The fishes of India being a natural history of the fishes known to inhabit the seas and fresh waters of India, Birma, and Ceylon with descriptions of the sub-classes, orders, families, genera, and species

Francis Day

Table of Contents (ToC)

  1. Introductory text to this family
  2. Ophiocephalus, Bloch
  3. Ophiocephalus marulius, D. 45-55, A. 28-36, L.l. 60-70, L.tr. (4 1/2)/13 or (5 1/2)/13. Orange, banded, having white spots and a black light edged ocellus at root of caudal fin. Throughout India to China.
  4. Ophiocephalus leucopunctatus, D. 47-53, A. 28-35, L.l. 59-60, L.tr. (4 1/2)/13 or (5 1/2)/13. Orange, banded, having white spots, no caudal ocellus. Deccan and sea coasts of India to China.
  5. Ophiocephalus pseudomarulius, D. 52, A. 35, L.l. 64, L.tr. 6/14. Orange, banded, a black spot at base of caudal. India.
  6. Ophiocephalus barca, D. 47-52, A. 34-36, L.l. 60-65, L.tr. 5/13. Ventral 2/5 of length of pectoral. Dark violet, spotted, as are also teh fins. Large rivers of Bengal.
  7. Ophiocephalus micropeltes, D. 43-46, A. 27-30, L.l. 95-110, L.tr. 7/13. Young scarlet with two black bands, adults gray spotted with black. Wester cost of India to Siam and the Malay Archipelago.
  8. Ophiocephalus striatus, D. 37-45, A. 23-26, L.l. 50-57, L.tr. (4 1/2)/9 or (5 1/2)/10. Dark gray, passing in stripes into the white of the abdomen. India to China.
  9. Ophiocephalus stewartii, D. 39-40, A. 27, L.l. 47-50, L.tr. (4 1/2)/9. Ventrals 1/3 as long as pectoral. Purplish, spotted with black. Cachar and Assam.
  10. Ophiocephalus gachua, D. 32-37, A. 21-23, L.l. 40-45, L.tr. 3/7. Ventrals 2/5 as long as pectoral. Pectoral fin banded, vertical fins edged with red. India, Burma, Andamans.
  11. Ophiocephalus punctatus, D. 29-32, A. 21-23, L.l. 37-40, L.tr. (4-6)/9. Spotted or banded, vertical fins dark with light edge. India and Burma.
  12. Channa
  13. Channa orientalis, D. 34, A. 22, C. 14, L.l. 41, L.tr. (3 1/2 - 4 1/2)/(7-6). Dull green, with spots and a barred pectoral fin. Ceylon.

Family, XXXVII - Ophiocephalidae, Bleeker

Branchiostegals, five pseudobranchiae absent. Gills four. Body elongated, subcylindrical anteriorly: head depressed, having superiorly somewhat plate-like scales. Eyes lateral. Gill-openings wide, the membranes of the two sides being connected beneath the isthmus. A cavity exists above and accessory to the true, gill cavity, but although some thin bony laminae are present, no suprabranchial organ is developed. Teeth in the jaws, vomer, and palate, some of which may be conical. A single, long, spineless dorsal fin, and a Similarly Constructed though shorter anal. Ventrals thoracic ( Ophiocephalus ) or absent ( Channa ), when present consisting of six rays, the outer of which is unbranched and sometimes articulated at its extremity. Scales of large, moderate, or small size. Lateral-line abruptly curved or almost interrupted. Air-vessel present. Pyloric appendages, when present, few.

The Ophiocephalidae 1 having hollow cavities in their heads, and an amphibious mode of respiration, aye able to exist for lengthened periods out of their native element, and can travel some distance over the ground. especially when moist. Jugglers both in India and China, exhibit these, fishes walking on the land, and children amuse themselves by making them crawl along. «In China, they are of ten carried alive in pails of water and slices are cut for sale as wanted: the fish selling dear whilst it retains life, while what remains after death is considered as of little value.» 2

Owing to the breadth of their bodies, they are able to progress in a serpentine manner, chiefly by means of their pectoral and caudal fins, first one of the former being advanced and then its fellow. They are exceedingly difficult to retain in aquaria, unless the top is covered over, as otherwise they manage to escape and proceed on their travels.

