Christian Kanele ; snakeheads.org - questions@snakeheads.org

For every difficult question, there is an answer that is clear and simple and wrong. - George Bernard Shaw

If you have questions concerning Channa, you can ask them here

Q: In the USA, I know at the moment a person (still) could buy red snakeheads. Can you tell me if and where I might do this?
A: the question wether you should buy a red snakehead (a.k.a. Channa micropeltes, Cuvier 1831) is really worth the consideration. Red snakehead is definitely a fish for specialists!! Not so much because of difficulties in respect to water quality or food quality but rather that of size and of food quantity. It outgrows most of the common tanks because it grows more than 1 m very rapidly. And it might take 25 gold fishes per week easily when adult. Go for our gallery to see what it is like. We suggest to start with small Channa species like C. gachua, C. orientalis, C. bleheri, C. spec Assam, and C. asiatica. All of the them are not fitting to a community tank though. If you are in a beginners level of aquarist love study our website, especially the FAQs below and the breeding reports on gachua and C. spec. Assam in the Aquaristic to get a start. Do not make the mistake to buy a C. micropeltes, and after a while make it another Frankenfish case, i.e. put it to U.S. wilderness!!!! Let you be warned, you would do no good job for Channa lovers! You question considering where to get Channa. We do have a page, on which we publish shops which do have Channa to sell.

Q: I'm a little confused: are red snakeheads great/giant snakeheads? and/or toman snakeheads all the same thing? On other sights I can always see the red snakehead with it's look, but I have seen one where it was said that this is a great snakehead. And it was very large and dark almost black.
A: The scientific name for the two common names giant snakehead and red snakehead is C. micropeltes, Cuvier 1831. The scientific name of the common name great snakehead is C. marulia, Hamilton Buchanan 1822. The adult coloring of both species differ dramatically from the juvenile coloring. C. marulia can be very dark while C. micropeltes can have a dark bluish dorsal area and a white belly. Visit our galleries, to view these species. Toman is the Malay name for C. micropeltes.

Q: I was wondering if snakeheads can survive in saltwater, or are they strictly freshwater fish?
A: No, snakeheads are restricted to freshwater. There are articles on experimental exposure of channa to water with different salinity values. They had shown that they only can live with a small amount of salinity.

Q: Can I join Bow fin (amia calva) with snakeheads?
A: To be on the secure side of the tank: no. Bow fins can make trouble. As this email proofs: «Tragedy struck! My 12' amia calva killed the 8' channa micropeltes! I awoke the other morning to find the channa dead on the bottom of the tank. It looks as if the channa was attacked in a fit of rage, due to the multitude of teeth marks around the front half of its body. This is the first sign of aggression that the bowfin had displayed towards the channa (and the last!). I believe this combo is still possible with perhaps a larger size channa, maybe c. asiatica due to its more manageable adult size.»

Q: I was wondering if it would be a good idea to put something like a crab or any other kind of bottom feeder that would eat any food stuff that falls to bottom of tank? Also any suggestions as to what to put if it is a good idea? what is a good species of fish i could put in with channa that wont get killed but will eat all their waste?
A: Crabs are good food but no good idea to keep them with Channa in one tank. We suggest larger asian catfishes like clarias, heteropneustes etc. You also can take larger south americans catfishes. If you have hiding places and a large tank we suggest bichirs.

Q: I have three channa micropeltes (red snakeheads) and from everything I have learned they are not social creatures but mine have been inseperable from the time I got them home until present date I am not sure of their age but they are about 5 inches long (when I got them they were only 2-2and 1/2 inches) but I was wondering if you could let me know if this is normal or perhaps it is due too the fact that they are still juveniles. I have often spent several hours just watching them and the longest I have recorded them being apart is 19 seconds and this is during feeding. hope you can help me with this
A: Your micropeltes are small and very young. They stay in schools only when they are young. They will stay on their own when they get older. Then, one must be careful that the tank is large enough, else the smaller might get pushed around and might die from stress.

