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Channa marulioides (Bleeker, 1851)
Emperor Snakehead

Channa marulioides - Emperor Snakehead - click to enlarge

    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. Adult; photo by J. Vierke.

Channa marulioides - Emperor Snakehead - click to enlarge

After Bleeker, 1878

Original description: Ophicephalus marulioides Bleeker, 1851:424. Vijfde bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van Borneo, met bescrijving van eeinige nieuwe soorten van zoetwatervisschen. Natuurkd. Tijdschr. Neder. Indi 2:415-442. Type locality: Sambas, Kalimantan (southern Borneo), Indonesia. Whereabouts of holotype unknown.

Synonyms: No known synonyms (Roberts, 1989; Ng and Lim, 1990).

Common names: emperor snakehead; darkfin snakehead; ikan jaloi (Malay); toman bunga (=flower snakehead; Malaysia).

Channa marulioides, caught and released from jungle of Perak State, Malaysia, January 2003. Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Helias, Fishing Adventures Thailand. - click to enlarge Channa marulioides, caught and released from jungle of Perak State, Malaysia, January 2003. Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Helias, Fishing Adventures Thailand. - click to enlarge

         Native range: Rivers (Musi, Hari, Indragiri, and others) of southeastern Sumatra; Kapuas basin of western Kalimantan (southern Borneo; Roberts, 1989, Kottelat, 1994); Bangka (Banka) and Belitung (Billiton) (Roberts, 1989). Peter Ng (personal commun., 2003) collected this species in Samarinda, eastern Kalimantan, in November 1999. In peninsular Malaysia, occurring mostly toward the center of the peninsula in Pahang (Lee and Ng, 1994). Often confused with Channa melanoptera (Lee and Ng, 1994). Also recorded from southern Thailand (Malay Peninsula) by Herre and Myers (1937) and reported as the only record from that country (Smith, 1945). Kottelat and others (1993) did not list Thailand within its native range, although it is possible that its range extends northward into extreme southern Thailand. Ismail (1989) included Thailand within native range but added that the species was “quite rare” in peninsular Malaysia.

         Introduced range: No introductions known.

         Size: To 65 cm (Lee and Ng, 1994).

         Habitat preference: A riverine species (Kottelat, 1994), also found in lakes, appearing to be an inland species (Lee and Ng, 1994).

         Temperature range: No specific information found. The native range is equatorial/tropical.

         Reproductive habits: No specific information found. Likely a nest builder with adults guarding fertilized eggs and larvae.

         Characters: No patch of scales on gular region of head. Dorsal fin rays 45-47; anal fin rays 30-31. Lateral line scales 55-58; predorsal scales 13-15. Scales between lateral line and anterior rays of dorsal fin 31/2. Lateral line curves downward abruptly at lateral line scales 17-20. Preopercular scales 5-7. No canines on prevomer or palatines (Smith, 1945; Kottelat and others, 1993). These characters overlap those of Channa melanoptera. Lee and Ng (1994) stated that the only way to separate these two species is by coloration. Channa marulioides possesses an ocellated spot on the upper part of the caudal fin base, similar to that in C. marulius. In live specimens, the margin of the ocellus is orange; the margin appears white in preserved specimens. Channa marulioides often has a series of dark patches of scales, the posterior and posterodorsal scales each margined by white, along the sides of the body, a character that is absent in C. melanoptera (Kottelat and others, 1993; Lee and Ng, 1991, 1994) and C. marulius, and may disappear with growth. The iris of the eye is orange or red as in C. marulius.

         Commercial importance in the United States: Rarely mentioned in aquarist-oriented websites. This species is colorful and has perhaps been found periodically for sale in the aquarium fish trade. Not known from live-food fish markets.

         Commercial importance in native range: Ng and Lim (1990) stated that this snakehead is sold in the aquarium fish trade in Singapore, costing up to S$100 per individual. This market likely precludes this species as available in live-food fish markets as a food species.

         Environmental concerns: Likely a thrust predator. This is an equatorial/tropical species that, if introduced, might establish only in areas with a similar climate.

Distribution of Channa marulioides - click to enlarge


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