelat (2001a) stated preference for streams in forested areas where the species lives among vegetation. Lim and Ng (1990) indicated a preference for forest streams and peat swamps. Lee and Ng (1994) said the species occurs in lakes, ponds, shaded forest streams, peat swamps, and mid-depths of rivers, showing a preference for faster moving waters. pH range is 5.5-6.0 and the species is said to be crepuscular or nocturnal (Lee and Ng, 1994). Rainboth (1996) cited preferred habitat as “slowly moving streams and rivers as well as lakes, ponds, and reservoirs from Thailand to Indonesia. Usually found in areas with much aquatic vegetation as well as submerged, woody plants ...”

         Temperature range: Lee and Ng (1994) recorded the fish in waters between 24-29 oC, indicating a tropical/subtropical species.

         Reproductive habits: A nest builder like other channids, with both parents guarding developing eggs and larvae (Lee and Ng, 1994). No information located on fecundity.

         Food preferences: Lee and Ng (1994) cited the species as “a midwater or surface predator relying on camouflage to ambush its prey, mainly fish.” Rainboth (1996) stated that this species preys “on fishes, prawns, and crabs and slightly less on shrimps.”

         Characters: Patch of scales present on gular region of head. Large canine teeth present on prevomer and palatines. Upper profile of head somewhat concave. Lateral line scales 58-65; 51/2 scales between lateral line and base of anterior dorsal rays. Dorsal rays 38-41; anal rays 27-29. Sides of body with series of distinct, dark “porthole” blotches, oblique bars on belly, and slightly elongated, dark blotch on operculum (Ng and Lim, 1990; Lee and Ng, 1991). Juveniles with three dark stripes from head to caudal fin base.

         Ismail (1989) stated that this species has one or two rows of primarily canine teeth on the prevomer and palatines.

         Commercial importance in the United States: Rarely mentioned on aquarist-oriented websites and probably of little or no importance in the domestic aquarium fish trade. No information on its past availability in live-food fish markets.

         Commercial importance in native range: Ng and Lim (1990) listed this species as the third most highly prized food fish in southeastern Asia, where channids bring S$10-20/kg when fresh. Only Channa micropeltes and C. striata are more popular in livefood fish markets. It is also sold in the Singapore aquarium fish trade (Ng and Lim, 1990). It is sold fresh, frequently alive, in Cambodia (Rainboth, 1996).

         Environmental concerns: This species is known to be a nocturnal thrust predator, with a preference for other fishes. Its natural range includes tropical and subtropical climate zones, indicating that if introduced, this species could establish only in similar climates or thermal springs and their outflows.

         Comments: The diploid number of chromosomes of Channa lucius is 48 (Donsakul and Magtoon, 1991).

Distribution of Channa lucius - click to enlarge


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