Q: I am a red snakehead (channa micropeltes) newbie. Can you give me some facts on food and keeping?
A: C. micropeltes is a very common tank mate in the US. Here are some facts. C. micropeltes is the largest of its family. You can find the largest micropeltes ever caught by an angler on our gallery. It has some more than 7 kgs. It has the size of more than a meter. Channa grow as much as the tank offers. So, if you want it large, you probably would need a much larger tank. The bigger problem is feeding. They take beef, but that is not to recommend. We rather would try to go for frozen fish (cheaper, easier). To get it to frozen fish you can do as follows: Simply do not feed for a week or two. You will see, it will get very lively, if not to say aggressive. Put a piece of fish into the tank, here we go ... It will need only a few seconds to put another one into the tank. The only disadvantage is, that if you feed fish, it will go for other living fish too. But if you have C. micropeltes, you probably do not want other 'common aquarium fishes' share the tank. In the beginning they stay in schools together or 'hang around' in plants. The older Channa get the more they stay on the bottom of the tank. Its keeping is easy, they do not care about much. One thing you should care about is, to cover your tank ALLTHETIME!!!, else you very probably find it on the floor one day, guessingly dried and dead! What else can we say? C. micropeltes are an important food fish especially in Thailand....

Q: I recently purchased a Channa orientalis and I want to know more about them .. could you please give me information about them like how big they get, eating habits etc?
A: First check, if it is really Channa orientalis. We say that because, it can easily be confused with Channa gachua. Channa orientalis does not have pelvic fins (small pairy fins between anus and head). Channa gachua does have those! Channa orientalis only exists in one place of the world!! In Sri Lanka. We do think, that it starts to get a rare species, because of the environmental pollution in Sri Lanka (agricultural pollution: DDT for growing tea etc.) In comparison to Channa gachua: as one of the most available Channa species in Asia, it is to find from Afghanistan to Bali. Channa orientalis is one of the smaller Channa species (about 20 cm). They are mouth brooders. For the very first breeding report see in snakeheads.org. for the article of Ettrich. He is the Channa orientalis breeding specialist. What to eat? All kinds of frozen food: worms, larvae, fish (not meat!!), insects. Do not give them flake food, only if you have nothing else. Best for keeping is to have several in a large tank, or single keeping. If you have smaller fishes with them, they will not live long. Channa generally are predators!!! After one and a half years they start breeding. Sexing is not possible until now. When there is breeding season you will see the intensity of the fin colors increasing. The most common form of death for snakeheads is, that they jump out of the tank!! Close even the smallest hole, otherwise you might find it dried one day!! We swear!! We are about to publish a Channa orientalis gallery soon. In case you have Channa gachua, all above fits to them to.

Q: I have tried to stop feeding my Red-lines feeders because of disease, but can't seem to get them to eat the Hikari pellets I feed my arawana. I stoped feedind them feeders for a few days but, they still won't eat the pellets, then they start to go after each other. How long do I have to starve them so they start eatting the pellets?
A: There are several possibilities. This is the expensive one: feeding him pieces of raw shrimp. They are good for color and disease free. Another person made following experiences: I have never seen a red snakehead eat pellets. I've had success by conditioning my reds. What I did was wave a green net in front of the tank every time before I feed them. This way whenever they saw the net they assumed they were gonna eat feeders. I was then able to substitute other non live foods into the net. This worked OK, not great. But I have found through experience that young red snakeheads are very very hard to wean off live food. Most of them will die before they start to take pellets. I have found that the older they get the more accepting they are of other foods. My 11 year old red will eat everything except pellets. I feed him whole fillets of north atlantic pollock. I think the easiest food other than goldfish is earthworms. Young snakeheads are attracted to movement so it is hard to get them to become flake food fairies!!!! Believe it or not snakeheads love turkey. Try a very small piece of turkey after thanksgiving this year. They will smell the oil coming off the turkey and probably eat it.