The different species are somewhat difficult to distinguish from one another, owing to their similarity in colour, the change of livery according to age and locality, and the slight variation in the number of fin rays and scales. The young as a rule are of a more or less orange or scarlet colour, and light longitudinal bandsorange appear to be usually restricted to the immature. Those residing in brackish waters have a purplish tinge.

These fishes appear to be monogamous, some breeding in grassy swamps or the edges of tanks: some in wells or stone-margined receptacles for water: and others again in holes in the rivers' banks. The O. striatus in Mysore 3 is said to construct a nest with its tail amongst the vegetation near the edges of the tanks, whilst it bites off the ends of the weeds which grow in the water. Here the ova are deposited, the male keeping but should he be killed or captured, the vacant post is filled by his partner. When very young the fry of all these species keep with and are defended by their parents but is soon as they are sufficiently strong to capture prey for themselves, they are driven away to seek their own subsistence: those which are too obstinate to leave, being, it is believed, eaten by their progenitors.

The varieties which live in tanks and swamps delight in residing at their shallow and grassy edges, so that they can take in with ease their modicum of air for the purpose of breathing, or capture any frog that may incautiously venture too close to their lair.

These fishes appear to be well adapted for pisciculture, as some grow to a large size, whilst all are good eating. The smallest, O. gachua attains about a foot in length and the rives in almost any situation. They are, rather voracious, but appear to consider a frog, mouse, or rat as luscious a morsel as a fellow fish. They assist in keeping water pure by destroying either animal or vegetable substances which may come in their way.

As regards the facility with which these fishes may be conveyed long distances alive, good illustrations are afforded bythe following occurrence. On July 19th, 1866, I was bringing some of the O. gachua from the plains to the hills, and a cooly accidentally turned one out of the can of water at 5.55 p.m., when the temperature of the air was 69°, it was not discovered until 8.45 p.m., when the fish was found alive and well on the gravel walk outside the house. On another occasion I was conveying nine from Coonoor to Ooty in ail earthen vessel of water in which the temperature was 76°; the transit occupied from 12 a.m. to 4.45 p.m. during which period the water experienced a fall of 21° but the fish were not affected thereby. I carried one of these fish in a wet pocket handkerchief from Kullaar to Wellington, or an ascent of about 5000 feet, which took four hours in accomplishing, and it did not seem much the worse for its trip.

Judging from their habits in an aquarium some of the Ophiocephali prefer dirty to clean water, perhaps for purpose of concealment. When they have stirred up all the sediment and exuded a quantity of mucus they appear to be delighted, their colours become much more vivid, and they ascend to their favourite resort, lying amongst the vegetation just beneath the surface of the water. As soon as clean water is given them they become excited as if they imagined the time had arrived when they should change their abode.

Amongst the fish which I have personally seen exhumed from the mud where a tank had dried up, were some Ophiocephali, whilst they are also among the fish recorded by the natives of India as descending with the downpours of rain.

Geographical distribution - Fresh-water fishes distributed throughout India, Burma, Ceylon and the from elevated localities, mad the most inland districts, to within the influence of' the tides. They inhabit both ponds and rivers, and axe able to change their place of abode by traversing moist pieces of ground intervening between one piece of water and another. They possess an accessory cavity to the gills, and are able to respire direct from the atmosphere.

Uses - All these fishes are useful as food, those which inhabit rivers being better flavoured than the others which live in sluggish or stagnant water. Some classes however object to them on account of the resemblance their heads bear to those of serpents, ( see p. 346 ante ).

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Ophiocephalus, Bloch

Ventral fins present. Pyloric appendages two. Definition otherwise as in the family.

