Great/Giant snakehead: Channa marulius
Great/Giant snakehead: Channa marulius

Systematic position
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fishes)
Order: Perciformes (Perches)
Suborder: Channoidei (Ophiocephaliformes)
Family: Channidae (Snakeheads)
Genus: Channa
Species: C. marulius

Common/local names
English: Giant snakehead and Great snakehead
Bangladesh: Gajar (গজার), Gajal (গজাল) and Sal (সাল)
India: Haal (Assam); Sal, Gajal (West Bengal); Pumurl, Bhor (Bihar); Kubrah, Sawal, Dowlah (Punjab); Saal (Orissa); Poomenu, Phoola-chapa, phool-mural (Andhra Pradesh); Aviri, Puveral (Tamil Nadu); CHaeru-veraal, Curuva, Bral (Kerala); Hoovina-murl, Madinji and Aviu (Karnataka) (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991).

Channa marulia (Hamilton, 1822)
Channa marulius ara (Deraniyagala, 1945)
Ophicephalus grandinosus Cuvier, 1831
Ophicephalus leucopunctatus Sykes, 1839
Ophicephalus marulius
Hamilton, 1822
Ophicephalus marulius ara Deraniyagala, 1945
Ophicephalus sowara Cuvier, 1831
Ophiocephalus aurolineatus Day, 1870
Ophiocephalus grandinosus Cuvier, 1831
Ophiocephalus marulius ara Deraniyagala, 1945
Ophiocephalus pseudomarulius Günther, 1861
Ophiocephalus theophrasti Valenciennes, 1840

Distributions: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and China (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991).

Conservation status: Endangered in Bangladesh due to loss of habitats and killing in order to save cultured fish (IUCN Bangladesh, 2000).

Morphology: Body elongate and almost rounded or cylindrical in cross section. Mouth large and eyes moderate. Pectoral fin is about half of head length but pelvic fin about 75% of pectoral fin length. Caudal fin rounded. Body covered with moderate size scales. 60-70 (Bhuiyan, 1964; Talwar and Jhingran, 1991); 54-65 (Rahman, 1989 and 2005; IUCN Bangladesh, 2000) scales on lateral line. Head scales larger than body.

Color of the body varies with age and habitat. In life, black grey or greyish-green on lateral line. Young have an orange band along the middle line of the sides. 4-5 large black blotches appear in mature forms of which reddish tinge below lateral line between blotches. Its body distinct with white spots which is scattered on body and fins.

Head 3.3-3.7 in standard, 3.7-4.3 in total length. Height 6.0-6.5 in standard and 7.0-7.3 in total length. Eye 5.0-7.0; snout 1.5; interorbital 1.5-2.0 (Rahman, 1989).

Fin formula:
D. 45-55; A. 26-36; P. 17-19; V. 6; C. 14-15 (Bhuiyan, 1964; Shafi and Quddus, 2001)
D. 49-55; P1. 17-19; P2. 6; A. 28-35 (Rahman, 1989 and 2005; IUCN Bangladesh, 2000).
D 45-55; A 28-36; P 16-18; V 6 (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991).

Maximum lengths: 120 cm (Rahman, 1989 and 2005; IUCN Bangladesh, 2000; Shafi and Quddus, 2001) and 180 cm (about 30 kg) (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991).

Food and feeding: Carnivorous, surface dweller and predatory; feeds on small fishes, frogs and tadpoles (IUCN Bangladesh, 2000).

Spawning: Breeds between April and June by building floating nest made of weeds and leaves; parents guard the fry for about one month (IUCN Bangladesh, 2000). Eggs are orange-yellow colored which hatched in 36-48 hours (IUCN Bangladesh, 2000). Diameter of egg is 2 mm (IUCN Bangladesh, 2000); 1.5-1.7 mm (Shafi and Quddus, 2001).

Habitats: Inhabits large lakes and rivers; prefers deep, clear stretches of water with sandy or rocky bottom (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991). Found in rivers, streams, deep water of beels, ponds and depression of rivers (Bhuiyan, 1964). Recorded from the Chalan beel (Galib et al., 2009).

Fishery info: Used as food fish in Bangladesh. Good sporting fish (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991).



Bhuiyan AL (1964) Fishes of Dacca, Asiat. Soc. Pakistan, Pub. 1, No. 13, Dacca, pp. 90-91.

Cuvier G and Valenciennes A (1840) Histoire naturelle des poissons. Tome quatorzième. Suite du livre seizième. Labroïdes. Livre dix-septième. Des Malacoptérygiens. Histoire naturelle des poissons. 14: i-xxii + 2 pp. + 1-464 + 4 pp., Pls. 389-420.

Cuvier G and Valenciennes A (1831) Histoire naturelle des poissons. Tome septième. Livre septième. Des Squamipennes. Livre huitième. Des poissons à pharyngiens labyrinthiformes. Histoire naturelle des poissons. 7: i-xxix + 1-531, Pls. 170-208.

Day F (1870) Remarks on some of the Fishes in the Calcutta Museum.–Part I. Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London 1869(3): 511-527.

Deraniyagala PEP (1945) A new subspecies among some ophicephalids of Ceylon and India. Spolia Zeylanica 24(2): 93.

Galib SM, Samad MA, Mohsin ABM, Flowra FA and Alam MT (2009) Present Status of Fishes in the Chalan Beel- the Largest Beel (Wetland) of Bangladesh, Int. J. Ani. Fish. Sci. 2(3):214-218.

Günther A (1861) Catalogue of the fishes in the British Museum. Catalogue of the acanthopterygian fishes in the collection of the British Museum. 3. Gobiidae, Discoboli, Pediculati, Blenniidae, Labyrinthici, Mugilidae, Notacanthi. London. Catalogue of the fishes in the British Museum. 3: i-xxv + 1-586 + i-x.

Hamilton F (1822) An account of the fishes found in the river Ganges and its branches. Edinburgh & London. An account of the fishes found in the river Ganges and its branches.: i-vii + 1-405, Pls. 1-39.

IUCN Bangladesh (2000) Red book of threatened fishes of Bangladesh, IUCN- The world conservation union. xii+116 pp.

Rahman AKA (1989) Freshwater Fishes of Bangladesh, 1st edition, Zoological Society of Bangladesh, Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, pp. 66-67.

Rahman AKA (2005) Freshwater Fishes of Bangladesh, 2nd edition, Zoological Society of Bangladesh, Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka, Dhaka-1000, pp. 81-82.

Shafi M and Quddus MMA. 2001. Bangladesher Matsho Shampad (Fisheries of Bangladesh) (in Bengali), Kabir publication. Dhaka, Bangladesh. pp. 254-255.

Talwar PK and Jhingran AG (1991) Inland Fishes of India and Adjacent Countries, Vol. 2, Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi-Calcutta, pp. 1017-1018.


Visited 7,593 times, 1 visits today | Have any fisheries relevant question?
Great snakehead, Channa marulius (Hamilton, 1822)

Visitors' Opinions

Tagged on:                         

Md. Foyzul Hassan Fahad

Student, Department of Fisheries, University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi-6205, Bangladesh. More...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.