Q: What are common names for Channa marulia in English?
A: In the U.S. they have different names. The most common name is cobra snakehead. Others are blueline snakehead, peacock snakehead, and goldline snakehead.

Q: Would Channa do allright with some plecos and a bichir of equal or greater size?
A: Yes, they definitely go with plecos and bichirs. At snakeheads.org we do have 7 bichirs (up to 40 cm) they do well with our Channa gachua (20 cm) and P. obscura (25 cm). In a different tank the Channa bleheris (18 cm) do well with P. palmas (25 cm) and a Pleco (15 cm). Our Channa orientalis and Channa bleheri do even well with Corydoras!!!. Basically there are two rules of thumb. One, Channa only go for fishes which they can fully in sight for swallowing it in one piece. We guess that's the point with the Corydoras. They are to high for their mouth (On the other hand, Channa micropeltes and Corydoras ... it's too ridiculous to talk about). Second, if there is a couple of Channa in the tank and they are in the mood for breeding, it is getting bad for the other fishes. Channa can get really wild. Bichirs would not fight back, but they need space to hide away. Therefore, a tank large enough is very important!!!!!!

Q: Found my little Channa bleheri dried up in the hallway this morning. Putting him back in the tank didn't magically recharge him either. now i'll have to wait months to get another when i have the money for an order again. I had all of the tank openings blockaded with various stuff, sneaky bastard.
A: Don't be too disappointed, though it hurts. Channa lovers all know and experience that sooner or later. It had happened to us this morning too. We simply !!! forgot to close the tank yesterday night. In cases the atmospheric humidity is high, they do well for quite a long time. But in houses it is different. Their skin dries out though they live when one puts them back. We guess they die of scin-disfunctionality. Our Channa bleheri had lived 4 days and died then. On the back the skin had dried most. There, it had turned to fully black, indicating the nerves and skin disruption. Hamilton Buchanan, 1822 already has reported the walking of Channa gachua in the first description of this fish. Theophrastus a pupil of the Greek philosopher Aristotle already knew this species as the fish walking on earth. So there is no wonder those fishes get off the tank so often.

Q: What are the names for snakeheads in Finnish?
A: Channa micropeltes is called Juovakäärmeenpääkala , Parachanna obscura is called Marmorikäärmeenpääkala, Channa orientalis is called Pikkukäärmeenpääkala , and Channa striata is called Raitakäärmeenpääkala. Everything clear?! ;-)

Q: Is a cobra snakehead Channa marulia or a Channa marulioides? What is the difference between those?
A: Sometimes, Cobra snakeheads is used for Channa marulioides and for Channa marulia, that's true. In the U.S., they mean Channa marulia. In Thailand, it is Channa marulioides. In naming them as they are even the scientists agree that they are very similar! The are two visible differences if one does not know their number of dorsal and anal fin rays .
  1. Channa marulia has a shiny 'eye' near its tail fin.
  2. Channa marulioides has shiny shields on its side which might look like a flower.

Q: My local fish shop has a bleheri snakehead, the closest thing i found on it was a dwarf snakehead, and that's what i think it is.. Do you have any experience with these snakeheads, it has nice color, i am considering getting it
A: The common name for Channa gachua is Dwarf Snakehead (But: Channa orientalis is also called the dwarf snakehead sometimes!). And the common one for Channa bleheri is Rainbow Snakehead. Channa bleheri is a 'dwarf' species reaching about 8'. Recent imports are sometimes difficult to feed, but once they start eating, they are pretty easy to feed. Can be aggressive, of course, but if kept with larger fish, they tend to do well in a community - which seems to help this fish lose some of its shyness.The most striking difference between Channa gachua and Channa bleheri is the missing ventral fins at Channa bleheri. Secondary it is the color.Channa gachua and Channa orientalis are often intermingled. The visual main difference between those two is the missing ventral fin of Channa orientalis. Else there is hardly a difference (it is in breeding behavior). Rather, Channa orientalis and Channa bleheri are very very closely related. So does Channa bleheri also miss a ventral fin. Vierke wrote about it (in German) in 1991.