Although I have given nine species of Ophiocephalus as found in India, I am doubtful whether two, viz., O. leucopunctatus 4 and perhaps O. pseudomarulius might not be considered as varieties of O. marulius . 5

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Ophiocephalus marulius

B.v, D. 45 - 55, P. 18, V.6, A. 28 - 36, C. 14, L.l. 60 - 70, L. tr. (4 1/2 - 6 1/2 ) / (13 - 11) or (5 1/2 - 8 1/2 ) / (13 - 11).

Colour : Length of head from 4 to 5, of caudal 6 to 7 1/2 , height of body 7 to 7 1/2 in the total length. Eyes diameter 1/7 ( 1/5 in the young) of length of head, 1 to 1 1/2 diameters from end of snout, and also apart. The greatest width of the head equals 1/2 or 2/3 of its length, and its height equals 1/2 its length excluding the snout. The maxilla extends 1/2 diameter of the eye behind the orbit. Teeth - in numerous villiform rows in jaws, vomer, and palate, whilst a posterior row of about 12 large conical teeth exists on either ramus of the mandibles. Fins - dorsal and anal somewhat lowest anteriorly. Pectoral rather more than 1/2 as long as the head but not reaching to above origin of anal: ventral 2/3 as long as pectoral. Scales - about ten rows between the orbit and the angle of the preopercle. The plate-like ones on the summit of the head of moderate size: 16 rows between snout and base of dorsal fin: 10 between eye and angle of preopercle. Scales on the head are roughened by raised lines, which surround in all angular course a central spot, on the body the outer edge of the scales are smooth Lateral-line - first passes along 16 or 18 rows of scales, then descends for two rows, and subsequently passes direct to the centre of the caudal. Colours - vary both with age and the water they reside in. Back greyish green, the immature with a brilliant orange band pressing from the eye to the middle of the caudal fin, but in the more mature there are five or six cloudy bands descending to below the lateral-line: abdomen orange, the bases of each scale darkest: on the posterior third of the body, on the dorsal, anal and caudal fins are pearly-white spots, and there is generally a large black ocellus at the upper part of the base or first-third of the caudal fin, which latter is gray, ventrals orange.
Drawing of O. marulia by F. DayPlate 76, fig. 4: Drawing of O. marulia.

«In the lower parts of Bengal, the persons dedicated to religion, from some old prejudice, think it unlucky to say that it (O. marulius) is either good or bad. ( Ham. Buch. )

«Some of the Karens in Burma regard these fishes with superstitious awe, and abstain from eating them. They have a legend that they were formerly men, changed into fish for their sins, and the Karens of Tavoy say, 'if people eat them, they will be transformed into lions.'» : ( Mason )

Habitat - Fresh waters, principally rivers, from Ceylon and India to China: attaining as much as four feet in length. Colonel Puckle observes «that they are very savage, protecting their young with great boldness.» They take a live bait pretty well.

ToC

Ophiocephalus leucopunctatus

B. v, D. 47-53, P. 18, V. 6, A. 28 -35, C. 14, L. l. 59 - 60, L. tr. (4 1/2 - 6 1/2 ) / (13 - 11) or (5 - 8) / (13-11)

Length of head 4, of caudal 6, height of body 7 to 7 1/4 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 8 in length of head, 1 1/2 diameters from end of snout, and 1 1/2 to 2 apart. The width of the head equals 4/7 of its length, and its height equals 1/2 its length excluding, the snout. The maxilla, extends to 1/2 a diameter of the eye behind the orbit. Teeth - about ten conical, widely separated teeth exist in the lower jaw. Fins - dorsal commences over the end of the opercle, it reaches nearly or quite to above the anal: ventral 2/3 as long as the pectoral. Caudal fan-shaped. Scales - as in O. marulius , 16 rows between snout and base of dorsal fin, the plate-like ones on the summit of the head of moderate size: ten rows between eye and angle of preopercle. Colours - back grayish-green descending in bars on to an orange abdomen: numerous white spots on the body sometimes with a black margin: caudal and posterior portions of the dorsal and anal black, with numerous white spots.
Drawing of O. leucopunctata by F. DayDrawing of O. leucopunctata. Today it is considered to be a sysynonym of C. marulia.

