How to Keep Your New Snakehead
Aqualand’s inside info on Channa species

 
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Snakehead Factoids

Origin

Most from S.E. Asia .  Africans less common

Size

One yard max.  Half that more likely.

Sexual Differences

Females fatter at breeding time

Temperature

Prefers warmer water: 80+ 

Attitude

Lurking predator

Security

Little ones like a place to hide

Foods

Live fish preferred

pH

Not particular

Clean Water

Frequent large water changes (50%)

Biggest threat

Cannibalism

Egg incubation

Males care for eggs

LA
Beautiful, but snakeheads can get nasty.

Appeal.  Two little “prongs” stick out right above their mouths.  Snakeheads easily gulp prey larger than ½ their size.  They grow to over a yard in large tanks.  Many states prohibit them due to their threat to native fishes if they get into local waters. (2003 UPDATE:  The feds now prohibit the import of all snakeheads into the USA.)   Their labyrinth breathing organism enables them to spend long periods out of the water.  On a rainy night, they can wriggle to a different pond looking for food.  One former snakehead keeper considers them “evil” and will never keep them again.  Okay, so much for their good points.

Illegal.  Because of the massive TV coverage of the snakeheads in Maryland, we apparently will not see these interesting fish in the U.S. much longer.  When the current specimens shuffle off this mortal coil, they cannot be replaced.   Remember the walking catfishes that threatened Florida?  Any state that grows 14-foot-long alligators need not fear Clarias batrachus.  And snakeheads cannot survive our U.S. winters in most of the country.  They detest cold water and can’t breathe thru the ice.  So, the snakeheads now enter the halls of history -- until legislators give up watching TV.  And did you catch the movie "Snakehead Terror?"  Genetically altered snakeheads were given growth hormones.  It was on the Sci-Fi channel.  Or was it on the Documentary channel?

LA
Red snakehead about three inches long.

LA
1.5 years later in a 120, he looks like this.  Note feeder goldfish above his head.

Cute.  Baby red snakeheads look great.  They swarm around in a pack looking for prey – any fish that will fit into their mouths.  They love rosy redsThe faster growing guys tend to hog the food.  They then devour their smaller siblings.

 

On Our Menu.  Snakeheads taste good.  In a Vietnamese restaurant, you can get (last year, that is) fried snakehead with noodles, grilled snakehead, and snakehead fish salad.  A favorite food fish, their labyrinth organ enables them to stay alive when sold on the street.  Highly regarded as a game fish in Malaysia, their local record stands at 8 kg (17.6 pounds).  In Hong Kong, they rear them in ponds for food.

LA
Red snakeheads at about 18 inches.

LA
Of course they get bigger.  Here's a picture out of a Southeast Asian newspaper.

On Their Menu.  Snakeheads prefer live fish.  They convert to non-live fish if you drop them near them when they’re hungry.  They will also eat worms. Snakeheads run up and try to eat any new fish you drop in their tank.  They grab it to see if it fits in their mouth.  If it doesn’t fit, they let it go and usually don’t try to swallow it again.  Unfortunately, some specimens like to kill smaller fishes just for the fun of it.  We wouldn’t recommend keeping large goldfishes with them, but they’d likely live well together.  Our little snakeheads skinned up some very large silver dollars.

LA Pic
These newspaper pics are really ads selling plugs to catch snakeheads with.

Space.  Obviously, you need a large tank for these guys.  Big ones easily earn the title “tankbusters.”  The more room you give them, the better.  PS.  They will fill it.

Water.  pH probably makes little difference to these guys.  They can also survive in warm, oxygen-poor water because of their labyrinth.  However, you really should expect to change their water more often since they eat huge quantities of food.

Security.  Baby snakeheads swim in swarms.  Larger ones get territorial and want their own cave or lurking spot.  If you don’t provide such a site, they will try to hide behind their filter tube.  Once they reach a foot or so, most quit trying to hide.

Keep Well Covered.  Snakeheads want to jump out of your tank and explore their environs.  Keep them covered with a stout lid or they will bail.  Luckily, they can live for hours on a dusty carpet.

Tankmates.  If you must mix these guys, mix them with larger fishes – oscars, gar, pacus.  Plecos and larger catfishes will probably mix as well.

 

Disease.  You’ll probably never see “ich” on a snakehead, since you keep them in water too warm for the ich germs.  They’re more likely to die from arguing with their fellow tank mates.  Most anabantids seem to catch velvet at the drop of a hat.  We’ve never seen it on snakeheads.

Breeding.  You will need additional info, if you intend to breed your snakehead.  You also probably need a muddy pond.

LA
Snakeheads grow huge -- like this1.5 year-old guy with two feeder goldfish above his head.

LA
Yes, snakeheads bite.  When Mike moved him, he earned his stripes.

LA
His teeth don't look that fierce, Mike.  And, he's not that much larger than your arm.

Last Comments. Clean water is essential to keeping most fish.  To keep these aquatic hogs clean, you need to change 50% of their water weekly.  LA.
 

Dylan Huang, Singapore, June 23, 2007
Firstly, I Got To Thank You For Having Such A Great Website.
It Provided Almost All The Information I Need.
But The Information You Provided On The Snakehead Page Is Pretty General On The Red Snakehead As You Called It. Most Of Us Called It The Giant Snakehead (Channa Micropeltes), The Locals Called It 'Toman'. It Grows Up To 1 m Long. While Other Snakeheads Such As The Dwarf Snakehead (Channa Gachua) Stays Small, About 20 cm Max. I Hope That You Could Provide Information On The Other Species.
Just Some Facts I Think Would Be Interesting For You To Know:
The Favourite Food Of Snakeheads Are Catfishes. In Singapore, Juvenile Snakeheads Are Sold Here As Feeder Fishes, SG$2 Per 20 -- Usually As Food For Arowana. Giant And Common Snakeheads Are Also Valued For Medicinal Value, It Is Reported That Eating It Would Be Good For Healing Bodily Wounds, Thus Recommended For Post-Operation Patients.
I Currently Own 3 Species Of Snakeheads. Common Snakehead (Channa Striata) X1 (28 cm), Giant Snakehead (Channa Micropeltes) X22 (4-5cm) And Eye-Spot Snakehead (Channa Pleurophthalma) X2 (7-8cm) .
Snakeheads Like The Common One Don't Exactly Like CleanWater. When I Put Mine In Clean Water, It Refuses To Eat. In Singapore, They Are Usually Found In Drains And Canals. While The Giant Snakeheads Prefers Cleaner Water In Ponds And Reservoirs Attached Is The Photo Of My Common Snakehead, And 2 Photos Of My Friends' Catfish Bait After Being Ripped By A Giant Snakehead

DH

DH

Dh

A:  Thanks for the additional info on snakeheads.  I'm adding it to my snakehead page.  We cannot keep snakeheads any more.  So I won't be adding input of my own.  Another case of our government protecting us from ?  At least they're trying, sometimes very trying.  LA

 

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