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| Last Updated:: 20/02/2020

Fresh water fishes

Pearl Spot


Common name: Pearl Spot

Scientific name: Etroplus suratensis

Malayalam: Karimeen, Kariyamplachi

Description: A very tasty fish found in both salty and freshwaters of Kerala. Body is covered over with scales of black colour, hence the name Karimeen (meaning black fish in the local language). The body is oval in outline and is laterally compressed. There are eight transverse bands on the body and a few irregular black spots on the abdomen. It has got a very small mouth. Also popular as an aquarium fish.

 Habitat and Distribution:  It is found in backwaters, ponds and paddy fields. Distributed in Southeastern Asia; lives in brackish water river estuaries and moves in schools between pure freshwater and sea water at different times during the year.

Feeding and Breeding: Live; Tubifex , crustaceans, insects; chopped meat; pellets; large flakes; oatmeal; plant matter; vegetables; spinach, peas, lettuce.  An open water spawner that lays up to 1000 eggs on a previously cleaned rock or in a cave. They hatch in 36 to 50 hours and are carefully guarded by the parents. The young are free-swimming after 7-8 more days. The young are susceptible to fungal infections if kept in freshwater, and are difficult to raise even in brackish water. Their coloring is different from that of the adults. They have a single transverse band around the mid-section. This band disappears, and for several weeks the fry are just silver. Eventually they develop the adult coloring.


Climbing Perch


Common name: Climbing Perch

Scientific name: Anabas testudineus

Malayalam: Chempally, Karuveppu, Antikalli, Kallada

Description: Anabas is another tasty fish but with a hard skin. Also an aquarium fish. They can live out of water for about 6 to 7 hours. Having the habit of migrating from pond to pond. The fish crawls through land to reach the next destination during which time it breaths air through accessory respiratory organs on each side of the head. While in water breathing occurs through the gills. It is an omnivorous fish.

Habitat and Distribution: Occurs also in brackish waters, but mainly inhabits small densely grown streams, ricefields, and muddy pools. Distributed in India, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia including southern China.

Feeding and Breeding: All food is taken, even oatmeal. Anabas testudineus is a fierce predator, and will also eat other fish if they can master them. The fish will spawn in the evening between plants, and the eggs hatch in 24-36 hours. The eggs float and no parental care has been reported, but the fish will not eat the fry.


Banded Snakehead (Opheocephalus)


Common name: Banded Snakehead (Opheocephalus)

Scientific: Channa striatus

Malayalam: Varal, Varaal

Description: The body is long and cylindrical with a huge mouth and serpent like head.

Habitat and Distribution: This fish is often found in ponds, paddy fields and in rivers. Found in freshwater, benthopelagic environments.  Distributed in Asia, Pakistan to Thailand and south China. Several countries report adverse ecological impact after introduction

Feeding and Breeding: Feeds on fish, frogs, snakes, insects, earthworms, tadpoles  and crustaceans. It is carnivorous. This fish is remarkable for its parental care. During migration these fishes even sail through backwaters to reach the next water body. Very often this fish can be seen coming to the surface of the water to gulp in air. During drought, they bury themselves in mud, and remain there in dormant stage, till the next monsoon comes. This is both edible and a prefered aquarium species.




Common name: Tilapia

Scientific name: Oerochromis mossabicus

Malayalam: Tilapia, Tilopia, Thilopia, Kerala Karimeen

Description: Body is laterally compressed just like Etroplus (Karimeen), but comparatively more elongated.

Habitat and Distribution: It is found in ponds, rivers and backwaters of Kerala. Tilapia is an exotic fish, brought to Kerala from Africa. It is now found in tropical and subtropical habitats around the globe, where it can become an invasive species.

Feeding and Breeding: Oerochromis mossabicus are omnivorous. They can consume detrital material, diatoms, invertebrates, small fry and vegetation ranging from macroalgae to rooted plants It can multiply very fast even in a very constrained water body like a pond. In the first step in the reproductive cylce for Oerochromis mossabicus, males excavate a nest into which a female can lay her eggs. After the eggs are laid the male fertilizes them. Then the female stores the eggs in her mouth, called mouthbrooding, until the fry hatch. 