Whether this fish should be considered more than a local variety of O. marulius may be questioned, both are found along the sea coasts of India, and the former also in the Deecan. Dussumier brought it from Malabar, and I found it was not uncommon in Canara, even more so than the O. marulius . In Bengal proper, Burma, and inland districts, except the Deccan, this form, wanting the ocellus on the tail, appears to be absent.

I have a stuffed specimen 10 inches long, which appears intermediate between the O. marulius , O. leucopunctatus and O. pseudomarulius , L. l. 64, L. tr. (6 - 7) / (14 - 10) head 4 1/3 , caudal 6 1/4 , height of body 6 in the total length. Colours as in O. leucopunctatus except the end of the dorsal fin is coloured as in Ham. Buch. figure of O. wrahl , and the caudal is transversely barred in zigzag lines, leaving an indistinct ocellus at the upper edge of its base, it appears to me as if it were a hybrid between O. marulius and O. striatus and maybe O. pseudomarulius .

Habitat. Coromandel and Western coasts of India, also in some of the rivers of the Deccar: it appears to be found in China. 6 It attains 3 feet or more in length. The one figured is from a Malabar specimen.

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Ophiocephalus pseudomarulius

B. v, D. 52, P. 17, V. 6, A. 35, C. 15, L. l. 64, L. tr. (6 - 7) / (14 - 10)

Length of head 3 1/4 , height of body 4 2/3 in the total length to the base of the caudal fin. 7 Eyes - diameter 7 in length of head, 1 diameter from end of snout, and 1 3/4 apart. The greatest width of the head equals rather more than 1/2 its length, and its height equals 1/2 of its length excluding the snout. The maxilla reaches to beyond the vertical from the behind edge of the eye. Teeth - an inner row of six or eight rather widely separated conical ones in the lower jaw. Fins - dorsal commences above the base of the pectoral, its posterior rays are the highest, and they exceed those of the anal. Pectoral [ 1/2 as long as the head : ventral 3/4 of pectoral.] Scales - the plate-like ones on the summit of the head of moderate size, 16 rows between snout and base of dorsal fin: 10 between eye and angle of preopercle: those on the head roughened in lines which externally are parallel with their outer edges, whilst those on the body are roughened in arched ridges which converge to a line along the centre of each, the outer edge of those on the body smooth. Colours - gray superiorly, becoming lighter along the sides and beneath along the sides and beneath. «A black, white-edged ocellus, superiorly on the basal portion of the caudal fin,» Günther, l. c. See remarks under O. leucopunctatus ( p. 364 ). Habitat . - India, originally received from the East India Museum as O. wrahl .

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Ophiocephalus barca

B. v, D. 47 - 52, P. 16, V. 1/5, A. 34 - 36, C. 19, L. l. 60 - 65, L. tr. (5 - 6) / 13.

Length of head 4 to 4 1/2 , of caudal 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 , height of body 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 7 to 7 1/2 in length of head, from 1 1/2 to 2 diameters from end of snout, and 2 apart. Height of head not so great as its width which equals that of the body, and almost the length of the postorbital portion of the head. The posterior extremity of the maxilla reaches to nearly 1 diameter behind the hind edge of the eye. Teeth - amongst the small ones are a few widely separated conical ones in an inner row in the lower jaw two or three large ones on vomer, and a few on the palatines. Fins - dorsal commences above the posterior extremity of the opercle and is almost 3/4 as high as the body. Pectoral does not quite reach to above the commencement of the anal fin, while the ventral is 2/5 of its length. Anal similar to dorsal. Caudal rounded. Scales - plate-like scales of moderate size on the summit of head, 15 rows between snout and base of dorsal fin, nine rows between and angle of preopercle. The scales are roughened in lines, forming irregular arches and springing from the centre of the base or middle of each scale. Those on the anterior posterior of the body are rather smaller than those in its posterior portion. Colours - dark-violet superiorly, becoming dull white shot with purple beneath, the whole of the back and sides covered with large black blotches, some also exist on the dorsal, caudal, and anal fins, each of which have a red edge: pectorals reddish, with numerous black spots.
Drawing of O. barca by F. DayDrawing of O. barca.

