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FAQs on Snakehead species, Family Channidae

Related Articles: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Snakeheads, By Neale Monks

Related FAQs: 

Mostly large, vicious, and often illegal due to fears of their getting loose, eating food and game fishes

Dwarf snakehead query      4/14/19
Hi Neale!
Hope you are well,
<All good.>
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.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dwarf snakehead query      4/14/19

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. Cheers, Neale.>

Hot apartment. Channid sys.     10/1/11
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 that.>
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 tank.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
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?
Channa punctata
<Yes; and a good size.>
Channa pleurophthalma
Parachanna obscura
Parachanna africana sp fluro green??
Channa harcourtbutleri
<Possibly, but these Lake Inle fish are not normally exposed to really warm conditions, as far as I know.>
Channa maculata
Channa lucius
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 aquariums!
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 here:
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.
Cheers, Neale.>

Compatibility question, Snakeheads   1/29/11
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?
Cheerful regards,
<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 meal.
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 is
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 substantial quantities.
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  -- 1/29/11

I know of a local breeder who has feeder guppies which are considered quite good.
<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 counter-productive.>
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 long-term success.>
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,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: compatibility question -- 1/29/11
Once again you have prevented misstep. I truly value your advice Neale.
<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 book recommendations?
Warmest regards
<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, Neale.>

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