Q: Why are snakeheads sometimes called Ophicephalus and sometimes Channa?
A: The missing ventral fin was the main feature to separate snakeheads into Ophicephali and in Channa. Channa were those fishes which had no ventral fin (example: Channa asiatica, introduced by Gronow 1769 and Linne 1759). Ophicephali were those fishes which have a ventral fin (example: ophicephalus punctatus Bloch 1793). In 1932 this separation into two species was made invalid. Channa was introduced for all those fishes (about 18 species, Parachanna not included). But still you find the name ophicephalus mentioned which is officially a synonyme. It is still used probably because this article introducing Channa as only valid scientific name had been published in CHINA!!! All the mentioned names and articles are to be published here (sooner or later).

Q: How can i sex Channa micropeltes (giant/red snakehead)? I have 8 small fish about 5 inches long?
A: Sexing channa is never easy. In general, male are usually some more colorful during breeding season and female might be a little more roundish. In your case it is simply impossible because of two reasons.
  1. For common channa sexing yours are too young. Yours are probably less than 1 year old.
  2. Channa micropeltes are so large that they never have been breed in aquaria. Therefore, there are no data around for breeding or sexing them, less than those species which have been breed. Even commercial breeding of other larger snakeheads like Channa striata do not have easy ways. For example on Hawaii, they use ultrasonic for each single fish to determine its sex. Sorry!
This is an answer of the commercial channa breeding specialist who was consulted by snakeheads.org: Breeding large Channa will only accomplished in a very large tank, dimensions 3m wide by 10 m in length. There are NO apparent sexual differences. The fish must be over 600 mm in length and the male is distinguished by the small differences in the placement of the sexual organs on the underside of the fish. To do this the fish must be anaesthetised and this should be only carried out by persons whom have had training in this procedure.

Q: I would like to keep about 5 Channa bleheri in a 4 foot 325 ltr tank. I plan to use bogwood and plants to create a surrounding with plenty off places to hide you mentioned occationel aggression and plantcover or hidingplaces seem the best solution for plants i think i use cryptos,valis,aponogeton and amazon swort any information you could give me or suggestions about my plans would be very appreciated
A: We think your suggestions for plants is not bad. The only plant which we would exclude is the Crypto. Due to our experiences with Channa bleheri they stay quite a time on the bottom. When rumbling or searching for food, they can pull out plants. The rest of the time they hang in plants waiting for their next victim. Therefore we do prefer Vallisneria and Echinodorus because they are robust and larger plants.Bogwood is sth. they like very much.

Q: My name is kazumeshi and I want to know if you have any information on a specific snakehead.i took a trip to japan last year and went to one of there pet stores and they had a snakehead called flaowa toma and I was wondering if you guys can help me get one of those?
A: We love channa, but based in Switzerland we cannot say much where to get a snakehead in Japan. Japanese are very fond of predatory fishes. But we do not know more ... We only can help to identify it, so that you might search for it on a fish importer's or fish shop site. TOMAN is the Malay word for the Giant Snakehead. We guess flaowa is for flower. There it might be TOMAN BUNGA whose skin is ornated of spots lookings like flowers. The scientific name would be Channa marulioides . Go for its gallery here to check.

Q: Do you have any info or pics of Channa barca?
A: We do not have not much information for Channa barca either. You can identify it by following data: Dorsal fin rays: 47-52; anal fin rays: 34-36; ventral fin rays 6. It is often sold as Channa stewartii which has a much smaller number of anal fin rays: 27. The first description of Channa barca is described first time by Hamiton Buchanan, 1822 Another bibliographic record is: Talwar, P.K. and A.G. Jhingran, 1992 Inland fishes of India and adjacent countries. Volume 2. pp.1016-1017; A.A. Balkema, Rotterdam. A Channa barca gallery is installed. Have a look under Aquaristic->Gallery.

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