Snakehead species, Family
Related Articles: The Good, the
Bad, and the Ugly: Snakeheads, By Neale Monks
Mostly large, vicious, and often illegal due
to fears of their getting loose, eating food and game fishes
Dwarf snakehead query
Hope you are well,
On my travels the other day I found an amazing group of dwarf snakeheads (Chana
brakanhensis or something- photo included below for ID purposes).
<Looks like Channa lucius to me, but I'm no expert.>
It was a group of 6 and I think this would make an amazing breeding project.
<Indeed they would.>
Currently the only tank I have with room that would accommodate this group has a
10 inch silver Arowana and a 9 inch Xingu bass.
<Yeah, no. Not going to work.>
I am very attached to those 2 fish and don’t want them to move on.
Will I be able to add the snakeheads to this tank? They are fully grown between
6 and 8 inches.
<Too risky, in my opinion. Even if not successfully consumed, 'curiosity'
attacks could still damage your new, and at this point nervous, snakeheads. On
top of that, you're dealing with fish from rather different environments. Cooler
water, slower current, and ample vegetation, especially floating plants, are
what you need for Snakeheads. Arowanas need swimming space, swimming space, and
yet more swimming space, while Cichla species are all about robust currents,
heavy filtration, and of course swimming space.>
If this is a no-no, on a side point, is there anything else you can recommend
for this tank?
<Alongside the Arowana and Cichla? I'd be thinking something like a catfish,
Sorubim lima being my favourite among the Pimelodidae, but if you have the
space, the Giraffe Catfish is hard to be beat in terms of sheer friendly
personality (and goofiness). If your pockets are deep, there's any number of
large L-numbers that would be suitable, Acanthicus adonis being rather a good
choice being one of the carnivorous species, so a good cleaner-upper when kept
with predatory fish. I've a soft spot for Panaque nigrolineatus though, as one
of the most attractive, while easily obtained, L-number. It's also extremely
hardy once settled.>
Re: Dwarf snakehead query
Could I keep a florida gar with the Aro and bass?
<Gar have been kept with these species, yes. Gar are extremely gentle fish,
despite their size. It's more how the other two species behave towards it,
especially given how Gar damage themselves when alarmed. They're also a bit
fiddly at feeding time. My specimen thrived on Hikari Cichlid Gold of all
things, but I did use large forceps to feed it bits of fish periodically.
While they will pick food off the substrate, they're really clumsy swimmers.
Hot apartment. Channid
Hey guys, hoping you can help me out with a problem. I'm looking to
set up a tank for a friend. He has expressed a desire to keep a
snakehead (its legal where he lives in Quebec).
<As is the case here in England. Outstanding fish that don't
deserve the reputation they have. Unfortunately in the US they're
perceived as dangerous pest fish that can only be kept on a diet of
feeder fish! In fact only some species are potential escapees, and none
need live feeder fish, and obviously feeder fish are a bad idea anyway,
and shouldn't be used. But I'm sure you and your friend know
The issue is that he's in an assisted living apartment building and
the old folks who live their keep it at a balmy 29-31
Celsius! Its just the hottest place imaginable!!
<Indeed it is.>
I personally have only kept subtropical snakeheads and don't know
of any type of snakehead could cope with those temps long term.
<Now, the tropical species could cope, but most of those are pretty
big. Parachanna obscura for example gets to between 40-50 cm long, so
while not as massive as, say, Channa micropeltes, it's still a big
species. It's a beautiful fish though, and readily adapted from
earthworms and river shrimps across to things like tilapia fillet and
cockles, as well as the odd prawn and mussel (these latter do contain a
lot of Thiaminase, so aren't good staples). Parachanna africana is
similar in looks, and a bit smaller, maybe 30-35 cm when fully grown.
Care is the same, with both these African species being very aggressive
and normally kept alone. Channa orientalis is another tropical species,
much smaller, about 20 cm on average, but unfortunately not especially
colourful. On the plus side, it's easy to feed on chunky fresh and
frozen foods, and generally ignores tankmates too large to be swallowed
whole, so could be combined with large South American cichlids, some of
the bigger barbs, Loricariid catfish, etc.>
If there are no snakeheads that could live at this place, could you
suggest any hardy fish that can?
<The obvious choices are "high end" tropical fish, which
include things like Discus, Ram Cichlids, Angelfish, most of the
Trichogaster spp. gouramis, some of the Bettas, and some of the
exceptionally hardy air-breathing catfish like Hoplosternum littorale
and Callichthys callichthys. Much depends on the size of the
Re: Hot apartment 10/1/11
He's ready to spend a bit of money and has a fair amount of room,
I'm thinking that a tank no larger than 120G. Would you agree that
the following list is viable?
<Yes; and a good size.>
Parachanna africana sp fluro green??
<Possibly, but these Lake Inle fish are not normally exposed to
really warm conditions, as far as I know.>
Regards, and thanks.
<Obviously only one snakehead per tank! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Hot apartment 10/1/11
Bonus Round! No need to answer if you're busy saving other
What's the deal with "sp fluro green"? Never heard of one
until today. What do you know about this guy, seems to be little about
him on the interwebs.