The type of O. amphibius l. c. 17 inches Iong, has a few more scales, L. 1. 80, L. tr. 8 /17. Length of head 5, height of body 7 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 6 in length of head, 1 diameter from end of snout, and 1 1/2 apart. Otherwise as above. The specimen in the Calcutta Museum is from Bootan.

Habitat. - Large rivers of the Bengal Presidency, portions of the North. Western Provinces, and Assam. It attains three feet in length. The specimen figured is 13 inches long, and from Calcutta. «It inhabits perpendicular banks, in holes dug like those of the Martin (Hirundo) . In these it larks, watching for its prey, with its head out.» ( Hamilton Buchanan ).

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Ophiocephalus micropeltes

B. v, D. 43 - 46, P. 15, V. 1/5, A. 27 - 30, C. 15, L. l. 95 - 110, L. tr. (7 - 8) / (13 - 12), Vert. 53.

Length of head 3 1/2 to 3 2/3 of caudal 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 , height of body 6 to 6 1/2 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 8 1/2 in length of head, (7 in the young), 2 to 3 diameters from end of snout, 2 to 2 1/4 apart. Width of head equals 4/7 of its length, its height equals nearly 1/2 its length. The maxilla reaches to rather behind the hind edge of the eye: lower jaw slightly the longer. Teeth - a widely separated row of conical ones in the lover jaw, vomer, and palatines. Fins - dorsal commences above the last fourth of the opercles, is of equal height to the anal or 1/2 the height of the body. Pectoral reaches to above the commencement of the anal: ventral about half as long as the pectoral, it has a distinct although weak unarticulated spine and five rays. Caudal fan-shaped. Scales - those on the upper surface of the head, although plate-like, are comparatively small, 22 rows between the snout and base of dorsal fin, 16 or 17 between the eye and angle of the preopercle. The scales are roughened in lines which on the head are more or less parallel with the outer margin of each scale, along the body they are arched. Lateral-line - descends gently to a little behind the end of the pectoral fin when it becomes straight. Colours - vary, considerably in the adult grayish-brown, with the head, back, and sides sprinkled with small brown spots. Dorsal fin gray, with three or four narrow dark bands and a white outer edge: anal gray with a white margin. Caudal gray, spotted, with black, and having a narrow white outer edge. In the young , and up to 12 or 14, or even to 18 inches in length, the back is greyish, sides of an orange scarlet: a black band goes through the eye to the upper half of the caudal fin and a second from the angle of the mouth to its lower half. In some, vertical bars are also present.
Drawing of O. micropeltes by F. DayDrawing of O. micropeltes.

The difference in colour in these two varieties makes it almost incredible that they can be the same species, but not only have I examined a large number of specimens from Malabar and Canara, but seen similar instances at Berlin, and the Hague. The change of colour is not simply due to size, the immature livery being sometimes retained in very large specimens. Habitat. - Malabar and Western coast of India, Siam to the Malay Archipelago. It attains at least three feet in length. The specimen figured (15 inches long) was from Trichoor in Malabar.

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Ophiocephalus striatus

B. v, D. 37 - 45, P. 17, V. 5, A. 23 - 26, C. 13, L. l. 50 - 57, L. tr. (4 1/2 -7) /(9 -7) or (5 1/2 - 8) / (10-9), Vert. 13 | 39.

