Name: Channa spp.
Origin: Eastern Asia
Snakeheads are generally quite aggressive fish and can eat quite big fish, for this reason any tankmates should be at least 2/3 their size. The fish above is a Parachanna obscura, it is not the best snakehead to buy because it is the most aggressive and it rarely eats anything that isn't alive. It can grow about 35 cm long. The most common snake head is the red snake head which, when young, has a very striking red stripe on its side. This snakehead is quite peaceful untill it reaches 40 cm, although it can and will still eat any fish that can fit into its mouth. After 40 cm it becomes very aggressive and has been known to rip apart large fish in wolfpack-like groups. The red snake head is the most common snakehead, but is even less suitable for most tanks because it can grow over 90 cm long. There is another snakehead that isn't as common as the red, but it makes a very good pet...it is Channa gachua. This snakehead grows between 15 and 20 cm in length. It is not too aggressive unless breeding, and can be kept with similar sized cichlids like jack dempseys and convicts. This fish will also eat pellets and feeders. I like to feed mine a large chunk of fish, that way they will attack the piece of fish and rip it apart like a group of crocs. Gachua's do not exhbit the same wolfpack-like behaviour of red snakeheads usually but, if you add a fish about half their size when they are hungry, they might gang up on the fish and literally tear it apart. These fish can all bite you hard, even the Gachua can draw blood when quite small. That said, gachua can be trained to be hand fed. Obscura's are loners and will kill any other snake heads in the same tank. Red snakeheads are also loners but in very big tanks (3000+ liters) a group of 3-4 can live together quite happily. Gachua's do very well in groups.
Species: All 28 species of snakehead can tolerate low oxygen conditions in water because they are air breathers from an early age. When prevented from surface access, adult snakeheads will die due to lack of oxygen.
Breeding: Snakeheads usually breed in the summer, but some species are known to breed throughout the year.
Female: The female northern snakehead is capable of spawning five times a year. Northern snakeheads can live under the ice of northern climates. Northern snakeheads are the most available species of live snakeheads in the fish markets of New York and Boston.
Legal Information: Snakeheads are so deadly that all 8 types of Snakeheads imported from other countries into America were banned, because of various reasons...they can eat fish, plants, and animals and can really harm the ecosystem. So it's illegal in the USA and if you're caught you must pay a fine or must pay 2 years in jail.
Foods: Flakes are fed to Snakeheads at young ages...around 2 to 4 months, when Snakeheads become 15-20 cm they can eat almost anything (guppies, minnows, shrimp, pieces of ham) when it hits full size it only eats live food (plants, fish, goldfish, bass, it can eat 1 kg of fish a day). Please, if you keep a Snakehead, don't release it in ponds or lakes.
Snakeheads are amazing fish and a pleasure to keep, but there are a few warnings you should bear in mind if you are to consider keeping one: Snake heads are particularly attractive when young, but their colours will dull with age. They have powerful jaws and sharp teeth. Treat them with the same caution as you would for an adult piranha, and don't risk putting your hand in the tank. Many people consider them the aquarium equivalent of a great white shark, and with good reason. They will more than likely eat any fish you attempt to home with them. They are messy eaters and tend to be quite fussy. Shrimp, beef heart and liver are all good foods. Snake heads are capable of breathing atmospheric air, and will often crawl across land from one body of water to another if there is an absence of food, or if the water quality is poor. A tight fitting lid is very important to avoid escape attempts. You should bear in mind the adult size of these fish if you plan to buy one. They are often victims of the "red tail catfish syndrome" - they are bought as small cute fish, but eventually grow extremely large. Unless you can afford an aquarium in excess of 1000 litres, avoid them! Don't expect to be able to pass them on to a shop or public aquarium when they get too large. Most shops won't take an adult snakehead, and your local public aquarium has probably already had several donated!
I have two Snakeheads in a 1000 liter tank. One of them is about 70 cm, and the other is about 50 cm. They are quite peaceful together, but I can't add any more fish in their aquarium. I feed them goldfish, brine shrimp, and other live feeders. I would recommend this fish to someone who has space for a very a large fish, and try to keep it alone or with another Snakehead.
I once owned a Red Snakehead. I had it in a 580 liter aquarium with (in the beginning) several Tilapia buttikoferi. The buttikoferi came from a pair of breeders that I got rid of. The snakehead was about 10 cm when I bought it. The tank mates were about 5-8 cm. Not much to this story, other than within a month it had eaten all the buttikoferi and grown to about 15-18 cm. All in all I had the fish about a year before I had to give him away because he broke the glass and caused a leak in my aquarium. By the end of that year, he was more than 45 cm long and about as round as a man's wrist. I would either feed him 15 cm goldfish purchased at bait shops by the half dozen, or about 50 of the feeder goldfish. This meal would last him about 4 days before I had to restock. The main thing to know about these amazing fish is that they are true predators! They are made to eat things. They are perfect in design and efficiency. Forget about having ANY other tank mates...they will get eaten. I loved that fish out of respect for what it is...a killing machine. He'd eat 4 or 5 feeders at a time, with one mighty gulp. For those of you who dare buy one, make sure you have done your research.
The snakehead is a remarkable fish, I've (previously) owned 5 of these fish. Although they can be very expensive to feed, they're awesome! My snakeheads shared a tank with a red Oscar and a Texas cichlid. Any fish that was smaller than the snakehead became a meal. There were occasions where the snakehead would attack another fish out of pure aggression, just to kill him and left his battered body there to die. Snakeheads that are introduced together seemed to live together fine for me, but when I tried to add one that I raised in another tank, which just so happened to be slightly smaller than the one's there, it got attacked and was immediately killed. I often times wish I had kept my snakeheads, but they were breaking my pockets trying to keep them fed, not to mention they're illegal in the United States now.