The northern snakehead fish is a species of large carnivorous freshwater fish found to inhabit muddy aquatic substrates such as streams and rivers. It is native to parts of China, Siberia, Russia, North, and South Korea and is considered to be a food source for the people who inhabit its natural range. The fish is not native to the U.S. The northern snakehead fish has been introduced to natural bodies of water such as ponds, streams, lakes, and rivers in North America by aquarium hobbyists or by accident.
Populations of the northern snakehead fish are found now found in the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. They are also found in bodies of water in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Arkansas. The northern snakehead is considered to be an invasive species in the U.S. due to its predatory nature and ability to reproduce and double its population rapidly. This poses a risk to the biodiversity of natural water bodies in the U.S.
North America, China, Russia, Southern Siberia, North Korea, South Korea
Snakehead Fish Interesting Facts
What type of animal is a snakehead fish?
The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is a large carnivorous fish belonging to the family Channidae. It is native to parts of North Korea, South Korea, China, and Russia. The snakehead fish is considered to be a food source for people who live within in natural range. An interesting adaptation of snakeheads is that their respiratory systems have evolved to enable them to breathe air through their gills and survive on land for several days! Snakehead fish on the land move about using a wriggling motion from one body of water to another.
What class of animal does a snakehead fish belong to?
The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is a species of large carnivorous fish belonging to the Actinopterygii class, and Channa genus in the Animalia kingdom. Two sub-species of the northern snakehead fish have been identified. The first is the Channa argus argus found to originate in Korea and China. The second subspecies is the Channa argus warpachowskii that is believed to be native to eastern Russia.
How many snakehead fish are there in the world?
The global population of the northern snakehead fish is not documented or registered in any natural conservation registry. Although native to parts of China, Russia, Siberia, and North and South Koreas, snakeheads have also been introduced in the U.S. and in Europe. Snakehead fish numbers differ in their native habitats and introduced populations in the U.S.
Where does a snakehead fish live?
The northern snakehead lives in muddy bodies of water, wetlands, ponds, reservoirs, and rivers.
What is a snakehead fish's habitat?
The northern snakehead fish is found in stagnant muddy bodies of water such as ponds with aquatic vegetation or slow-moving muddy streams and rivers. Introduced populations of the northern snakehead fish inhabit freshwater ponds, reservoirs, and rivers.
Who do snakehead fish live with?
Northern snakeheads live and hunt in shallow bodies of water in groups called schools.
How long does a snakehead fish live?
The typical average lifespan of the northern snakehead fish is between three to eight years in the wild. The average longevity of the snakehead fish is about five to six years.
How do they reproduce?
Male and female northern snakeheads reach sexual maturity within two or three years in their natural habitat in the wild. At this age, they are approximately 11.8-13.8 in (30 - 35cm) in length. Northern snakehead fish are capable of mating and breeding throughout the year and have been found to double their population numbers in less than 15 months!
Female northern snakeheads build circular floating nests using aquatic plants. They can lay more than 100,000 fish eggs in a year in introduced populations. The eggs of the fish fertilize externally in shallow bodies of water around dawn. Both male and female northern snakeheads guard the eggs against predators till yolk absorption, development of the baby fish, and for a few weeks after they hatch. It takes between one and three days for the baby fish to hatch. Once the babies hatch, they can wriggle over onto land.
What is their conservation status?
The exact population numbers and conservation status of the northern snakehead fish have not been specified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This species has not been listed in any conservation registry.
Snakehead Fish Fun Facts
What do snakehead fish look like?
The northern snakehead (Channa argus) fish is a relatively large and long carnivorous fish found in muddy freshwater bodies and ponds with aquatic vegetation. It has a long dorsal fin on top extending to its circular tail. The dorsal fin has approximately 50 rays. The anal fin under its body has about 32 rays.
The channa argus snakehead has a wide mouth and jawline with fine, sharp teeth densely packed into bands. It also has large canine teeth in its bottom jaw. The northern snakehead fish has a scaly tan or pale brown body with dark brown blotches distributed evenly along its back and sides.
How cute are they?
The northern snakehead fish is a carnivorous species with a broad mouth designed to help during hunting. While the northern snakehead may not be typically cute to look at, you may find its appearance impressive because of its sheer size and length. The northern snakehead can grow up to 100cm in length!
How do they communicate?
