Striped spiny eel: Mastacembelus pancalus
Striped spiny eel: Mastacembelus pancalus


Macrognathus pancalus: Hamilton, 1822.

Mastacembelus pancalus: Day, 1878; Day, 1889; Ahmad, N. 1943; Bhuiyan, 1964; Shaw and Shebbeare, 1937.


Common name: Striped spiny eel (English name).

Bangla name: Guchi, Turi, Chirka, Pankal.      


Taxonomic position:

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Osteichthyes

Order: Perciformes

Family: Mastacembelidae

Genus: Mastacembelus

Species: M. pancalus


Morphological description:

Eel like Body is slightly compressed and eyes are minute. Dorsal spines are short and commence over middle of pectoral fin. Pelvics are absent. Lateral line is complete. Scales are cycloid. Soft dorsal and anal usually separated from caudal which is rounded. In some cases anal or dorsal or both are conspicuously confluent. Soft part of anal is similar to soft part of dorsal, colour greenish, olive along back and yellowish beneath. Grayish white spots present on sides. Fins are yellowish with numerous black spots Rahman (2005) and Bhuiyan (1964).


Fin formula:

D. XXIV-XXVI/35-40, P1. 17-20, A. III/37-40.

D. 324-26/30-49, P1. 19, A. 3/31-46 (Bhuiyan, 1964).

D. 32-39/74-90, P1. 23, A. 3/75-88 (Shafi and Quddus, 1982).

D. XXIV-XXVI /35-37, P1. 19-20, A. III/37-40 (Rahman, 2005).

D. XXIV-XXVI 30-42, P1. 17-19, A. III 31-46 (Talwar and Jhingran, 2001).


Minimum and maximum value of scales number on the lateral line is 85 and 87 respectively. Minimum and maximum value of scales number above the lateral line is respectively 18 and 19. Minimum and maximum value of scales number below the lateral line is respectively 20 and 22. Scales number mentioned by Rahman (2005) is 18 scales above the lateral line.


Habit and habitat:

Freshwater and muddy parts of the small rivers, streams and canals are the main habitat of this fish. It usually feeds o Entomostracans and insect larvae. It is also herbivorous in habit (Bhuiyan, 1964). The food of M. pancalus is stated by Mookerjee, Sengupta  et. al. (1964) to include 50% algae, 13% scales of smaller cuor fishes, 37% mud and sands.


Breeding time:

It breeds in rainy season. The egg is non-floating, non-filamentous but adhesive in character. The egg is 2-2.5 mm. in diameter, round and light brown. This fish lays egg in masses, which lie among algal meshes, and the eggs are demersal (Bhuiyan, 1964; Talwar and Jhingran, 2001).


Economic importance:

This species is highly esteemed as food. Huda (1959) reported that the fleshy edible portion of its body contains 5.3% fat and 74.2% water.


Ecological role:

Bottom dwellers and it takes algae, scales of smaller fish, mud and sands. In winter season, the fish hibernates for longer or shorter periods (Karim, et al. 1972).


Marketing status:

Serve as food fish, and marketed fresh or dried. Retail price of fresh fish is usually between 90-160 Tk/kg.



Ahmad, N. 1943. “Fauna of Lahore. 5 Fishes of Lahore”. Bull. Dep. Zool Punjub Univ. Lahore. p. 357.

Bhuiyan, A.L. 1964. Fishes of Dacca. Asiatic Soc. Pakistan, Publ. No. 13, Dacca. pp. 115-116.

Day, F. 1878. Fishes of India. William Dowson and sons., London. p. 340.

Day, F. 1889. Fishes. Fauna. Brit. India. William Dowson and sons., London. 1-2: p. 249.

Hamilton, F. 1822. Fishes of the Ganges. Archibald constable and company, Edinburgh. p. 3.

Huda, A.K.M. 1959.“Further observation on the fat content of East Pakistan fishes.” Proc. conf. Fish. Officers, Govt. of East Pakistan. pp. 57-58.

Karim, M.A. and Hossain, A. 1972. “Studies on the Biology of Mastacembelus pancalus (Spiny eel, Hamilton) in artificial ponds, part-II. Sexual maturity and Fecundity.” Bangladesh Journ. Biol. Agri. Sci. 1(2): pp. 15-18.

Mookerjee, H.K., Sengupta, S.N. and Roy Chowdhury, D.N., 1946. “Food and its percentage composition of the common adult food fishes of Bengal.” Sci. and Cult. Calcutta. 12(7): p. 247 .

Rahman, A.K.A. 2005. Freshwater Fishes of Bangladesh. The Zoological Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka. pp. 263-264.

Shafi, M. and Quddus, M.M.A. 1982. Bangladesher Matshya Sampad (in Bengali). Bangla academy, Dhaka. pp. 314-319.

Shaw, G.E. and Shebbeare, E.O. 1937. Fishes of Northern Bengal. J. Royal Asiat. Soc. Bengal Science. p. 126.

Talwar, P.K. and Jhingran, A.G. 2001. Inland Fishes of India and Adjacent countries. Oxford and IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi. 2: pp. 1027-1028.

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Striped spiny eel: Mastacembelus pancalus

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