Length of head 3 1/3 to 4, of caudal 6, height of body 6 to 8 times in the total length. Eyes - diameter 1/6 to 1/7 of length of head, 1 diameter from end of snout, and 1 1/2 apart. Greatest width of head 1/2 of its length, its height equals 1/2 its length excluding the snout. Lower jaw the longer: the maxilla reaches to below the hind edge of the eye, or even 1 diameter behind it. Teeth - an inner row of conical ones in the lower jaw, and cardiform ones on the palatines. Fins - the pectoral does not quite reach to above the origin of the anal. Scales - the plate-like ones on the summit of the head large and irregularly shaped, from 18 to 20 rows between the snout and the origin of the dorsal fin: nine rows between the eye and angle of the preopercle. The number of rows between the lateral-line and the dorsal fin appears subject to variation, some from the East Indian Archipelag and Philippines having only L. tr. (3-4)/(8-8) and fewer rows between the snout and base of the dorsal fin, 8 have been termed O. vagus , Peters. ( Monats. Akad. Berlin, 1868, p. 260. ) The scales on the head are roughened in lines parallel to their margins, on the body they are arched towards the centre of each. Lateral-line - curves downwards below the twelfth dorsal ray. Colours - dark grayish or blackish superiorly, becoming dirty-white or yellowish-white beneath: cheeks and lower surface of the mouth streaked and spotted with gray: bands of gray or black from the sides to the abdomen. Some spots and bars at the posterior end of the dorsal fin: ventrals and anal grayish, with some whitish lines or spots along the base of the latter. In the young there is occasionally a large black ocellus at the end of the base of the dorsal fin, and the body may be destitute of any marks.

In Burma the Telaings have a ceremony with one of these fish, said to be very efficacious in cases of sickness. The patient promises that either at the present time or subsequent to his recovery he will propitiate the spirit which he has offended. A Nga-yan ( Ophiocephalus striatus ) is brought, and the sick person has to pass a string through its nostrils in the same way that a cord is -passed through. the rose of a bullock. A circle is then formed of the relatives, they dance round this fish, which is also dragged after them, and other offerings are, then made.

Habitat. - Fresh waters throughout the plains of India, Ceylon, Burma, to China and the Philippines, especially delighting in swamps and grassy tanks: they attain 3 feet or more in length. They take a bait very readily, especially a frog, and are said to rise to the salmon fly.

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Ophiocephalus stewartii

B. v, D. 39 - 40, P. 17, V. 6, A. 27, C. 14, L. l. 47 - 50, L. tr. (4 1/2 - 5 1/2 ) / (9 - 7).

Length of head 4, of caudal 5 1/2 , height of body 7 to 8 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 6 1/2 in length of head, 1 1/4 diameters from end of snout, and 2 apart. The greatest width of the head equals its length behind the eyes, and its height equals 4/9 of its length. The maxilla reaches to rather beyond the hind edge of the eye. Teeth - some conical ones in the lower jaw, also on the vomer and palate. Fins - the dorsal commences over the base of the pectoral fin, is 2/3 as high as the body and higher than the anal. Pectoral as long as the postorbital length of the head, and extends to nearly or quite above the commencement of the anal; ventral about 1/3 as long as pectoral. Scales - the plate-like ones on the upper surface of the head rather large long 13 rows between the snout and the base of the dorsal fin, five between the eye and angle of the preopercle: those on the upper surface of the head roughened by lines almost surrounding a central spot, whilst those on the body are arched. Colours - purplish-black superiorly, becoming lighter on the sides and beneath: many of the scales on the body with a round black mark. Fins dark, the pectoral in the young yellow in its lower half with a blue basal spot, external to which it has several vertical black bands, dorsal edged with yellow.
Drawing of O. stewartii by F. DayDrawing of O. stewartii.

Habitat. - Cachar and Assam, in both running and standing water, to about 10 inches in length. The specimen figured (life-size) is from Assam.