The northern snakehead fish is believed to produce a small range of sounds and vocalizations that they use to communicate. Adult snakehead channa argus fish have been found to produce grunting sounds when they feed on prey. They have also been found to make clicking noises, especially when they rise to the surface of the water to breathe.
How big is a snakehead fish?
An adult or mature northern snakehead fish can grow up to 35-39 in (91-100 cm) in length and can weigh about 15-19 lb (6.8-8.6 kg).
How fast can a snakehead fish swim?
Snakehead fish are not particularly fast swimmers. They can walk on land can using small wriggling motions to the tune of about 0.5 ft (15 cm) per second.
How much does a snakehead fish weigh?
A large or adult specimen of a northern snakehead fish can weigh up to 15-19 lb (6.8-8.6 kg).
What are the male and female names of the species?
The male and female northern snakehead fish do not have separate names. But the male northern snakehead fish tends to be larger than the female.
What would you call a baby snakehead fish?
Baby northern snakehead fish are called hatchlings or fry.
What do they eat?
Northern snakeheads are carnivorous hunters. They are mainly piscivorous and are on top of the food chain in their natural habitats. Baby snakeheads feed on zooplankton when young. As they grow older, they hunt and eat smaller fish and crustaceans such as small shrimp, crab, crayfish, and snails. They also eat aquatic invertebrates, amphibians such as frogs, and insects, insect larvae, and beetles. While their main threat is humans, they may also be preyed upon by crocodiles, otters, turtles, etc.
Are they dangerous?
Yes, northern snakeheads are dangerous carnivorous predators in their natural environment. They hunt by chasing, attacking, and biting smaller fish and other freshwater invertebrates closer to the aquatic vegetation near the shores of the bodies of water.
Snakeheads are not native to the U.S. They are considered to be an invasive fish species and threat to local aquatic habitats and biodiversity because they breed and multiply rapidly throughout the year.
Would they make a good pet?
No, northern snakeheads are carnivorous predators found in muddy bodies of freshwater. Their natural habitats are shallow bodies of water such as streams and ponds with aquatic vegetation where they can hunt and prey on smaller fish. They are not meant to be kept as pets and are a common source of seafood for populations that live in the range of their habitat.
Did you know...
The northern snakehead has evolved to be able to breathe air. The northern snakehead fish can survive on land for several days!
Chinese fishermen respect the northern snakehead fish because it sacrifices itself to protect its young ones. Young northern snakehead hatchlings feed on the mother fish upon birth and she cannot hunt prey during this time.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the biggest northern snakehead fish caught on record weighed a whopping 19.9 lb (9 kg) and measured 35.157 in (89.29cm) in length. It was hunted in Maryland in 2018 using a bow and arrow.
What is problematic about snakehead fish?
The northern snakehead fish is considered to be an invasive fish that poses a threat to the local biodiversity of natural bodies of water in North America. In 2002, the U.S. Government banned the import and cross-border transportation of the northern snakehead fish due to their accidental escape or release in local ponds and rivers in Maryland. It is still illegal to introduce the northern snakehead fish into local bodies of water without authorization in several U.S. states, such as Virginia.
Northern snakeheads are known to be aggressive top-level predators and are capable of mating and breeding throughout the year. This means that they can double their population in about a little over a year or 15 months! Each female northern snakehead fish can lay over 100,000 eggs in a year and they take only one to two days to hatch. This can result in an imbalance in the ecosystem of local bodies of water in the U.S. and can threaten native populations of smaller fish, crustacean, and aquatic invertebrate populations. People are encouraged by the authorities to kill snakehead fish if they ever come across it.
How did the snakehead fish get to America?
The northern snakehead (Channa argus) was introduced in select bodies of water in the U.S. due to its economic value as a seafood source. The first northern snakehead fish colony was discovered by a fisherman in a pond in Crofton, Maryland. The fish were released by a man who purchased them from a market in New York. Officials immediately drained the pond to destroy the fish as they were considered to be a threat to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In 2004, a northern snakehead population was found in the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia that flows into the Chesapeake Bay. In 2008, northern snakeheads were released in local water bodies in Arkansas due to a commercial fish-farming accident. As of 2012, northern snakeheads are still found in the Potomac River and in ponds and rivers in New York, Florida, Philadelphia, Massachusetts, California, and North Carolina.
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