Channa pulchra

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Stefan van der Voort explains how to keep and breed the recently discovered snakehead Channa pulchra.

Scientific name: Channa pulchra, Britz 2008

Origin: Kyeintali Chaung, southern Rakhine State, Myanmar.

Size: Unconfirmed as this is a new species. Believed to reach 20-25cm/8-10.

Water: Channa pulchra prefers water with a pH around 6.5 although it s very likely they can handle values above 7 and below 6 just as well, knowing Myanmar s water composition, although, to my knowledge, pH levels below 6 cannot be found in Myanmar

The GH is usually fairly low in Myanmar (around 3-4) and again here it s also probable they won t mind higher values. Keep the water temperature fairly low: 20-22C/68-72F will do nicely. If the summer warms it a bit to 25C-77F or a bit more that s no problem as it occurs in nature too.

Aquarium: A large tank is required since Channa simply need a lot of space. A 100 x 45 x 45cm/39 X 18 X 18 tank or larger will do just nicely. Channa tend to be aggressive to one another. However, German expert Pascal Antler explains how he keeps around ten of them in the same tank. This prevents the fish from forming territories and so lowers the general aggression level.

Adding a small layer of gravel on the bottom would be a good idea, as is adding several plants, pieces of wood, plant pots and PVC pipes so the fish can hide whenever they feel the need to.

Diet: They appreciate Tetra Doromin, earthworms, shrimp, mosquito larvae and probably much more as long as it fits their mouths. This is one of the reasons, the other being aggression, not to keep other fish with it as there s a big chance they ll be considered food.

Breeding: Several fishkeepers in the UK and Germany have now bred this fish. According to Pascal Antler, they are non-mouthbrooding cave breeders. The male collect the floating eggs from the surface and puts them in his cave, where they also float atop but can be easily protected.

Notes: Channa are great jumpers, so keeping the lid tight at all times is extremely important, or you will find them on the floor! They manage to escape out of the most unimaginable, tiniest holes.

In addition; the spots in the dorsal fin and marking on the body are completely random and do not form a way to differentiate sexes.

Adult colouration: They have a grayish body colour speckled with numerous black dots and orange patches. The head is also speckled with the same black dots, but lacks the orange patches.

The pectoral fins usually have four semicircular white bands. The dorsal fin possesses one or more anterior black blotches. In rare cases, they may be absent as well.

Availability: Channa pulchra is becoming more widely available and several UK shops already have them listed. Also keep a lookout for the other new Channa species; C. ornatipinnis.

Price:They are now available at different shops for different prices ranging from 20 - 40 depending on size.

This article was first published in the September 2008 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission. Picture by Colin Dunlop.