<It's a colour variety. There's a Channa punctata
"Fluoro Green" in the trade; there's a nice photo
Never heard of Parachanna africana "sp fluro green" but
assume it's a greenish variety of Parachanna africana. There is
also a Channa sp. "Fluoro Green", as seen here:
It's a medium-sized Indian species. I confess, I wrote both those
database entries, so can't offer them us a second opinions! The
folks at Monster Fishkeepers might be able to point you in the
direction of better info.
Compatibility question, Snakeheads
I was wondering if it would be wise to add a single Chaca bankanensis
to my Channa bleheri tank. Some sources claim that c bankanensis can
crash an aquarium's ph, while others dispute this. In my totally
unscientific opinion I believe that Channa bleheri are highly stressed
but ph changes so I'm quite leery about introducing the fish.
However It looks like great fun and I'm tempted.
Am I being even more foolish than normal?
<Both Channa bleheri and Chaca bankanensis are fairly small, getting
to about 20 cm/8 inches at most. Unfortunately, Chaca bankanensis is
one of the most difficult fish to maintain. It eats virtually nothing
but live fish, and those fish have to be bottom swimming species --
surface species, like the sorts of killifish or livebearers you can
breed at home, will be ignored. They are also extremely stupid, and
anything that comes into range is at risk of being bitten, including,
potentially, your Snakehead.
Anything smaller than two-thirds its body length is a potential
Channa bleheri is generally quite an easy species to keep, though they
are of course illegal in the United States. It's a cool to middling
temperature Snakehead, so needs to be kept about 22-24 C/72-75 F. Kept
continuously warmer than that and it will get stressed. They're
somewhat territorial, so provide a reasonable amount of space. Because
they're quite small, they're often kept in small tanks, but in
all honesty, anything less than 55 gallons really isn't a good
idea, and I'd allow a good 30-40 gallons per
specimen if kept in groups. As for Chaca bankanensis, that species
extremely difficult to maintain in captivity. It often doesn't eat
shrimps and earthworms, though possibly small juveniles reared on such
foods might be more accommodating. In any case, plan on breeding and
rearing suitable foods yourself, cichlid fry being favoured, and in
As we've stated repeatedly here at WWM, the use of store-bought
feeders like Goldfish and Minnows is idiotic, and whatever live fish
you plan on using, review their fat and thiaminase content, rear them
properly, and gut-load them before use. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: compatibility question, feeder guppies... for Channids --
I know of a local breeder who has feeder guppies which are considered
<If you trust him, then that's one option. But be sure to gut
load them beforehand, and you'd be foolish not to quarantine them
for a couple of weeks before use. Needless to say, Snakeheads don't
need live feeder fish, and the use of feeder fish would be
But you make a good point about him biting my beautiful snakeheads. Can
you think of a oddball predator that would work with my Channa?
<They actually work best with dither fish (barbs, Rainbowfish, etc.)
and non-aggressive catfish such as Brochis spp., Synodontis spp., etc.
As community predators go, I happen to like Ctenolucius hujeta, a
well-behaved species, but given the temperature preferences of Channa
bleheri, I'd be looking more towards cooler-climate fish for
I've become very devoted to these fish and wouldn't want to
risk them, but at the same time a ugly beast at the bottom of the tank
would make a nice contrast.
<Perhaps, but Chaca spp. are pretty boring fish. A decent whiptail
would be far more interesting, as well as easier to keep. Consider, for
example, the colour-changing whiptail Pseudohemiodon apithanos.>
What about this ph crash issue for the Chaca? Is it a true?
<Don't know, but doubt it. Chaca spp. are maintained so rarely,
and so infrequently for their full natural lifespan, it's hard to
know. The idea they lower the pH has been mentioned a few times, but to
be honest, if the water has an adequate amount of carbonate hardness,
it's hard to imagine how excretions from a single Chaca spp. could
seriously affect pH. So I'm a skeptic. On the other hand, when
predators generally regurgitate food, that can have a terrible impact
on water quality. Chaca are such poor feeders in
captivity that I wouldn't trust them.>
Thanks for your patience,
Re: compatibility question -- 1/29/11
Once again you have prevented misstep. I truly value your advice
<Glad to help. Have fun! Neale.>
Hey crew 8/1/10
Wondering what is known about Channa bleheri? Seems to
be a lot of confusion on the net regarding this fish. Any specialist
<Hello Rob, Channa bleheri is the Rainbow Snakehead. It's
absolutely identical in care to most of the other small _subtropical_
snakeheads: requires soft to moderately hard water, 5-15 degrees dH;
dislikes high temperatures, 22-26 degrees C being ideal; and is
territorial but gets along with other types of fish too large to be
viewed as prey. Adults are about 20 cm long, so barbs, Rainbowfish,
etc. of similar size make good companions given their temperature
preferences, as do many armoured catfish. Like all snakeheads, these
fish will jump out of open-topped tanks. Contrary to popular belief,
snakeheads do not need to be fed live fish, and in fact the usual
warnings against store-bought feeder fish applies here: you have to be
really stupid to use them! Earthworms and
river shrimps are good live foods to settle them in, but once settled
they will eat chunky seafood and tilapia fillet, and in some cases good
quality pellets as well. Channa bleheri is a very common species in the
UK trade and much appreciated as a novelty for large community tanks.
In at least parts of the US and elsewhere there may be legal
restrictions on their ownership; check with your local Fish &
Wildlife bureau if you're unsure about this issue. Cheers,