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thepack has invited me to come here and take part so here is my main contribution
i think most of you will have come across this on WW but for those who not i hope you enjoy it

Part 1 Snakeheads in the aquarium
Many people do not consider snakeheads as aquarium fish and the prejudices against the fish are unjustified. Sadly too many people have made bad experiences with snakeheads, mostly with Channa micropeltis. It is hard to believe that the little red striped fish will grow into a "monster" that will eat all the other fish in your tank
Where it is correct that many snakeheads are not suited to the average sized aquarium, there are still many smaller species that can be kept in the average sized tank.
Even the medium sized and larger Channa can be successfully kept if certain rules are followed.
Firstly anyone thinking of keeping snakeheads should be aware off the fact that keeping the fish in a community tank is out of the question. These fish are predators and will eventually consume most of the other fish.
Snakeheads are fish belonging to the family of Channidae and comprise of two genera.
Channa from Asia and Parachanna from Africa. The fish are split into this two different species due to the Parachanna more simple design of the suprabranchial organ.
What is a suprabranchial organ?
The suprabranchial organ is a chamber above the gills, similar but more primitive than the labyrinth organ of the anabantoid. A membrane that absorbs oxygen from atmospheric air and supplies it to the blood stream covers this chamber. This adaptation enables the snakehead to survive in the most adverse conditions it encounters in its natural environment. The fish master low oxygen levels, poor water and living conditions, which most fish could not survive in, with ease. This adaptation also enables the snakehead to "walk" over land to another body of water, if the need should arise. Snakeheads need to breathe air at regular intervals to survive. Should access to the surface not be granted the fish would drown, just like their cousins the anabantoids
It is widely accepted that both genera of Channa decent from a common ancestor that made their way from Africa to Asia or vice versa. Africa and Asia where once connected through a land bridge over 25 to 20 million years ago. I suppose this makes snakeheads Jurassic fish.
From where the fish originally emigrated from is not clear. The more primitive design of the African Channa draws the conclusion that the Asian Channa originate from African ancestors whereas the limited amount of Channa species in Africa would point to a different conclusion.

Snakeheads are widely distributed in tropical Africa and Asia as well as the subtropical foothills of the Himalayas in Assam and northern Bengal in the Brahmaputra river basin. Fast lowing jungle streams to rice fields and ponds, as well as canals, rivers and backwaters are all typical habitats of snakeheads. The diversity of habitats for snakeheads is very wide.
Channa species Assam, also known as the blue bleheri, lives in a biotope where one would never assume a fish would live at all. Another species of snakehead, channa Argus, lives as far as Siberia in the Amur River and has been known to survive under ice if provided with a breathing hole.
(A licence is needed to keep Channa argus in the UK)

The ideal snakehead aquarium would be densely planted and structured with robust plants and bogwood. Stones and slate are also a good option to add extra structure. This is important to provide the weaker fish in the group, in a pair usually the female, with areas of shelter where they can retreat. With the larger Channa a densely planted tank is not an option. A big Channa micropeltis for example would make short work of any dense plant cover due to his enormous body size.
These fish are best kept alone with only a few solitary hardy plants and some larger pieces of bogwood. Alternatively you could use artificial plants for your big snakeheads.
My big Channa marulioides lives in a tank with artificial plants. I bought these at a well-known specialist aquatic retailer. I'm not sure who makes them but the quality is outstanding and the size is much larger then the usual artificial plants offered.
Also it is important to make sure that the tank is securely covered, as snakeheads are real escape artists. I'm always amazed how small a gap the fish use to escape the tank. On several occasions I have found snakeheads on the floor of my fish house due to my own fold. A small opening in the cover is all that is needed to escape. Especially channa bleheri are real escape artists. I like to call them Houdini snakeheads much to the amusement of my daughter. Fortunately if found in time the fish can be placed back in the tank and will survive their ordeal. It is amazing how a fish that seemed dead for certain all over a sudden starts to move about again. Usually they will be in a terrible state for a few days until the fish start to heal again.
Escaping an inhospitable body of water is a natural behaviour to a snakehead. If the fish cannot avoid a dominant male or pair, their instinct is to leave and look for a new water to make their home. For this reason even channa that do not originate from a heavily planted environment need a planted tank in captivity to avoid constant bullying. Bigger fish need to be kept in pairs or single for the same reasons