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Ophiocephalus gachua

B. v, D. 32 - 37, P. 15, V. 6, A. 21 - 23, C. 12, L. l. 40 - 45, L. tr. (3 - 4) / (7 - 6).

Length of head 3 1/2 1/2 to 4 1/2 1/4, of caudal 5 1/2 1/2 to 6, height of body 6 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 1/6 of length of head, 1 diameter from end of snout, and from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 apart. The greatest width of the head equals its length behind the eyes, and its height equals 4/9 of its length. The maxilla reaches to below the hind edge of the orbit. Teeth - an inner row of widely separated conical ones in the lower jaw, some also on vomer and palatines. Fins - pectoral as long as the head behind the eyes, ventral 2/5 length of pectoral. Scales - broad and irregular on the summit of the head: four or five rows between the orbit and the angle of the preopercle: 12 between snout and base of dorsal fin. Those on the head roughened by circular lines, which externally are parallel with their outer edge, whilst the lines on the scales of the body are in the the form of arches. Lateral-line - bends downwards after proceeding about 12 scales. Colours - differ materially, according to the water in which they reside: usually greenish, lighter beneath: dorsal, caudal, and anal slate-coloured, with an orange margin: pectoral with a black base, transversely barred (except in some Andaman specimens), and having a slight reddish or orange edge. In the young there is often a large ocellus with a light edge on the last five dorsal rays: caudal barred. Occasionally it is spotted with white, or even orange, ( O. aurantiacus ), Ham. Buch. Fish. Ganges, pp 69, 368, pl. 23, f. 22 . O. kelaarti: - Günther divided this Ceylon form from O. gachua , «differing from it by its longer caudal fin,» (it is 5 3/4 in the total length). Dr. Günther (Zool. Record. 1865, p. 194), observed « O. kelaarti is not the young of O. gachua as suggested» which assertion I think is erroneous.

Habitat. - Fresh waters throughout India, Ceylon, Burma, and the Andamans, also near Gwadur on the Meckran coast. This fish is often found thriving at the bottom of wells, and in fact may be taken from the waters of the plains to those in very high elevations. it attains at least 13 inches in length, is very voracious, and may often be captured in little watercourses, into which it has pursued the Haplochili and other small fish.

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Ophiocephalus punctatus

B. v, D. 29 - 32, P. 17, V. 6, A. 21 - 23, C. 12, L.l. 37 - 40; L. tr. (4 -5)/ 8 to 9/6.

Length of head 3 1/2 1/3 to 3 1/2 2/3, of caudal 5 1/2 1/4 to 6 1/2 1/4, height of body 5 1/2 1/2 to 7 in the total length. Eyes - diameter 7 to 8 1/2 in length of head, 1 to 1 1/3 diameters from end of snout, and 1 2/3 to 2 apart. The greatest width of the head equals from 3/5 to 4/7 of its length, its height equals half its length. Lower jaw the longer, the maxilla reaches to below or behind the hind edge of the eye. Teeth - a posterior row of four or five conical ones in the lower jaw. Fins - pectoral equals half the length of the head or even more, and reaches to above the origin of the anal: ventral is 3/4 as long as the pectoral. The dorsal is 2/3 the height of the body, and a little higher than the anal. Scales - on the summit of the head large and of irregular shapes: 12 rows between snout and origin of dorsal fin: five rows between the eye and the angle of the opercle. Those which are on the top of the head are roughened in lines which are parallel with their outer edges, but on the body they are more horizontal. Lateral-line - with a slight curve above the fourth anal ray. Colours - vary with the water they reside in. Back greenish, becoming yellow on the sides and abdomen, with a dark stripe along the side of the head: several bands from the back pass downwards to the middle of the body. Fins spotted, the caudal and the vertical ones a narrow light edge, and dark basal band: ventrals white or gray. Some have scattered black spots over the body and head, and this appears most common near the sea, and in the breeding season, whilst they are absent from the young.
Drawing of O. punctatus by F. DayPlate 78 Fig. 1: Drawing of O. punctatus (var.).

