Channa sp. Kerala Five Stripe

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Ulrich Alfasser looks at a new snakehead being sold under the trade name Channa sp. Marble in the UK shops.

Scientific name: Channa sp. 'Kerala five stripe'

Origin: Lowlands and the foothills of the Himalayas.

Size: Up to 20cm/8".

Water: They are subtropical and need to be kept at room temperature during the winter. Exact water chemistry requirements aren't known but do not appear to be critical.

Diet: Nothing specific is known, but the fish take the usual frozen foods used for predatory fish.

Aquarium: A group or pair should be provided with a heavily structured and planted tank of no less than 120cm/48".

Sexing: The presence of a larger, thicker, white edge to the dorsal and anal fins is usually (but not always) an indication of a male. If the mood is right, the anal and dorsal fin of males usually turn deep blue. My males show this very well.

Breeding: The fish are paternal mouthbrooders and have been bred in Germany. The spawning was not observed, but the fish were kept in lukewarm water of just 20C/68F.

Identification: You can't mistake these fish for anything else. Keralas are a marbled grey, with five stripes on their sides starting at the dorsal and slanting forward towards the lateral line where they meet a broken band, running from the eye to the dorsal. The pectorals have five orange stripes. The dorsal and anal have a white edge and may be blue in males, depending on their mood.

Notes: The fish have been imported as Channa sp. 'Marble' but are widely known as Channa sp. 'Kerala five stripe' in Germany and Europe. As a new and so far undescribed species, not much is known about its habitat and natural food source. All the information so far comes from the German IGL (German Anabantoid Association), where several members have bred the fish successfully.

Availability: It may be the first time this species has been imported. These were seen at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Harlestone Heath. With all snakeheads, imports are seasonal.

Price: Expect to pay between 20 and 30 for a 15cm/6" fish depending on availability. These fish have now been sold, but more may be available later.

This article was first published in the June 2004 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine.