Sometimes supposedly small details are decisive, for example when it comes to species differences. There are two species of snakehead (Channa) that occur geographically close to each other in Burma (Rakhine State): Channa pulchra and Channa ornatipinnis. Both look quite similar and grow to a similar size (20-25 cm), but they differ considerably in their aquarium biology: C. ornatipinnis is a cold-water fish and becomes very aggressive within the species at temperatures above 20°C, whereas C. pulchra develops such aggressiveness at temperatures below 25°C. If C. pulchra are kept at 25-28°C they are comparatively (!) peaceful snakeheads, which also reproduce very readily.
This was very surprising at first, as both species can coexist in high altitude regions. But it turned out that C. pulchra (in contrast to C. ornatipinnis) is also found in lower-lying biotopes where the water temperature apparently never drops below 20°C. The aquarium strains and also imports are apparently recruited from the relatively peaceful (and therefore considerably easier to handle) warm-water forms.
Just like C. ornatipinnis, C. pulchra is not a mouthbrooder, but cares for the buoyant eggs on the water surface or in shelters. The differences between C. pulchra and C. ornatipinnis are easy to recognize if you know what to look for. The black spots on the head of C. pulchra are very small, like speckles, whereas they are large and solid in C. ornatipinnis. And the strikingly striped pectoral fins are black with very thin white bands in C. ornatipinnis, in C. pulchra the white bands are much wider, almost as wide as the black ones.
For our customers: Channa pulchra has code 409243 on our stocklist. Please note that we only supply the wholesale trade.
Text & photos: Frank Schäfer