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Channa pleurophthalma (Bleeker, 1851)
Ocellated Snakehead

Channa pleurophthalma - Ocellated Snakehead - click to enlarge

After Bleeker, 1878

Original description: Ophicephalus pleurophthalmus Bleeker, 1851:270. Nieuwe bijdrage tot de kennis der ichthyologische fauna van Borneo mit beschrijving van eenige nieuwe soorten van zoetwatervisschen. Natuurkd. Tijdschr. Neder. Indie 1:259-275. Type locality: Bandjarmasin, Borneo, Indonesia. Syntype and/or Bleeker specimen: BMNH 1880.4.21.123.

Synonyms: Ophicephalus urophthalmus Bleeker, 1852:578.
                   Ophicephalus spiritalis Fowler, 1904:530, pl. 9, fide Roberts, 1989:170.

Common names: ocellated snakehead; eyespot snakehead; kerandana (Kalimantan).

         Native range: Padang (?) and rivers (Hari and Musi basins) of southeastern Sumatra; Kapuas and Barito basins of Kalimantan (southern and southwestern Borneo; Roberts, 1989; Kottelat and others, 1993). Absent from peninsular Malaysia (Ng and Lim, 1990).

         Introduced range: Introductions unknown.

         Size: To 40 cm.

         Habitat preferences: No information found, but probably a riverine species.

         Temperature range: No information found. Nevertheless, native range is equatorial, indicating a solely tropical species.

         Reproductive habits: No information found, but likely a nest builder as are most other snakeheads.

         Feeding habits: No specific information, but likely a predator as are other snakeheads.

         Characters: Patch of scales on gular part of head. Dorsal fin with 40-43 rays; anal fin with 28-31 rays. Lateral line scales 57-58; scale rows between lateral line and anterior base of dorsal fin 51/2. Single row of canine-like teeth on prevomer; single row of small teeth and single row of 4-5 canines on palatines. Four to five prominent ocelli on sides of body, anteriormost ocellus on opercula, usually 3 to 4 on body (Kottelat and others, 1993).

         Commercial importance in the United States: Often listed on aquarist-oriented websites. This species has attractive markings (red to yellow ocelli) on the body that has made it of interest to aquarists. Ng and Lim (1990) indicated it to be among the two highest-priced aquarium fishes. Not known for sale in live-food fish markets.

         Commercial importance in native range: Kottelat and others (1993) indicated Channa pleurophthalma as an important food fish in Indonesia and Sumatra. Lee and Ng (1991) noted that it is sold in markets of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Dudley (2000) reported it in the fishery of Danau Sentarum Wildlife Reserve, Kapuas River, Kalimantan.

         Environmental concerns: Ng and Lim (1990) stated that the aquarium fish trade is growing in Indonesia and Malaysia, indicating that this species, among others, may have become more readily available for sale in the U.S. Like other snakeheads, this species is probably a thrust predator. Nevertheless, it is an equatorial species that could probably survive in very few waters (thermal springs, perhaps extreme southern peninsular Florida, and Hawaii) if introduced into the U.S.

Distribution of Channa pleurophthalma - click to enlarge


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