Parachanna obscura (Günther 1861)

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African obscure snakehead

Parachanna obscura is a medium-sized carnivorous fish that has an elongated shape tapered on a both ends and is covered in medium circular scales. The head, resembling a snake, is long and depressed anteriorly and covered with cycloid scales slightly larger than those scales on the body.

This species is widely distributed from the Senegal River to the Chad system up to the Nile and Congo basins, including the Volta and Niger basins and many coastal basins in West Africa. In Lower Guinea known from most coastal basins.

Submitted by
Natasha Khardina

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
25.5-28.5 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

5-20 mg/l
Dissolved Oxygen


Standard length
50 cm
Water volume (min. aquarium)
400 l
Social behaviour
Lives single
Behaviour description

This fish is a predator, so it’s best not keep this species with fish less than 2/3 it’s body size as it will view them as food. However their safety is not guaranteed.

Regarding the aquarium size, keep in mind this species can reach 50 cm SL so minimum size of the tank should be 150cm at its base.

Aggression grade
Night active
Sexual dimorphism

Females are plumper and larger than males.

Nutrition in Nature

Feeds on small fish and invertebrates.


Breeding tank set-up

Loosely planted tank with floating cover and open areas for swimming.

Nutrition parents

Carnivorous species that in captivity needs to be fed with live foods but adapts well to frozen food such as prawns, bloodworm and mussel. Usually does not accept dry foods.

Mating type
Spawning behaviour

This fish is spawned very infrequently in captivity. Apparently courtship occurs in an open section of water surrounded by floating plant material. The courtship consists of the fish circling each other with increasing intensity until the pair embrace in a style reminiscent of anabantoids. At this point eggs and sperm are released. The fish then rest and the cycle begins again, repeating itself until up to 500 eggs are scattered amongst the aquatic plants on the surface. Other reports state that the fish breed in caves so it is possible they adopt different strategies based on their environment.

Breeding habits
Egg scatterer
Hatching period
Number of eggs in average
up to 500
Parental care
Fry number
Nutrition fry

After a week the fry are large enough to feed on brine shrimp nauplii and microworm.

Notes on reproduction

Interestingly, is said the female fish feeds the young with infertile eggs in a similar fashion to the Asian eggfeeding channa. After 6-8 weeks the young should be removed as they may be preyed upon by the parents, particularly the female