It may reach a length of 55 centimetres. Normally, it is a dark colour. The male is brighter in colour and there is a dark blotch at the posterior end of the dorsal fin; the female has no dark markings on its dorsal fin and is less colourful. Albino cases are also found where the fish is a pinkish white colour.
This species inhabits a wide variety of waters both brackish and fresh including rivers, canals, lakes and even swamps. It can live in bad water because it has an accessory breathing apparatus. If conditions get so bad that it cannot live there, it can leave in search of better areas by using snake like movements with the aid of its pectoral fins, which are provided with strong spines.
The species is quite voracious. It prefers worms or worm like food but will greedily accept almost anything.
In the rainy season, they usually move to rice fields and lay eggs there in nests constructed in submerged bushes that are guarded by the males. The eggs may hatch in about 24 hours, and the fry can swim freely in three days.