Snakeheads can be divided into three general groups: Dwarfs, medium and big.
All three of these groups can also be split into tropical and subtropical.
I find it important to provide the correct set-up. As most channa are still wild caught specimen keeping them at the wrong temperatures can have fatal results.
Dwarf Channa can be kept in groups, in tanks starting from 90-120x37x45cm/36-48x15x18"
Medium sized Channa as pairs in tank sizes starting from 120-150x45x60cm/48-60x18x24" with the exception of Channa pleurophthalma, who can live in groups.
Large snakeheads in tanks starting from 180x60x60cm/6x2x2' with no limits on how big a tank you want to set up for your fish

Snakeheads have the reputation of being one of the hardiest fish around. However many hobbyist have lost snakeheads over the years not knowing why? Channa can live in water most other fish would surely perish. So why are they dying on us. The answer is simple. Whereas most other fish will appreciate a large water change, snakeheads on the other hand will not. Also snakeheads seem to be very intolerant of chlorine and heavy metals that our tab water do contain in sometimes large proportions
Changing the water chemistry in such a rapid way is the possibly most common reason snakeheads die. Almost all snakeheads will react badly to too much fresh tab water. This seems to be especially the case with juvenile specimen. If a large water change is needed it is best to use well aged water which brings with it the problem of storing it
This means that smaller water changes more often using a dechlorinator and an adequate filter are the answer.
Most commonly available filters will be adequate to filter a snakehead tank. However I believe that a large volume as provided by canister filters helps to improve the water quality. Air driven sponge filters are also a good option if the sponge is large enough to contain vast amounts of biological filter bacteria
We should all point our efforts into breeding the fish we keep.
Many of the commonly available Snakeheads have been bred in the aquarium. A harmonising pair is essential for a successful breeding. A pair will usually find itself from a group of snakeheads.
Buying a male and a female if the sexes are known does not result in a harmonising pair!
Many snakehead keepers have found that only a pair found from a group of channa reproduces successfully. It has now been proven that the females feed the young with feeder eggs after the yolk sacs have been absorbed. Removing the parents from the young at this stage will lead to a slower development of the fry. Young taken from their parents at this stage and raised separately did not develop as fast as their siblings staying with the parents. Due to the nurturing proteins in the feeder eggs released by the female the young grow at an astonishing rate
I recommend a minimum of six fish to be kept in a planted and well-structured tank. Sometimes the fish will pair off leaving the others in general peace until breeding time. Unfortunately in a lot of cases, getting snakeheads to pair from a group can result in the death of some individuals. Catching a snakehead in a proper snakehead tank is not an easy task and fish traps will result in the fish drowning, as they cannot reach the surface to breath. The alternative would be to raise the fish from juveniles in a grow out tank and provide the proper set up only once a pair has been established. For this purpose java fern and anubias attached to bogwood are the perfect plants to furnish the grow-out tank. Amazon sword planted in pots and floating plants such as India fern are also a good choice as well as beech leaves covering the floor of the tank. Slate is the best stone material to use for providing screens in the tank. This means that the whole tank can easily be emptied to catch an individual fish and then be just as easily refurnished.
