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Parachanna insignis (Sauvage, 1884)
Congo Snakehead

Parachanna insignis - Congo Snakehead - click to enlarge

After Sauvage, 1884

Parachanna insignis - Congo Snakehead - click to enlarge

After Boulenger, 1916

Original description: Ophiocephalus insignis Sauvage, 1884:195, pl. 5, fig. 3. Notes sur des poissons de Franceville, Haut Ogooue. Bull. Soc. Zool. France 90, 1884:193-198. Type locality: upper Ogooue River, Gabon. Syntypes: MNHN 1844-0301 to 0305.

Synonyms: Ophiocephalus obscurus Poll, 1942.
                   Parophiocephalus insignis Daget and Stauch, 1963.
                   Ophiocephalus obscurus Matthes, 1964.

Common names: Congo snakehead; light African snakehead; ifofoli (juvenile; Zaire), foli (adult; Zaire).

         Native range: Ogooue River basin, Gabon; Zaire River basin, Congo and Zaire. Bonou and Teugels (1985) recorded this species from above Boyoma (Stanley) Falls in the Lualaba (Congo) River. Guy Teugels (personal commun., 2002) stated that he doubted this distribution to be the result of an introduction into the upper Lualaba.

         Introduced range: No introductions known.

         Size: To about 45 cm.

         Habitat preference: Bonou and Teugels (1985) noted that no specific studies of the biology of this species had been undertaken. General information indicates this snakehead occupies creeks, rivers, lakes, and lagoons, and sometimes in deep waters in calm areas.

         Temperature preference: No specific information. Nevertheless, the native range of this species is equatorial/tropical.

         Reproductive habits: Gosse (1963) commented that little is known of the reproduction of this snakehead. Nevertheless, he had observed juveniles (“de 30 a 40 mm”) in groups, guarded by a large adult. He misidentified this species as Ophiocephalus obscurus in central Zaire.

         Feeding habits: Gosse (1963) described this species as “un ichthyophage typique.” He noted that stomach contents of nine specimens contained primarily fishes (Pelmatochromis, Tilapia, Hemichromis, Xenomystus, cyprinodonts and fish remains).

         Characters: Patch of scales present in gular region. No canine teeth on prevomer or palatines. Scales in a transverse line 25-33 with 7-10 above the lateral line and 16-22 below; lateral line scales 73-86. Dorsal fin rays 40-44; anal fin rays 27-31. Head slightly depressed anteriorly and covered with large scales. Lower jaw longer than upper jaw with 4-5 well-developed canine teeth on each side. Lateral line complete. Coloration is distinct among African channids in that there are chevron-shaped bars across the middle of the back that extend up onto the dorsal fin; central area of sides contain 4-5 dark blotches that are distinct from each other; lateral line passes through these blotches. Dark stripe on side of head extending from posterior rim of orbit to upper part of operculum.

         Commercial importance in the United States: Rarely listed on aquarist-oriented websites. Unavailable in live-food fish markets.

         Commercial importance in native range: No specific information, but probably available in live-food fish markets in the Congo basin.

         Environmental concerns: Likely a thrust predator showing a preference for fishes. If introduced, it could probably survive only in tropical/subtropical conditions.

Distribution of Parachanna insignis - click to enlarge


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