Stinging Catfish


Common name: Stinging Catfish

Scientific Name: Heteropneustes fossilis

Malayalam: Kaari

Description:    Body elongate, compressed. Uniform grey-brown to olive-brown. Two narrow, pale to yellowish, longitudinal bands and numerous black spots on the flanks. Abdomen rounded. Four pairs of barbels, rayed fin short with 6-7 rays. Anal fin long with 60-79 rays. Ventral fins 6 rays. Two elongate pulmary sacs that run backwards from the gill through the muscles in the back.

Habitat and Distribution: Found mainly in ponds, ditches, swamps and marshes, but sometimes occurs in muddy rivers. Can tolerate slightly brackish water. Distributed in India, Pakistan,Nepal,Srilanka, Thailand and Myanmar.

Feeding and Breeding: Will eat almost anything such as tablet and pellet foods. Will also much appreciate some live foods such as garden worms and other wormlike food.  Has been reportedly bred in the aquarium where they excavate a nest in the substrate and the parents look after and defend the eggs. The young when born are guarded throughout their early development and can be fed Brine shrimp naupli and tablet food.


Walking Catfish


Common name: Walking Catfish

Scientific Name: Clarias batrachus

Vernacular language: Mushi, Muzhi, Mozhi

Description: This catfish are around 30 cm (a foot or so) in length and have an elongated body shape. Often covered laterally in small white spots, the body is mainly colored a gray or grayish brown. 

Habitat and Distribution: The walking catfish, Clarias batrachus, is a species of freshwater air-breathing catfish found primarily in Southeast Asia, so named for its ability to "walk" across dry land, to find food or suitable environments. This fish normally lives in slow-moving and often stagnant waters in ponds, swamps, streams and rivers, flooded rice paddies or temporary pools which may dry up.  The walking catfish is a native of South East Asia including Malaysia, Thailand, eastern India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Burma, Indonesia, and Singapore. Walking catfish thrive in stagnant, frequently hypoxic waters and are often found in muddy ponds, canals, ditches and similar habitats. The species spends most of its time on, or right above, the bottom surface, with occasional trips to the surface to gulp air.

Feeding and Breeding: Individuals become sexually mature at approximately one year of age. Where populations are established, walking catfish exhibit rainy season mass migration and spawning events. Adhesive egg masses containing as many as 1,000 eggs are laid in nesting hollows prepared by the breeding pair. Egg masses are found on on aquatic vegetation or within other suitable nest sites. Walking catfish are benthic (bottom-dwelling) fish that have have been characterized as voracious opportunistic consumers. Most feeding activity occurs at night and their dietary range includes aquatic insects, insect larvae, small fish, fish eggs and larvae, and occasional plant material.


Yellow Catfish


Common name: Yellow Catfish

Scientific Name: Horabagrus brachysoma

Malayalam: Manjakkoori

Description: Horabagrus is a small genus of catfishes. It comprises two species, H. brachysoma and H. nigricollaris H. brachysoma is an important food fish, and both species are available as aquarium fish. Sun catfish originally came from the Kerala region in southern India.

Habitat and Distribution: Horabagrus brachysoma is found in smooth flowing areas with much vegetation. This species occupies lowland areas of rivers and backwaters with mud or sand substrate. It has also been recorded in deep pools and hill streams.  H. brachysoma is known only from the Kerala Backwaters, Vembanad Lake and the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka.

Feeding and Breeding: Sun catfish inhale most foods. They also eat flake foods.  They swell up faster on larger pellets. They eat just as much if they’re frozen or freeze dried.  Sun catfish are not picky eaters. Sun catfish usually hit the market at a little under two inches. Sun catfish probably live about ten years. Feeding rate is known to increase during the breeding season in the months following the monsoon season. Spawning occurs before the monsoons and finishes by the southwest monsoon in the summer.


Longwhiskered Catfish


Common name: Longwhiskered Catfish

Scientific Name: Mystus gulio

Malayalam: Vellakkoori

Description: Easily characterized by its dull-colored body and very short adipose fin. There are several species currently identified as M. gulio, the true M. gulio is an Indian species that grows much larger than those from Southeast Asia, and is a more greenish (vs. grayish) color.

Habitat and Distribution: Primarily a brackish water fish that enters and lives in fresh water. In freshwater, it occurs mainly in larger water bodies (rivers and streams) with mud or clay substrates, and rarely found in smaller streams. The species identified from Southeast Asia belong to different species. Indian waters (hover or click on these areas to show maps or find other species found there).

