Asian Snakehead Fish
Asian Snakehead Fish


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Asian Snakehead Fish

The Asian snakehead fish is actually not a single species; a lot of different species in the family Channidae are commonly referred to as Asian snakeheads. They are also known as Frankenfish and Channa fish. Snakeheads are not only native to South East Asia; many species have originated on the African continent. A few years back, the Asian snakehead fish received a lot of media attention since wild and breeding specimens were found in North American waters. The Asian snakehead is a very potent predator and if we allow it to become established outside its native region, e.g. on the North American continent, it could potentially disrupt the ecosystem.

It is believed that the wild Asian snakehead fish that were found in the U.S. originated from fish markets and/or aquarists. Asian snakehead fish is a popular food fish in South East Asia and therefore also common in Asian food markets in the rest of the world. It can also be kept in aquariums, even though it requires a very large tank and plenty of food. To prevent Asian snakehead fish from being released into U.S. waters, importing live Asian snakehead fish to the U.S. is prohibited since 2003.

Many aquarists objected to the nation wide ban, since Asian snakehead fish can not survive in the cooler parts of the country. An Asian snakehead fish released into a lake that becomes covered with ice during the winter will die, and many aquarists therefore feel that the Asian snakehead fish should be allowed as a pet in the northern parts of the country. An Asian snakehead fish needs to surface regularly to breath oxygen from the air and will die if prevented from doing this, e.g. by a layer of ice. The first wild and breeding Asian snakehead fish population found in the U.S. was living in the warm waters of Maryland.

Before you decide to keep an Asian snakehead fish as a pet, you should always research that specific species in order to find out how large it can grow and how much it will cost to feed it. Many aquarists grow tired of their Asian snakehead fish when they realize that they must provide it with larger and larger aquariums, and feed it large amounts of expensive live food. It is not implausible that the wild Asian snakehead fish populations found in the U.S. were the result of someone spontaneously purchasing a few cool Asian snakehead fishes and then eventually releasing them into the wild.

The biggest Asian snakehead fish species can reach a length of one yard (nearly one meter) and will need a very big aquarium to do well. All Asian snakehead fish species are predators and should be given meaty foods. They are fierce predators and watching them feed can be very entertaining. Do not be surprised if your Asian snakehead fish attacks a prey that is larger than half its own size. You can train your Asian snakehead fish onto dead food, and as soon as the fish understands that dead things can be tasty it will be very easy to feed. As a matter of fact, many specimens begin to investigate all dead things, including aquarium decoration, heaters etcetera.

Below your will find a list over various Asian snakehead fish species. Click on each name to find out more about their specific requirements when kept as aquarium fish, temperament, suitable companions, if they have been successfully bred in captivity, and other important facts that every prospecting Snakehead keeper should know.

Channa amphibeus
Channa argus
Channa asiatica
Channa aurantimaculata
Channa bankanensis
Channa baramensis
Channa barca
Channa bleheri
Channa burmanica
Channa cyanospilos
Channa gachua
Channa harcourtbutleri
Channa lucius
Channa maculata
Channa marulioides
Channa marulius
Channa melanopterus
Channa micropeltes
Channa nox
Channa orientalis
Channa panaw
Channa pleurophthalma
Channa punctata
Channa stewartii
Channa striata

As mentioned above, all Asian snakehead fish need access to the surface to survive and this must of course be taken into consideration when you keep them in aquariums or ponds. Keeping them in aquarium without a lid is however unwise, since they are capable jumpers. If you keep your Asian snakehead fish in an outdoor pond and the water dries out or become unsuitable for the fish, it might simply wiggle its way across your lawn in search of a better home. Snakeheads can travel long distances on land. If Asian snakehead fish is not a part of your local fauna, it is very important that you prevent this from happening.

Mature Asian snakehead fish are often aggressive and highly territorial and it is therefore often best to keep them alone in their own aquarium. Keeping Asian snakehead fish with animals smaller than 2/3 of the Snakehead's body should be avoided since it will usually result in the smaller fish ending up as food. If the animal is too large to be swallowed in one piece, the Asian snakehead fish will simply bite large chunks out of it.

Giant snakehead – Channa micropeltes
Mouth of a giant snakehead. Where you clearly can see its teeth.

Different species will prefer somewhat different set ups, but a majority of the species will appreciate a well planted home with many hiding places. A planted aquarium or pond is usually required if you want to breed Asian snakehead fish. These fishes are usually quite messy eaters and they produce a lot of waste, so large and regular water changes are necessary. They are sturdy and will adapt to a wide range of pH levels. Since they originate from warm regions, they need warm water temperatures to do well.

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Asian Snakehead Fish