A bare tank for growing and pairing up snakeheads is not appropriate!
Once the fish have paired up they will remain mates for the rest of their lives.
Feeding snakeheads is easy, as most snakeheads will readily take food on their first day in the aquarium. Sometimes patience is required if you buy an adult fish, that in some cases, will react to the change in its environment by refusing food. Usually these periods do not last very long. The longest it took me to get a snakehead feeding was 3 weeks. The fish came from a friend that had lost the male and didn't want a single female. Widowed snakeheads pine for their partners and can refuse food for long periods of time.
When feeding, the snakehead will strike forward at his "prey and release all the air in the suprabranchial organ at once thru the gills. This creates a vacuum that literally sucks the food or prey into its mouth. Larger snakeheads are known to take preys near enough as big as themselves
The prey will get stalked and the fish will move itself into the right position. Then it will bend into a S-shape and lunge forward. Once the fish is ready to strike things are usually over in seconds.
Sadly this behaviour is not observed if the fish are feed on frozen food. In that case the fish will just lunge forward and swallow the prey whole in one straight motion. I can only advise not to feed live food, as it is unethical and morally wrong. We are fish keepers and not fish killers
Ideal foods for snakeheads are; prawns of all sizes, mussels, cockles, fish (whitebait), garden worms and most of the going frozen foods offered at the local tropical fish shop. Beware of buying worms from your local tackle shop. Some of the worms have yellow stripes you can just notice between the individual sections of the body. I have found that most fish will not eat this worm. I have been told that the worm taste bad to the fish. It would explain why they do spit them out straight away.
Only my giant red fin gourami has ever eaten this worm but then she would eat anything I offer her
Small juvenile snakeheads should be fed everyday on a variety of foods suited to their size. Small Channa of the dwarf species are best started on bloodworm, artemia and large mysis. The medium and larger species are usually large enough to take cockle, prawn and fish by the time they are sold in the shops. Once the fish have reached a certain size food should only be offered three to four times a week to cut down on the waist products and reduce the organically pollution of the tank
These sizes are 2/3rds of total body length for the dwarf species, half the body length for the medium and 1/3 of body length for the giants.
All in all snakeheads will make an excellent aquarium fish if a few points are taken into consideration and the appropriate set up is provided for the fish. Not only is their predatory nature one of the big appeals for the fishes growing popularity but also their complex behaviour and the care of their young make them one of the most interesting fish to observe in the aquarium