Feeding and Breeding: Prefers sinking meaty foods. Diurnal. Oviparous, distinct pairing possibly like other members of the same family.




Common name: Boal

Scientific Name: Wallago attu

Malayalam: Attu walah, Valah

Description: The fish can be identified by special features like mouth extends back beyond eye, mandibular barbel longer than pelvic fin, 24-30 gill rakers on the first arch, 77-96 anal-fin rays. 2000mm is the maximum recorded length, due to over fishing and habitat destruction, specimens over 1800 mm are nowadays very rare.

Habitat and Distribution: Found in large rivers and lakes, it can reach 2.4 m (8 feet) total length .It is distributed  in South and Southeast Asia, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Feeding and Breeding: Juveniles feed mainly on insects; adults feed on smaller fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. In nature, spawns during the pre-monsoon season, from June to August. Normally a bottom dweller, it rises to the surface to breed. Unluckily for the fish, the courting pairs are so absorbed in each other that they readily fall prey to fishermen.


Giant Danio


Common name: Giant Danio

Scientific Name: Danio malabaricus

Malayalam: Paral

Description: Danio malabaricus is a tropical fish belonging to the minnow family Cyprinidae. Originating in Sri Lanka and the west coast of India, the fish has been circulated throughout the world through the aquarium fish trade. It grows to a maximum length of 15.2 cm.

Habitat and Distribution: Found in a variety of habitats from boulder-strewn mountain torrents to small pools in dry zone streams. Most common in flowing water than in reservoirs and tanks. Forms medium sized shoals and prefers flowing water.

Feeding and Breeding: Feeds on terrestrial insects and detritus. Spawns in shallow water, among marginal weeds and roots usually after heavy rains. Eggs are light orange and sticky; more than 200 eggs are laid and hatch in 1-2 days. Fry are free-swimming on fifth day. Exhibits cannibalism on eggs.  In Asia, it is found in west coast of India and Sri Lanka. Has been widely transported around the world through the aquarium fish trade industry.


Peninsular Olive Barb


Common name: Peninsular Olive Barb

Scientific Name: Puntius sarana

Malayalam: Kuruva, Kuruva paral

Description: Occurs in rivers, streams, lakes and backwaters. Tolerant of salinity. Forms schools in groups of four or five to several dozens. Feeds on aquatic insects, fish, algae and shrimps. Spawns in running waters among submerged boulders and vegetation.  Small fish have limited demand in the aquarium trade.

Habitat and Distribution: Found in freshwater or brackish water environments. Distributed in Asia: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka. Reported from Myanmar and Thailand.

Feeding and Breeding: The fish feeds on aquatic insects, fish, algae and shrimps. Spawns in running waters among submerged boulders and vegetation.


Tiger Panchax


Common name: Tiger Panchax

Scientific Name: Aplocheilus lineatus

Malayalam: Poonjan, Manathukanni, Poochutti

Description: Lives in streams and reservoirs at high altitudes, and in rivers, wells of the plains, low-lying paddy fields, swamps and brackish waters. Utilized for mosquito control. Not a seasonal killifish.

Habitat and Distribution:. Found in Benthopelagic, freshwater or brackish environments.  Originated Southern and middle India. Disrtibuted in  Asia widely distributed in Peninsular India. Top of Form

Feeding and Breeding: Live food, although flake food is accepted. Aplocheilus lineatus will usually spawn in the community tank. Soft slightly acidic well filtered water with a temperature of 26-27 degrees will give the greatest chance of success. The pair should be fed large amounts of live food in such a tank, and left in the breeding tank for a period of maximum two weeks. After this remove the parents. The first eggs will start to hatch around this time, and should be fed infusoria in the beginning.


Orange chromide


Common name: Orange chromide

Scientific Name: Etroplus maculatus

Malayalam: Pallathi

Description: Occurs in lagoons and small streams. Enters estuaries. Often found among marginal roots and weeds in lagoons and some dry zone tanks (now relatively rare in the latter habitat). Feeds on fish fry, zooplankton and algae.

Habitat and Distribution: Coastal waters from India and Sri Lanka, only Etroplus species that occurs in pure freshwater. Distributed in Asia especially in  India and Sri Lanka.

