Snakehead is a species of large carnivorous fish native to parts of the
Koreas, China, and Russia. This species
is often considered as food fish in several places within their natural range
and are seldom kept as aquarium fish. Some
of these fish that have been living in the natural waters of the U.S. might have
been released by aquarium hobbyists, or those who hope to establish a local
food resource. Presently it is becoming an invasive species in the United
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Size: Usually reaches a length up to 100 cm (3 ft 3 in).
specimens can weigh around 15 pounds.
Tail & Fins: They
have a circular tail, a long dorsal fin with 49–50 rays, and an anal fin with
villiform teeth are arranged in bands, with large canine teeth on the lower jaw
Sexual Dimorphism: Not present, except that the males tend to be somewhat larger than the
The typical longevity status of the species in the wild is
3-8 years, with the average range being 5-6 years.
Classification of Species by Distribution
Based on their ranges, two subspecies of northern snakehead have
been distinguished, viz. Channa argus
argus originating from Korea and China, and Channa argus warpachowskii native
to eastern Russia.
The northern snakehead fish’s preferred habitats are stagnant
water with mud substrate and aquatic vegetation, as well as muddy, slow-moving streams.
These fish are active usually at late dusk and early night. It is a freshwater fish that use to
facultative air-breathing by using a
suprabranchial organ, as well as a bifurcated ventral aorta, which allows it to
survive with aquatic and aerial respiration.
The species appears to be social and prefers to feed after
sundown, usually in schools (groups), hunting amidst aquatic vegetation close
to the shore. They are known to be highly aggressive towards their prey and
usually hunt by chasing, attacking and biting. However, they have been seen
dispersing during extreme cases of a scarcity
These fish are able to
produce a small array of sounds. Mature specimens have been seen emitting grunting
noises while feeding, as also, a kind of
clicking noise while rising to the water surface to breathe.
The northern snakehead is primarily piscivorous, living on other fish species, but has also been seen eating crustaceans, other invertebrates, and amphibians.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
These fish are capable of doubling their population in as less
as 15 months. They can engage in mating and breeding throughout the year and reaches
the age of sexual maturity within two or three years in the wild. During this
time, they are around 30 to 35 cm (1 to 1.2 ft) long.
The females can lay up to 100,000 eggs a year. The eggs of
this fish fertilize externally, which occurs in shallow water especially around
dawn. The eggs are yellowish and spherical with a diameter of about 2 mm (0.079
in) and takes around one to two days for the baby fish to hatch out.
Before hatching, both the father and the mother keep
guarding them until yolk absorption. The young of this species are capable of
moving overland using wriggling motions.
By evolution, they have
developed an unusual respiratory system that allows them to survive outside
of water even for several days.
Northern snakeheads have the ability to wriggle their ways from
one body of water to another over short distances.
Except for humans, these large fish, being at the top of the
food web, do not have any specific predators within their environment. It is thought that they might be preyed upon by
larger fish and birds, crocodilians, turtles, otters, etc.
The exact population and
conservation status have not yet been defined by the IUCN.
Northern snakeheads are so
used freshwater environment that
they are unable to tolerate salinity over
ten parts per million.
A new concern has arisen
due to the fish’s spread getting close to the Great Lakes of the US, which
the species may enter and, resultantly, have a disruptive effect on that
The world record size of
the northern snakehead is 19.9 lb, with a length of 35.157 inches.