Ulrich Alsfasser
For Practical Fishkeeping Magazine


Part 2 Dwarf and smaller snakeheads
Of the available smaller and dwarf channa I would like to restrict myself to a selection of ten specimen. Of these ten Channa most with the exception of three are all available in the shops at times of the year. With snakeheads availability depends often on the season, as most are still wild caught fish.
These three would be Channa asiatica that is rarely imported, Channa spec. Kerala 5 stripe that is not scientifically described as of yet and channa spec. Himalaya, another species of Channa from the lower Himalayan region belonging to the stewarti genius
Some of the smaller dwarf channa can be housed in a 90x37x45cm/36x15x18" tank if kept in pairs and the others require a tank of 48x15x18 for a pair or group depending on inner species aggression.

Channa bleheri, channa species kerala, channa species himalaya, channa stewarti and channa species Assam are fish from the Brahmaputra River basin in Assam where they are endemic. As these fish originate from the lower himalaya region where winter temperature are at around 16 to 18 degree they are very much suited to a subtropical set-up. In the summer temperature can be as high as 30 or more in shallow water but are usually around 26 to 28 degree. With their additional breathing apparatus the suprabranchial organ the fish are perfectly suited to this environment.
Channa bleheri at 15 cm and Channa species Assam at 12 cm total length can be kept in a smaller set up. The tank should be densely planted and well structured. Avoid any plants that cannot withstand the lower temperatures in the winter. Both fish are peaceful by snakehead standards and have been bred in captivity. To start breeding a cooling period followed by a water change usually is enough to get things started. It is possible to sex these fish. In spec Assam the male differs from the female by his bluer dorsal fin and less red spots. In a top-view the head of the male is broader in the gill region. This theory can also be applied to Channa bleheri. Even so Channa bleheri and Channa species Assam look similar they are different fish. Channa bleheri are not a bubble nester but keep their eggs in a raft whereas Channa spec. Assam is a mouth brooder and is only collected from one location by the same person.
This means that all spec. Assam is from the same wholesaler. In the beginning just after the fish was discovered, it was given the name blue bleheri, to give a higher price on the marked, as channa bleheri is still the most expensive dwarf snakehead offered on sale
Channa species himalaya, a variant of Channa stewarti, is another slightly larger Channa from Alipur Duar in western Bengal. The fish are not typical piscivores but hunt for insects and crustaceans in the shallows of rivers. Nevertheless the occasional fish will get eaten. The fish has successfully been breed by a german hobbyist. The fish paired of from a group of six channa in a 110x50x50cm/44x20x20"
The fish are mouth brooders in the male sex. He noticed that that the fry grew unusually fast.
I have listed the fish as spec. Himalaya as I have not heard of any scientific work that specifically classifies the fish as channa stewarti. Until then I feel we have to refer to the fish by this name
Channa species kerala 5 stripe from the lower foothills of the himalaya are a new species of channa that does grow to 20cm/8". The fish have been recently imported, possibly for the first time, into Britain and I was lucky to get 6 of them. I'm housing all six in a 120x45x45cm/48x18x18" tank at a temperature of 24 degree. The fish are not showing any excessive aggression at this point but had a few skirmishes so far.
For food they readily take the going frozen foods. A friend in Germany has already successfully bred them. His pair spawned at 20 degree and has killed of all the other 5 stripes in the tank during the pairing possess. When the temperature sink in the fish house next winter, I suppose I will find out if mine will do the same. Channa kerala 5 stripe is a mouth brooder in the male sex. The male will incubate the eggs in a dug out hollow like reported in Channa species Himalaya. Could this fish be another species of the stewarti family? According to a very reliable source this fish does not belong to the stewarti genius but is a new species all together. Looking at the evidence so far available, this thesis seems accurate.
Channa gachua is the most widely distributed snakehead of all. His range reaches from Sri Lanka over India to almost all over Asia as far as Persia and even on the island of Bali. Sizes range from 12cm / 5" for the lake Inle variant to 25cm/10" for the Kottawa forest variant from Sri Lanka. It is ironic that the small lake Inle variant is the most aggressive. Since there are so many variant of Channa gachua it is often very difficult to pinpoint the variant without knowing its origin. Sadly the information is not always available, as exporters seem to collect fish from all over the country. A pair will need a minimum tank size of 90x37x45cm/36x15x18" with a temperature of around 25 degree. A tank of the same volume but longer would be a better choice. Since the origin of most of the Channa gachua isn't always known it is best to be on the safe side. With some species of channa gachua being found in Assam a subtropical set-up is needed for these fish. Unfortunately that information is not always available. Channa gachua is the most commonly bred snakehead in the aquarist hobby but sadly it is mainly wild specimens that are offered for sale in the shops. It has been found that all different variants of channa gachua have different genetic backgrounds. In years to come scientists will hopefully review the species gachua and revise it. This could lead to new species that are not unknown at all. Interesting is that channa gachua is the only true walking snakehead. The fish literally walks on its pectoral fins. This behaviour is only found in the genius gachua but genetic material suggests they are different types of fish. Until scientific evidence is clearly stating the status of the different species of gachua we can only speculate.