Feeding and Breeding: Flake food in combination with spirulina wafers, but all other suitable food is accepted. Higher temperatures up to 30 °C will induce a couple to breed. It's important to have a good couple, random breeding attempts often result in failures. The fish will deposit the 2-300 eggs on any suitable surface and take turns in caring for the eggs and fry. It's best to cover at least three sides of the tank since any disturbance can result in the parents eating eggs or fry. The fry react to the black pelvic fin signals from the parents, which take care of the fry for a very long time. The fry sometimes feed on the skin of the parents, similar to Discus, but here the fry can be raised separately.


Mullet, Striped mullet


Common name: Mullet, Striped mullet

Scientific Name: Mugil cephalus

Malayalam: Kanambu, Thirutha kanambu

Description: Striped mullet is generally the most widely used of the common names for this species; however, black mullet and sea mullet have been extensively used, depending upon geographic location. The striped mullet, Mugil cephalus, can attain 18" in length and reach approximately 3 pounds. Body shape is cylindrical anteriorally, becoming somewhat laterally compressed toward the posterior. Adult coloration is bluish-gray or greenish above, becoming silver along the sides of the body, and white on the ventral surface.

Habitat and Distribution: Mugil cephalus occurs worldwide and  inhabits estuarine intertidal, freshwater and coastal marine habitats. They occurs lagoon-wide, with juvenile fishes most common in impounded areas, around mangroves, in seagrass beds, and offshore throughout the late fall and winter.

Feeding and Breeding: Female mullet reach sexual maturity in their fourth year, when they are between 40 - 42 cm. Males mature in their third year, once they reach a size of 33 - 38 cm. The minimum spawning size of females is between 31 - 34 cm. The general reproductive pattern of Mugil cephalus involves migration from either fresh or estuarine waters to offshore waters where they spawn in large schools. Larvae and prejuveniles then migrate to inshore estuaries where they inhabit shallow, warm water in the intertidal zone. Mugil cephalus is a heterotroph that, as an adult, is primarily a detritus feeder. Mullet are highly flexible in their food habits, with possible ontogenetic shifts in the diet as they age and make the transition from post-larva to adult.


Freshwater Garfish


Common name: Freshwater Garfish

Scientific Name: Xenentodon cancila

Malayalam: Kola

Description: The freshwater garfish, Xenentodon cancila is the sole member of its genus. In common with other needlefish, this species has an elongate body with long, beak-like jaws filled with teeth. The dorsal and anal fins are positioned far back along the body close to the tail. The body is silvery-green, darker above and lighter below with a dark band running horizontally along the flank. Slight sexual dimorphism exists, the male fish often having anal and dorsal fins with a black edge.

Habitat and Distribution: It is found primarily in freshwater habitats, though it is sometimes found in brackish water and the sea. It is most common in rivers, but may also be found ponds, canals, and other freshwater habitats. It is the only member of the genus Xenentodon. The freshwater garfish is widely distributed across South and Southeast Asia from India and Sri Lanka to the Malaysian Peninsula

Feeding and Breeding: The fish describes as a predator that eats animals such as fish and frogs, its natural diet appears to consist almost entirely of crustaceans. This species is oviparous. In aquaria at least, spawning takes place in the morning, with small numbers of eggs being deposited among plants. The eggs are about 3.5 mm in diameter and are attached to plant leaves with sticky threads about 20 mm long. The eggs take ten days to hatch, at which point the fry are almost 12 mm long.  At this point they will eat small live foods including week-old labyrinth fish.


Tire track eel


Common name: Tire track eel

Scientific Name: Mastacembelus armatus

Malayalam: Kallaral

Description: The Tire track eel (Mastacembelus armatus) is a species of ray-finned, spiny eels belonging to the genus Mastacembelus of the family Mastacembelidae.

Habitat and Distribution: The fish is native to the riverine fauna of India, Pakistan, Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and other parts of South East Asia.. The other common names for this popular aquarium species are Zigzag eel, Spiny eel, Leopard spiny eel and White-spotted spiny eel. This species is not only a popular aquarium fish but also as a food fish in its country of origin. The fish is  nocturnal that thrive in highland streams, lowland wetlands, still waters, coastal marshes and rivers with sandy or rocky riverbeds and heavy vegetation. They are common during the tropical summer months and will dwell in canals, lakes and other floodplain areas during the flood season.

