The Haruans

Sapa Creek Archives

February 3, 2023

The creek beside Sulu Garden, often simply called Sapa, is 4.9-kilometer long creek meandering through Barangays Bulho, Sapa, Paro-on and through the property of the University of the Philippines Visayas in Miag-ao Iloilo. The creek is rain-fed with some small springs, but mostly dry during the summer months. The creek water during the rainy season flows into Sulu Sea.

Sapa Creek has long been part of the conservation efforts of Sulu Garden Foundation [SGF].  This effort began with surveys of the creek.  For more information, please check this link Sapa Creek has long been part of the conservation efforts of Sulu Garden Foundation [SGF].  This effort began with surveys of the creek.  For more information, please check this link: SGF conducts Sapa Creek mapping for the rainy season

But why exert all these efforts? Sapa Creek is an important nursery for fish fry and adults, with one example being the snakehead murrey that locals call “haruan”. Recently, in November, 2022 haruan fries were observed settling within the creek’s waters. Around this very same time last year, a similar amount of fries was seen as well. This observation aligns with the consideration that the said fish spawns twice in a year — once during summer or Habagat season, and another during the colder months of Amihan in bodies of fresh water that are permanently filled. In the case of this creek which normally dries up during the summer months, breeding is likely only during the rainy season from June to January.

See SGF’s video of the haruan conservation efforts in our youtube channel: Sulu Garden Foundation

Figure 1. Close-up view of haruan fries.

In 2020, an adult haruan was unearthed by accident below 2 feet under the dry creek bed during efforts to deepen the creek. Upon discovery, the fish appeared to be fossilized, hence it was brought in by Sulu Garden Foundation (SGF) to be embedded with resin for further preservation.

Another intriguing encounter of the haruan fish is this 39-centimeter adult captured in the creek last November 2022.  The usual length of these fishes at first maturity, ranges from 18 to 23 centimeters, however, they can continue

Figure 2. Fossilized haruan dug up in Sapa creek during 2022. Preserved and embedded in resin.

growing up to 90 centimeters. The presence of an adult haruan, in addition to the observance of its fries, signifies that they are stabilizing their population in the creek. In addition, haruans are known for their unique dorsally compressed head, ability to take in oxygen from the air, high tolerance conditions, and a diverse diet, consuming anything by the likes of fish, frogs or tadpoles, insects, crustaceans, and zooplankton (Chua, 2015).

These are all pieces of evidence that indicate the importance of the creek as a

Figure 3. A 39-centimeter adult snakehead murrel or haruan (Channa striata) discovered in Sapa Creek, Miag-ao, Iloilo.

nursery for haruans even at its early stages. The male haruan exhibits courtship behavior with its one lifelong mate by transporting them to a safer place to not

disturb the female. When gametes have been released, which can amount to a maximum of 40,000 eggs in one spawn, the male will try to protect its young by building a nest if submerged aquatic plants are present. Eggs can hatch immediately after 28 hours and can reach maturity in about 35 days, where haruans grow independently from their parents and continue to live as solitary fishes unless one is ready to reproduce.

Haruans are just one among the many native fishes that depend on the creek’s sustenance. In order to continue healthy numbers of this commercially-valuable species, there is a growing need for its conservation. There is a great need for the creek’s rehabilitation into a conducive and pollution-free environment.


1. Animal Diversity Web. (n.d.) Channa striata.  Retrieved from:

2. Li, K. C., Shieh, B. S., Chiu, Y. W., Huang, D. J., & Liang, S. H. (2016). Growth, Diet Composition and Reproductive Biology of the Invasive Freshwater Fish Chevron snakehead Channa striata on a Subtropical Island. Zoological studies, 55, e53.

3. Chua, K. (2015). Channa striata – Common Snakehead. NUS Wiki. Retrieved from


Written by: Research Associate, Tiffany Xu (See profile)

Let us keep helping

We need your donations to keep helping the community in Miagao.