Those without spots, but having more or less oblique bands, 9 sometimes short at other times more continuous, have been termed O. kurrouvei , Lacép. O. indicus , McClelland, and O. affinis , Günther. Jerdon l.c. observed, «I have not seen any spotted in the manner described by authors.»

Personally I have found that placing those with spots in an aquarium, these marks have frequently faded away, on the other hand, in some banded ones, spots have appeared subsequent to their confinement in a globe of water. I have taken females (spotted and unspotted) containing well developed ova.

Habitat. - Fresh-waters, generally in the plains, preferring the stagnant to the running. They attain to about a foot or a little more in length. I found a female, in February, contained upwards of 4,700 large besides some small ova. The one figured. (life-size) is from Calcutta, and is of purplish colour, due to the brackish water from which it was taken.

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Genus, 2 - Channa Gronovius

Differs from Ophiocephalus in being deficient in ventral fins and having no coecal appendages.

Geographical distribution. - Ceylon and China.

It is not uncommon in India to find specimens of Ophiocephalus gachua having a ventral fin deficient, but I have not observed both wanting.

ToC

Channa orientalis

B. v, D. 34, P. 14, A. 22, C. 14, L. l. 41, L. tr. (3 1/2 - 4 1/2 ) / (7 - 6), Caec. pyl. 0.

Length of head 3 2/3 to 4 1/3 , of caudal 5 1/3 , height of body 6 1/2 to 8 times in the total length. Eyes - diameter 1/5 of length of head, 1 diameter from end of snout, and 1 1/2 apart. The greatest width of the head equals its length behind the middle of the eyes, and its height equals half its length. The posterior extremity of the maxilla reaches to behind the orbit. Teeth - some enlarged ones in the lover jaw. Fins - the pectoral equals the length of the postorbital portion of the head. Scales - with longitudinal striated and raised lines. Colours - of a dirty greenish superiorly, becoming dull white or brown on the sides and beneath, there appear to be some darkish spots on the body and fins. Pectoral with vertical bars on its basal third.
Drawing of C. orientatlis by F. DayPlate 78 Fig. 2: Drawing of C. orientalis.

Habitat. - Fresh-waters of Ceylon. The one figured (life-size) is from tie collection in the British Museum.

ToC

Footnotes

1 Bloch thus named the genus owing to their heads having a resemblance to those of serpents. Cuvier remarked that if it were possible to admit that anomalous beings existed in nature, there would be none that might more justly be considered such than these fishes. Back

2 Hamilton Buchanan, Fishes of Ganges, p. 59 . Back

3 Colonel Puckle. Back

4 See remarks respecting hybrids, p. 364 . Back

5 F. Day is correct in his guess. Today both names are considered to synonyms. [snakeheads.org] Back

6 Since the above was written I have seen a fine specimen in the British Museum from the Cauvery River. Back

7 The single stuffed specimen in the British Museum being much damaged, the length of the caudal fin (of which not half remains) has been omitted. The pectoral and ventral are likewise broken, whilst the dorsal and anal are dried down to the body, so that being unable to count them, Dr. Günther's enumeration has been copied. The proportions within brackets are likewise from Dr. Günther's original description. Back

8 Since the above was in the type I have looked over some of Dr. Bleeker's specimens of O. striatus . they have either three or four entire and two half rows between the lateral-line and base of first dorsal ray. Some of mine from India have the same number, other have even five and six entire and two half rows at the same spot. . Back

9 I have specimens of an almost uniform colour. Back

Acknowledgement and Source(s)

This text was originally published as: Family, XXXVII - Ophiocephalidae, Bleeker in The Fishes of India being a natural history of the fishes known to inhabit the seas and fresh waters of India, Birma, and Ceylon with descriptions of the sub-classes, orders, families, genera, and species by Francis Day. London 1878; pp. 362-368.

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