Feeding and Breeding: Being nocturnal carnivores, tire track eels forage on benthic insect larvae, earthworms, blackworms and some submerged plant material. In an aquarium setting, they require live foods in their diet such as live fish, Tubifex worms, brine shrimps, mosquito larvae, frozen bloodworms, Cyclops, krill and ocean plankton. Male and female zigzag eels are only distinguishable when mature. Females are normally plumper than males. Although their fecundity in the wild is high, there are no known successful breeding programs in captivity.


Indian mottled eel


Common name: Indian mottled eel

Scientific Name: Anguilla bengalensis

Malayalam: Malanjil, Mananjil

Description: Anguilla bengalensis is a species of eel in the genus Anguilla of the family Anguillidae and consists of two sub-species. Body elongate, head conical, flattened dorsally. Mouth terminal, lips prominent, narrow bands of teeth on jaws, broad band on vomer.

Habitat and Distribution: The species inhabits larger freshwater rivers although it also occurs in estuaries and in the sea during early life and near maturity. Asia: Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and the East Indies. Reported from Nepal and Bangladesh. Endangered status in India. Anguilla bengalensis labiata is the African subspecies.

Feeding and Breeding: They are rather secretive during the day but actively forage at night, feeding mainly on a wide range of small bottom-dwelling invertebrates. These eels breed in the open ocean and ocean currents move the young larvae (leptocephali) coastward to where the juveniles invade fresh water. Most of the life is subsequently spent in lakes, streams and rivers but as maturity approaches the adults migrate seaward to spawn.


Cobra Snakehead, GreatSnakehead, Bullseye Snakehead


Common name: Cobra Snakehead, GreatSnakehead, Bullseye Snakehead

Scientific Name: Channa marulius

Malayalam: Cherumeen

Description: Channa marulius is commonly known as Giant Squirrel belongs to the family Channidae. It is a faster growing fish than most of the other species of the genus. It is a carnivorous species.

Habitat and Distribution: The bullseye snakehead or great snakehead (Channa marulius) is native to South Asia but has been introduced to the United States. In South India it is commonly found in resevoirs. It is found in Pechpparai, Chittar, Manimuthar, Bhvani and Mettur dams of Tamil Nadu Thenmalai, Neyyar and Idukki dams of Kerala.

Feeding and Breeding: Channa marulius is a predatory and accepts most meaty food of suitable size. Channa marulius have been breed in ponds. They build nests in which the lay red yellowish eggs that hatches after 2-3 days depending on temperature. Both parents protect their young.


Tank goby


Common Name: Tank goby

Scientific Name: Glossogobius giuris

Malayalam: Poolan, poolon

Description, Habitat and Distribution: Glossogobius giuris (Tank Goby or Bar-eyed Goby) is a goby of the Gobiidae family available in the Bay of Bengal. It is said to be the largest of the Gobiinae species. Occurs in tropical and subtropical fresh, brackish and marine waters along the East coast of Africa, Southern Asia (including India), South-East Asia with its associated islands, as well as Northern Australia. This species is most often associated with estuarine habitats, although it is also found in marine water and can be found many kilometers inland in freshwater streams.

Appearance, Colour and Size: The head is depressed while the body takes on a compressed appearance towards to caudal fin. Normally brown or light brown with various darker brown spots and fleacks along the sides. Ranges in size from 40 to 50cm maximum (16-20 inches).

Reproduction and Feeding: Lays eggs amongst submerged vegetation, where the eggs are guared by both the male and the female. A carnivorous fish, it will eat any small fish and invertebrates it comes across.


Ceylon Snake head, Bengal Snakehead


Common name: Ceylon Snake head, Bengal Snakehead

Scientific Name: Channa orientalis

Malayalam: Vattan, vatton

Description, Habitat and Distribution: Channa orientalis is a dwarf snakehead species belongs to Channidae family. It is commonly called ceylon snakehead. They are freshwater fish that grow to a maximum size of 10 cm/4 inches. They originate from southwest of the island of Sri Lanka.

Reproduction and Feeding: They are predatory fish that feed on plankton, insects and sometimes small amphibians. They can breathe on land for short periods of time depending on the weather. During wet weather they can survive on land for more than 4 days however if their bodies were to dry-up they would die. They are hardy fish that can survive environmental changes and have a good tolerance to high acidity in water. This is according to existing reports a mouth brooder. The male carries the eggs while the female guard the territory. The male is less active during this period and is often seen close to the surface. The fry remain with the male until they can take care of themselves. Females may catch stray fry and return them to the mouth of the male. The fry is ejected via the gill openings.