Haruan – Striped Snakehead, Common Snakehead, Channa Striata

Haruan – Striped Snakehead, Common Snakehead, Channa Striata

Common names:
Striped snakehead; Banded snakehead; Common snakehead, Soali (Pakistan); Murrel (India); Haal, Shawl, Shol (Assam, India), Pla Chon or pla Chorn (Thailand), Ikan Aruan, Haruan, Ruan, Tomam Paya (Malaysia), C lc (Vietnam).

100 cm (about 39 in). Stated to be sexually mature at 30 cm (about 12 in). However, normally takes 2 years to reach that size.

Reported average growth length of 28 cm (about 11 in) in one year depending on geography. Average of 31 cm (about 12 in) growth in 2 years.

Max. published weight: 3kg


Freshwater; brackish; pH range: 7.0 – 8.0; dH range: 20; Depth range 1 – 10 m. Freshwater ponds or streams, usually in stagnant muddy waters; plains, reservoirs, rivers, lakes, swamps, rice paddies, mining pools, and even roadside ditches. Most Channa Striatas are caught in shallow waters with dense vegetation.

Medium, minimum population doubling time 1.4 – 4.4 years

Asia – Pakistan to Thailand and South China. Several countries report adverse ecological impact after introduction.

The dorsal surface and sides is dark and mottled with a combination of black and ochre, and white on the belly; a large head reminiscent of a snake’s head; deeply-gaping, fully toothed mouth; very large scales.

Snakehead fish (Channa Striata)

Channa striata is an obligate airbreather. Survives dry season by burrowing in bottom mud of lakes, canals and swamps as long as skin and air-breathing apparatus remain moist and subsists on the stored fat .

Feeds on fish, frogs, snakes, insects, earthworms, tadpoles and crustaceans. Undertakes lateral migration from the Mekong mainstream, or other permanent water bodies, to flooded areas during the flood season and returns to the permanent water bodies at the onset of the dry season. During winter and dry season, its flesh around coelomic cavity is heavily infested by a larval trematode Isoparorchis hypselobargi. Other parasites infecting this fish include Pallisentis ophicephali in the intestine and Neocamallanus ophicepahli in the pyloric caecae. Processed into pra-hoc, mam-ruot, and mam-ca-loc (varieties of fish paste).

Very popular food fish in Thailand, Indochina and Malaysia. Firm white flesh almost bone-free, heavy dark skin good for soup and usually sold separately. In Hawaiian waters the largest specimen taken reportedly exceeded 150 cm. Very economic important on both cultures and captures throughout southern and southeastern Asia.

Snakehead on Rapala lure

Channa striata is solitary except during spawning seasons. Territorial and ambush feeder.

Pairs breed during most months of the year, laying a hundred to more than 1,000 amber-colored eggs. Peak spawning coincides with peak rainfall (Yap, rings any bell?). Eggs are non-adhesive and hatches in 1-3 days. Parents clear a shallow depression by biting off aquatic vegetation. The pelagic eggs are guarded by both parents. Nevertheless, Herre (1924) stated that one or the other parent guards the nest at all times, and that if food becomes scarce, parents become cannibalistic on the young. He further indicated that in the Philippines, C. striata spawns throughout the year and that many, perhaps all, breed twice annually. Ali (1999) confirmed ripe females present throughout the year in ricefields in Perak, northwestern Malaysia. Lee and Ng (1991) stated that they had collected fry without seeing parents nearby. They also said that eggs hatch in 3 days in Malaysia, the fry developing a deep orange color. This pattern persists until the young reach a length of 15 mm when only an orange lateral stripe remains. At 40 mm in length, all orange color is lost but a “pseudo-ocellus” appears on the posterior lobe of the dorsal fin, a characteristic lost in adulthood.

Channa striata adults are highly carnivorous, dreaded predators of other pond fish. Except when big brother the Toman, Giant Snakehead is around, as these are even more ferocious. Channa striata is used as predators to control tilapias in culture ponds.

Haruan bites lure

Haruans respond well to lures.

Commercial importance in native rangeChanna striata is cultured in Vietnam, Thailand, Java, and many South East Asian countries. Bard (1991) noted that this species is the most expensive fish produced by aquaculture in northern Vietnam. Ali (1999) cited it as “a popular food fish in Malaysia” remarking that ricefields have provided the largest source of this fish. Populations in Malaysia are reported to be depressed due, apparently, to overfishing, raising costs for live specimens. China is culturing C. striata and some of the product is being canned for sale in Malaysia (Wan Ahmad, personal commun., 2001).

Lee and Ng (1991) cited this species as the most economically important member of the snakeheads and noted that it is cultured throughout most of its range. It is sold either fresh or alive in markets.

Ng and Lim (1990) and Lee and Ng (1991) indicated that Channa striata, along with C. micropeltes (Toman) and C. lucius (Bujuk), are utilized for medicinal purposes, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. Mention was made of use in a postnatal diet and during recuperation from illnesses or surgery (Lee and Ng, 1991). While no specifics were given as to how the fish were used following surgery, a neighbor of one of the authors (WRC), a Malaysian by birth, said that the oils from the “haruan” are used to greatly reduce scarring. She added that she had seen the results and “it is true” that scar tissue is dramatically reduced to a minimum.

Cream extracts of haruan tissues contain high levels of arachidonic acid, a precursor of prostaglandin, essential amino acids (particularly glycine), and polyunsaturated fatty acids necessary to promote prostaglandin synthesis. Treating wounds with these extracts has been demonstrated to promote synthesis of collagen fibers better than standard use of Cetrimide, an antimicrobial quaternary ammonium compound, thus increasing tensile strength (Baie and Sheikh, 2000).

Lee and Ng (1991) indicated that the flesh of these larger snakeheads is rejuvenating following illnesses, prepared by being double-boiled with herbs, and only the soup is consumed. Nevertheless, for the soup to be effective in recovery, it is firmly believed that the fish must be killed just before cooking, dispatched with careful but firm blows to the head with a mallet. Herre (1924) reported much the same for the Philippines. Conceivably, this could be a reason that obtaining live snakeheads in live-food fish markets is considered important to some persons of southeast Asian descent living in the United States. Seale (1908) cited this species “as one of the most wholesome fishes and are given to invalids” in India.

Bard (1991) noted that Channa striata is cultured in Vietnam and is a highly desired and expensive fish in the markets of Hanoi, with a price/kg matching that of beef.

jk_C Striata5

Spinnerbaits work well on haruan

jk_C Striata6

Soft plastics are good for really slow action and can be rigged weedless, like this Berkley Powerbait.

Rattling hard-bodies lures can “call” out like a dinner bell.


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