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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Black Snakehead

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5


Order : Perciformes
Species : Channa melasoma
Maximum Length : 30 cm

The Black Snakehead typically inhabits slow-flowing or sluggish tropical rivers and small streams in freshwater swamp habitat. By day it  lies concealed amongst leaf litter or submerged tree roots, making occasional forays into open water. By night it becomes more active.

Its body colour is quite variable, ranging from pale brown to dark brown, greenish brown or almost black. Some specimens possess a series of dark bars on the upper flanks.

Its body shape is typically slender and streamlined, and the dorsal and anal fins are long, extending to the tail fin. The dorsal, anal and tail fins are edged with white. The eyes are sometimes jet black.

Its diet is carnivorous and includes a variety of freshwater vertebrates and invertebrates.

The species occurs in the Mekong River Basin of Thailand, and possibly Laos and Cambodia,  through Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore to the Philippines and Borneo.

Fig 1 : A 20 cm specimen in a rocky stream which feeds into freshwater swamp forest, at Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 2 : The specimen shown in Figure 1 was found in this rocky pool at the base of a small waterfall : downstream is freshwater swamp forest.

Fig 3 : A dark, 25 cm specimen from Bukit Timah, Singapore.

Fig 4 : Specimen in a sandy stream in freshwater swamp forest habitat, Singapore.

Fig 5 : A 25 cm adult lurks in a muddy pool surrounded by its newly hatched fry.

References : F1, H10