Channa striataPongee

Geographic Range

Channa striata is native to east and southeast Asia. It is found from the Indus drainage in Pakistan east through India, Sri Lanka, southern Nepal, possibly Bhutan, Bangladesh, southern China, and all the nations of southeast Asia. It is also native to the major western islands of the Malay Archipelago, including Sumatra, Borneo, and Java. The species has been introduced to the eastern islands of Indonesia, including the Philippines, and to New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Fiji. It is also reported to have been introduced to South Korea and southeastern Russia. There are or were introduced populations on Oahu in Hawaii and on Madagascar, but according to the USGS report of 2004, the identification of these populations has been questioned, they may be or have been populations of Channa maculata, not Channa striata. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Musikasinthorn, 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; War, et al., 2011)


Channa striata occurs mainly in shallow freshwater habitats, typically at depths of 1-2 m, rarely below 10 meters. This species can be found in most types of slow-moving freshwater habitat, including rivers, lakes, ponds, canals, creeks, flooded rice paddies, irrigation reservoirs, and swamps. Compared to most freshwater fish it is quite tolerant of turbid conditions and low oxygen levels. In regions with rainy and dry seasons, these fish may migrate out from permanent lakes and streams into flooded areas during the rainy season, and then return to permanent waters as the flooded areas dry. ("Invasive species program-snakeheads, aquatic invaders", 2004; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Cagauan, 2007; Musikasinthorn, 2004; Muthmainnah, 2013; Phen, et al., 2004)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • Range depth
    1 to 10 m
    3.28 to 32.81 ft

Physical Description

The striped snakehead has a long body characterized with dark black-brown on the upper section of its body, and bands of a white on its belly. The striped snakehead can reach lengths up to 90cm and up to 3 kg - growth studies report they reach an average body mass is reported as 60g by 12 weeks past the fingerling stage. The female striped snakehead is larger than the male. As juveniles, the striped snakehead has a tan coloring with dark brown stripes. Striped snakeheads have a long dorsal fin, a pectoral fin, a pelvic fin that is almost directly under the pectoral fin, and a long anal fin. They also have large mouths with sharp visible teeth with 4-7 canines, located on the bottom row of their mouths. Species in the family Channidae have relatively wide heads with large scales that have been compared to that of snakes, which is why they were given their name "snakeheads." ("Invasive species program-snakeheads, aquatic invaders", 2004; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Musikasinthorn, 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Reddy and Rao, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    3 (high) kg
    6.61 (high) lb
  • Range length
    90 (high) cm
    35.43 (high) in
  • Average length
    60 cm
    23.62 in


An experiment by Yaakob and Ali (1992) observed the development of the striped snakehead. In the study, 20 individuals were placed in concrete tanks to observe the number of offspring produced. After spawning, the eggs floated to the top of the tank because they contained high amounts of lipids. After 1 to 2 hours, the fertilized pale yellow eggs developed a black spot in the center, while the unfertilized eggs turned white. Next the fertilized eggs hatched after 1 day, and the larvae were described as having dark pigmentation. Finally after 10 days post-hatching the larvae gradually turned orange and became more independent. Once the larvae began to stray away from their school, the parents were removed from the tank to prevent cannibalism. (Yaakob and Ali, 1992)


The striped snakehead is mainly a solitary fish except during spawning season. In its native habitat, spawning occurs June through August (southwest monsoon) and October through December (northeast monsoon). The striped snakehead is a monogamous fish, because it keeps the same mate throughout the year. Although there are no published reports on mating behaviors in the wild, the mating behaviors of this species were observed in a captive study by Marimuthu et al. (2013). To induce mating behaviors the fish were injected with hormones (pituitary extract HCG). In the beginning of the study two males were placed in one tank with a female. Next, of the two males, the active male moved below the female, facing in the opposite direction, which then led to the pair making slow upward and downward motions. This was estimated to take place at 10 to 20cm below the surface. The male and female jumped frequently above the water surface and out of the breeding tank to estimated heights of 30 to 90cm. It was also found in the study that the males are very involved in the courtship of the females. They exhibit this activity by hitting the snout and the vent of the female frequently, while gametes are being released. Also in the study, one of the males placed in the tank with the female is exiled during courtship so that they are not disturbed. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Marimuthu, et al., 2001)

The striped snakehead reproduces up to two times per year, during the periods of the southwest and the northeast monsoon in flooded rivers and ponds. During their spawning period, the striped snakehead can produce up to 4,000 eggs. Once the eggs have been produced, if vegetation is present, parents will use this to build a nest for the fertilized eggs. An experiment by Yaakob and Ali (1992) observed the development of the striped snakehead in captivity. In part of the experiment the mating pair were given a hormone to induce mating. The offspring of the mating pair hatched within 28 hours and achieved sexual maturity in 35 days. This occurred around the time that they became independent and were separated by their parents. (War, et al., 2011; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Devaraj, 1975; Marimuthu, et al., 2001; Phen, et al., 2004; War, et al., 2011; Yaakob and Ali, 1992)

  • Breeding interval
    2 times per year
  • Breeding season
    June-August and October-December
  • Range number of offspring
    1000 to 4000
  • Average time to hatching
    28 hours
  • Average time to independence
    35 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    35 days

Parental investment is an important part of spawning and reproduction in the striped snakehead. From the point of fertilization until the time the young reach the fingerling stage (15-20cm), the striped snakehead behaves aggressively to protect their young. Both parents participate in caring for their young, but there is always one parent who guards the eggs at all times. It is unknown which parent guards the eggs more often. Although the striped snakehead invests a great amount of care for their young when food becomes scarce the parents will eat their young in order to survive. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Marimuthu, et al., 2001)


There is not enough information or research completed to know the lifespan of the striped snakehead. Studies of the related species Channa argus (northern snakehead) report lifespans in the wild to be 7 years or more. (Landis, et al., 2011)


Channa striata is a solitary, territorial fish. Some populations migrate between permanent waters and flooded areas created by seasonal rains. These fish are capable of limited movement overland by the use of a wriggling motion, which they use to disperse to new bodies of water on rainy nights. When the striped snakehead is unable to relocate from drying habitats during dry season, they can survive by burrowing in the bottom of mud lakes, canals, and swamps to keep their skin and breathing apparatus moist. The striped snakehead can breath air from the surface of the water, and so is able to survive in waters that have low levels of oxygen. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991)

Home Range

No information could be found concerning the home range of the striped snakehead. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Sayer and Davenport, 1991)

Communication and Perception

Channa striata have eyes and can see, but given the turbid habitats they live in, they may also use other senses to find prey and mates. Like all fish they can detect chemicals in the water, and like many ray-finned fishes they have a lateral line system that detects small changes in water pressure that allow that give them awareness of objects moving in the water around them. They may locate potential mates with pheromones or other chemical signals, but this has not been documented. (Musikasinthorn, 2004)

Food Habits

Channa striata is a predacious, ambush feeding fish that has a carnivorous - specifically piscivorous - diet. It is a generalist species that preys on any available source of food that is attainable. As young fish, also known as a fry, the striped snakehead hunts in groups with their main source of food being zooplankton and small insects. Once the young fry become adults, they begin to hunt on their own, feeding on other adult fish, and the progeny of those fish. They can also feed on frogs, snakes, insects, earthworms, tadpoles, birds, small mammals, and crustaceans. When food sources become limited, adult snakeheads may feed on young of their own species. ("Invasive species program-snakeheads, aquatic invaders", 2004; "Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Cagauan, 2007; Musikasinthorn, 2004; Phen, et al., 2004; Reddy and Rao, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • fish
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • zooplankton


No specific information could be found on species that prey on striped snakehead except for humans Homo sapiens. It is likely that any large fish-eating predator in their habitats might prey on them, such as larger fish, birds, crocodilians, turtles, otters, etc. Channa eggs and fry are small enough to be attacked by aquatic invertebrate predators too, such as dragonfly nymphs (Odonata) or predaceous diving bugs (Belostomatidae), if not protected by their parent.

The coloration pattern of these fish is probably cryptic, but this has not been shown experimentally. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Channa striata is host to a number of parasite species. One of special concern is the nematode Gnathostoma spinigerum. This roundworm uses the striped snakehead as a intermediate host. Larvae of G. spinigerum infect copepods that are an important food source for juvenile snakeheads. The larval nematodes survive consumption by the fish, and encyst in fish tissues, particularly muscles. If uncooked snakeheads are consumed by humans, the larvae will also survive and migrate through tissues. The definitive host for these worms are canines and felines. Only in the stomach of one of these mammal species can the worm mature and reproduce. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Tseng, 2003)

Commensal/Parasitic Species

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The striped snakehead is cultivated to be an important food source for India, southeastern Asia, China, and parts of Africa. Due to its availability and affordability, the striped snakehead is a suitable food source of all economic classes. In some communities striped snakehead is also used for traditional medicinal purposes. It is believed that consumption of the striped snakehead provides healing powers, because of its ability to live out of water for several days as long as their skin stays moist. Some cultures use snakehead muscle tissue and oils to heal wounds, prevent scarring, and administer it to those recovering from surgery or sickness. Additionally, the striped snakehead is used as an aquarium fish and to control densities of Nile tilapia Oreochromis niloticus. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Despite the economic importance of the striped snakehead as a source of food consuming the fish can be risky. The striped snakehead is a host for a parasitic nematode, Gnathostoma spinigerum, which can be contracted if meat is not properly prepared. In humans, it can cause gnathostomiasis, a disease that can be lethal if untreated. An additional negative effect that could caused by the presence of exotic striped snakehead introduced outside their native range is ecological damage to native fisheries. ("Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment", 2004; Tseng, 2003)

  • Negative Impacts
  • injures humans
    • carries human disease

Conservation Status

Currently, the striped snakehead has a conservation status of "least concern," meaning that there is not an immediate need for conservation strategies. However, there are still various unknown factors concerning the genetic status of this species, and it's been suggested that the current species is actually a group of several species. Therefore, further genetic research must be completed to gain knowledge of the species (or multiple species) before its conservation status can be updated. (Chaudhry, 2010)


Kirsten Martin (author), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, George Hammond (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.


Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


an animal that mainly eats fish

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)


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Bindoo, M., C. Aravindan. 1992. Influence of size and level of satiation on prey handling time in Channa striata (Bloch). Journal of Fish Biology, 40: 497-502.

Cagauan, A. 2007. Exotic aquatic species introduction in the Philippines for aquaculture- A threat to biodiversity or a boon to the economy?. Journal of Environmental Science and Management, 10/1: 48-62.

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Landis, A., N. Lapointe, P. Angermeier. 2011. Individual growth and reproductive behavior in a newly established population of northern snakehead (Channa argus). Hydrobiologia, 661: 123-131.

Landis, A., N. Lapointe. 2010. First record of a northern snakehead (Channa argus Cantor) nest in Northern America. Northeastern Naturalist, 17/2: 325-332.

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Odenkirk, J., C. Lim, S. Owens, M. Isel. 2013. Insight into age and growth of northern snakehead in Potomac River. North American Journal of Fisheries Management, 33/4: 773-776.

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