Channa orientalis is a small snakehead from the island of Sri Lanka. The fish are endemic on Sri lanka, which means they are not found anywhere else. When buying Channa orientalis have a look on its belly for the ventral fins. If it has ventral fins then it is a Channa gachua that also lives on the island. Sadly most Channa orientalis imported for the aquatic trade are in fact Channa gachua. I have only seen true orientalis once many years ago in Germany. Anyone lucky enough to purchase true Channa orientalis should have the objective to breed the fish.
Channa orientalis is a mouth brooder. In old literature you will often find references to variants with pelvis fins (ventral). With these fish the authors refer unknowingly to Channa gachua. We now know that there is only one variant of channa orientalis. The one with out ventral fins
Channa stewarti, from the Assam region, reaches up to 25cm/10" in size with reports of larger specimen that are most likely wrongly identified Channa aurantimaculata. This snakehead has a large number of local varieties. I have been told of blue and even green variants of this fish. I have a variant of channa stewarti from northern Assam. At this point in time the fish are still very shy and nervous. The usual aggression that is characteristic for these fish I could so far not observe. We can conclude that the fish have the same feeding and breeding habits then spec. Himalaya as they are, with all probability, the same genius. Again this fish has been successfully bred with the most reports coming from the german IGL. Channa stewarti is another mouth brooder in the male sex. It seems that with mouth brooding snakeheads the men do the hard work for a change. I have lately noticed a channa stewarti with a swollen throat sack in my tank. I'm hoping to have a brooding male. Sadly in the last few days the fish has not come out so I couldn't check on his progress, but have seen a smaller fish sitting above the spot where I first noticed the brooding male. This is most probably the female.
With channa asiatica we come the first of the three smaller snakeheads for our introduction. Channa asiatica is a nice snakehead from china that reaches 30cm/12" in size. It needs the same set-up as the other subtropical channa. I have not seen this fish in the shops for the last 3 years. The fish where offered as chocolate snakehead in a well-known shop in oxford. Channa asiatica is one of the few species of snakehead that have no ventral fins. It is a highly desirable fish with a stunning colouration that would be the pride of any snakehead fan should they be lucky enough to call the fish their own. Keeping a pair and breeding the fish for the benefit of others should be the priority of any aquarist that finds him or herself in the position to buy a group of the truly beautiful fish. Breeding reports mention the eggs swimming on the surface of the water due to an oil bladder. No bubble nest is build.
Channa punctata with a size of 30cm/12" originates from India, Sri Lanka and China. The fish, which is also found in subtropical Assam, is sold regularly in shops. It is one of the most common available snakeheads. As juveniles these fish feature red spots but with age these seem to disappear. The fish is suitable for the tropical set-up as most fish are imported from India and Sri Lanka. Adult specimens are very heavy bodied. Unfortunately I have no data about the breeding and care of the young. I think it is save to assume that the breeding behaviour is similar to other channa.
Our last snakehead, Channa Lucia is widely distributed through out Indonesia where they live in all the mentioned habitats. Lucia's are truly beautiful fish with a very pointy-head. The fish can change colour in an instant if startled or frightened as I could observe. I have never seen a fish bigger then 25cm/10". Most reports of channa Lucia exceeding this size is most likely Parachanna insignis who look similar in shape and pattern. Again I have sadly no relevant information, on the breeding and breeding behaviour, of channa Lucia
With most of the mentioned fish available during the year, buying snakeheads is not too difficult. As most aquatic retailers do not stock the fish a special order may need to be placed. Unfortunately many retailers have no experience with the fish and are reluctant to stock snakeheads as they enjoy a bad reputation with most of the average fish keeper. I hope that I could encourage some of the readers to keep, care for and breed this extraordinary and rewarding fish in the future. All of the above mentioned fish could be kept with out difficulty in a tank of a side length of 48" and some in even smaller tanks

