Getting Addicted to Dwarf Snakeheads

Wanda and Ken Newby - WandaAndKenNewby

Well, this started at the beginning of the year. We were to meet a friend, to buy some fish from him. Prior to the meeting, he informed me he had some fish I might be interested in. Told me they were called Channa orientalis, snakeheads. The only snakeheads we had ever heard of were the tank busters. He then informed me they were dwarfs! 1 I had to investigate. So onto the Internet I went. Every picture I saw was of these fish that to me were so ugly they were cute! So after investigating and talking to my friend we decided to buy a few. So with his recommendation we decided to buy 12! We got them home and placed them all in a 20-gallon long tank. He had told us that they would grow fast. He was not lying!! They had to be split up within 4 weeks of us having them. So we then had 6 in each tank.
C. gachua (female)The female part of the C. gachua couple. It has less colors and the belly is fuller compared to the male part.

We have found out since the arrival of these cute little guys that in fact they are not C. orientalis. They are C. gachua. The difference you ask? Well, we had some miss information and have now found out that the difference is that C.orientalis have no ventrals! Our first information was that some of them do and some don't, which is incorrect. The C. gachua does have them. Also, we are finding, according to pics we have seen, that they C. gachua stay more gray with orange fin trim in full spawn color and the C. orientalis look more blue. The coloring, we are still not sure about though! Guess we need to find some to buy!
C. gachua (male)The male part of the C. gachua couple. It has more colors and is more slim.

A little info on Channa gachua

They are a dwarf snakehead and only reach a length of about 8 inch. When you purchase any, buy several. Because when they get ready to mate, they pick ther mate and they spawn with that mate for life. So unless you know that the pair you are purchasing is a proven pair, buy several. They are hard to sex. The female is a little more robust than the male.
C. gachua (couple)The C. gachua couple. The above is the female, the below one is the male part. Can you see the differences?

They are aggressive and will eat anything they can get in there mouth! They have beautiful coloring! They are not real aggressive to there species unless they are spawning. Then you want to make sure the pair has a tank to themselves. They are mouthbrooders and the male will hold for about 5-7 days. They are also good jumpers! When you keep them together, there are a couple of things you will want to do. Have plenty of hiding places. But when you do the water changes, move the items around. We do this so that they won't get to territorial and as aggressive.

Back to the story

Once we split them onto groups of 6, we then moved them to 30-gallon breeder tanks. One day I noticed that a male was holding eggs!! So, we kept an eye on him. We knew he would only spawn with that particular female, because they pair for life. The problem ... out of the other 5 in the tank, we did not know which was the female!! So we waited. About day 3 or 4, we noticed another fish hanging around and acting like a guard. The other clue that she was the one ... all the others were coward in the other corner of the tank. So out of a plastic storage container we built a make shift divider for the tank. With everyone in their corners, it made it kind of simple to remove the other fish and leave the pair. Other attempts to do this procedure when other pairs mated were not as successful! It was almost funny. But that is another story! A couple of days later we noticed the fry!! There was about 50-60 (normal spawn 150+) of them. What was so neat was that they were all hanging around the base of da's tail! They were there like glue. The female was over in here corner relaxing. But if you walked up to the tank or got close, the parents went into immediate defense mode! I had to put some fry food in the tank and opened the lid about 1 inch and the male came after me and actually came out of the tank! We found out that during the next week the parents did not eat too much. When anyone ate it was usually the female. Another thing we found out is that as long as the fry are in the tank, the pair will not hurt them. But they also will not spawn again!
C. gachua male mouthbreedingThe C. gachua male part with its hatchlings in the mouth guarding.

Specifics of our tanks and feeding them

Our tanks are usually about 80 degrees and the ph is usually about 7.0. We do regular water changes once a week. In the tank we have some floating plants, a piece of driftwood for them to swim and hide in, and some broken clay pots for them.

Feeding is a wild endeavor. The fry get Baby brine shrimp and grindals for about 4 days. Then they go to mysis shrimp, bloodworms and flake. I am in the process of training them. I tap on the glass lid before I put food in.That way they know to start looking and I think it makes feeding easier for them when they get to their new homes.
C. gachua guarding its broodThe C. gachua female guarding its brood. Wanda and Ken could observe the release of feeder eggs! Now it is proven.

When the fry get bigger and on up to adults, they get bloodworms, plankton, mysis shrimp, some pellets, cut up silversides, live fish that we cull, and red wiggler worms.

Final notes

We still have the 12 we started with. Out of those 12, we have 3 pairs and each pair has had a successful spawn. We enjoy watching the parents. But we really enjoy watching the fry grow and how they interact with the parents.

We have enjoyed watching these so much that we now have 2 other species of dwarfs.


1 Dwarf snakehead is a non-scientific name, and it comprises some of the 28 Channa species. These are C. orientalis, C. gachua, C. bleheri, and C. spec Assam (an hitherto undescribed species which is often sold as blue bleheri - avoid this name because it is wrong!) [] Back

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