Channidae family - Visit ITIS for full scientific classification.
Northern Snakehead. Buck Albert. © 2003 US Geological Survey.
- Freshwater fish with a long, thin body.
- The eyes are located near the top of the head.
- The head is small, somewhat flattened, and covered in large scales like a snake.
- They have long fins that run along the top and bottom of their body.
- Generally brown with dark blotches.
- They have a simple lung , and can breath air and survive for hours out of the water.
- Possible for individuals to reach 4 feet in length and weigh over 40 pounds.
- Habitat preferences vary between the different species.
- They have little or no tolerance for seawater.
- Found in rivers, streams, ponds, swamps, ditches, canals, reservoirs, rice paddies, and they generally prefer areas with a lot of vegetation.
Invasion Pathways and Distribution
- Commonly introduced as a food resource for human consumption.
- They are also released from hobbyists, escape from fish farms, and some can spread to new water bodies by traveling over land.
- None of the species are currently found in California, but there was one report of a Northern Snakehead in California in 1997.
- Native to parts of Africa and Asia.
- See USGS for current U.S. distributions.
- Spawning seasons vary between species, but are usually during the summer months.
- Some spawn multiple times per year.
- Most create nests in the water column surrounded by aquatic vegetation.
- In most species the young are vigorously guarded by adults.
- Aggressive top predators that feed on a wide variety of animals including: fish, frogs, crabs, birds, small mammals, etc.
- They prey upon, and outcompete natives for resources.
- Carry parasites that can be transported to native populations.
References and Useful Links
For references by category and links to other useful AIS sites see our LEARN MORE page.