Ulrich Alsfasser for Practical fishkeeping magazine
June 2004


Part 3 Medium sized snakeheads
In part 3 of our mini series I would like to talk about the medium sized snakeheads that are suitable for the aquarium. The larger the species of channa get the fewer fish are to choose from. As I have includes the fish up to 30cm/12" in the dwarf section the selection of medium snakeheads leaves us with 7 contenders that are suitable for aquariums from 150cm/5' length. With three species from Africa and four species from Asia the snakeheads described here range from 35cm/14" to a large 60cm/24" in size. Also the characters of the chosen fish are as diverse as their size ranging from sociable to very aggressive.
A tank of a minimum of 120-150cm/4-5' is needed to keep these fish. Again heavy decoration is needed to provide a suitable environment for a harmonious coexistence. The word harmonious may be a little misleading, as larger snakeheads are not known for being to sociable creatures. Of course there are exceptions. Covering the tanks properly is even more important with these larger fish. A drip tray or thin cover glasses are unsuited as the fish can easily dislocate and even break them. Perspex of 4mm or glass of minimum 6mm thickness are much more suited. It is important to make sure the covers are well placed and secure to prevent the fish from escaping the tank. Even so snakeheads can survive out of the water for long periods of time it is important that the gills do not dry out. In a central heated house the odds of this not happening are very small indeed
Lets begin with the African species of channa
Parachanna africana, insignis and obscura are the only known snakeheads from Africa. They are distinguished from the genius Channa by their more primitive design. For many years the genius Parachanna was not a used term but lately it has been adopted again to distinguish the fish from their Asian cousins. Parachanna africana is the smallest of the three and reaches an average size of 35cm/14" and originates from West Africa. For this fish a 150cm, 5' tank is not needed but the fish will appreciate plenty of space. During breeding the fish goes thru a beautiful colour change. Both partners will turn almost completely black and show a golden band on the side of the head and gill covers. The fins will turn black and the lips blue. This makes for one of the most stunning displays of colours.
Parachanna insignis is with a possible 60cm/24" the largest of the African channa. Sizes of around 50cm/20" are more likely in the aquarium but reports of giants have been heard of. Being similar to Parachanna obscura, Parachanna insignis is distinguished by its sharper contrast in the pattern and it's longer nostrils. The fish have been reported from Cameroon to the Congo. Given the fishes possible size an 180cm/6' tank should be considered for a successful keeping of a pair. I have not heard of channa insignis being bred in captivity but I would not say it is impossible.
Parachanna obscura who is widely spread across Africa is according to many experienced channa keepers one of the most aggressive fish in the Channidae group.
Others report a calm and relaxed fish. Reaching a size of 40cm/16" the fish is suited to a 150cm/5' tank. I have recently been told of a Parachanna obscura in Germany that is supposed to be 60cm/24". I have little reason to doubt this information, as the channa friend who shared the information is an expert that would not be mislead or misidentify the fish. If this is the case a 180cm/6'tank would surely be a minimum for a pair. However Parachanna obscura of that size are an exception and not the norm.
Only recently a keeper of channa obscura introduced a 35cm/14" fish to the channa obscura of 25cm/10" he already kept. Trouble started almost immediately and the fish had to be removed
The fish have been bred in captivity. After spawning both parents guarded the floating eggs. During this period tank maintenance should be kept to an absolute minimum. Moving from the African species of Channa to their Asian cousins we come to channa aurantimaculata. This only recently in 2002 described fish has been in the aquatic hobby for many years under different names. The fish have been wrongly imported as Channa stewarti and Channa barca. As all fish originate from Assam it should not really surprise us at all. By the time the fish reach the Indian exporters most of the information of the fishes exact locality will have been lost. Channa aurantimaculata is one of the most stunning snakeheads and reaches a size of 40 to 45cm/16 to 18" and has never been bred in captivity. Even so the fish have not yet been bred spawning behaviour has been observed in the tank. The pairs, as most channa, have been displaying and started to go thru the typical motions and behaviour, but all have failed to spawn. A 150cm/5' subtropical set-up is needed to house a pair successfully. I have been told by an aurantimaculata keeper that channa aurantimaculata live in caves which could account for them not being bred in captivity. Fish that are not provided with a cave will dig under a stone or root, just like many of the cichlid species. A large cave seems to be essential to a successful breeding of channa aurantimaculata. Reports of the fish's social behaviour range from sociable to aggressive. I have recently come into the possession of three channa aurantimaculata. The first thing I noticed was the truly large mouth. So far the fish have not taken any of the food I have offered to them. It seems that channa aurantimaculata just like channa pleurophthalma do take a while to accept frozen foods. It know from friends that have the fish in their collection that they do take the going frozen foods
From Indonesia originates Channa melasoma reaching 35cm/14" in total length according to some of the available literature. Others report a much larger fish of around 60cm/2'. This fish is even not known to some of the local fishermen, as it is so rare in nature. Unfortunately, for this reason, the fish is only rarely imported and even pictures of the fish are hard to come by. I have spent hours on the Internet until I had success. The pictures only showed an adult fish from the top and a few juveniles. However it's common name, the black snakehead, gives an inkling of the fish's colouration. The fish in the picture was dark with darker blotches spread on the back left and right of the dorsal. The juveniles where dark fish with a red band similar to young channa micropeltis. The fish's unavailability makes it even more desirable for the serious channa fanatic. Channa fans all over the world would like to call this fish their own.
Channa maculata is another subtropical species reaching 40 to 60cm/16 to 24". A friend of mine a kept this fish and I have seen a photograph he took. It is a very desirable fish that is probably not often available in the shops. These channa from china and Vietnam need the usual subtropical set-up and a tank size of 150cm/5' for a pair
The next and last fish, Channa pleurophthalma, is one of my favourite snakeheads.
This fish is sociable as far as snakeheads are concerned and can be kept in groups. On occasion there will be skirmishes and a few torn fins that will heal up quickly after.
I have kept a group of 6 in an 180cm/72" tank. The fish I had ranged from 10cm/4" to over20cm/8". Their narrowly compressed bodies and high backs in adult specimen make them very unusual looking snakeheads. The four to five ocellie on the body flanks and their blue colouration give the fish a metallic hue that is for lack of words awesome. Large and fully coloured channa pleurophthalma look like the have been sprayed in a body shop. Channa pleurophthalma need space to swim as they move about a lot unlike many other snakeheads that like to sit and wait or do only move slowly and deliberate unless they are startled. The problem with keeping Channa pleurophthalma is having a pair in the group. With fish that size, if a pair should form and decide to breed, where would the rest of the group go? Cover is not available as due to their need of space a densely planted tank is not an option. So the answer would be a very large long tank that most of us will not be able to set up or even afford. I recommend buying a group and to raise them all together. Then we have to wait and see how the situation develops. I have not had any information about Channa pleurophthalma being breed in captivity and should the need arise to sell on some of the fish; I don't think selling them would be a problem at all. Channa pleurophthalma in full colouration should sell them selves.
As all snakeheads are easy to care for the only obstacle is the larger size of the fish mentioned. But with the right set-up and if all the important rules like plant cover, adequate filtration and a secure, tight fitting and heavy cover are followed, keeping the
se fish is not difficult at all.

Ulrich Alsfasser for Practical fishkeeping magazine

Part 3 The Giants
With the larger snakeheads real big aquariums are needed. Single fish can be kept in an 180x60x60cm/6x2x2' tank for a while but most will need a bigger tank in the long run. Another factor is the risk of injury, not only to the fish but also to yourself. Anyone who has seen the teeth of a large channa micropeltis or had to move a snakehead near or over the two-foot mark will know what I mean. When keeping fish that will reach these sizes a heavy cover for the tank is a must, especially when a pair is kept. During the occasional scraps the weaker fish may try and leave the inhospitable water and could jump right thru or break the cover glass. Thick Perspex attached to a wooden frame that is securely fixed in place is a safest option to cover a tank containing large snakeheads. Ordinary Plants as decoration are not really suitable. Java fern and anubias on bogwood or solitary plants planted in large pots are the best option. Floating plants will have a calming effect on the fish and some of the larger artificial plants like the once made for large vivarium also look good. Another must is a large external filter with an adequate turnover. Unlike with other snakehead I can not recommend a internal filter as the fish if big enough could easily move it around the tank and even do damage to it

Not much is known about Channa barca. Only recently the first pictures of the true Channa barca have been published. Over the years many fish have been imported for the aquatic trade under the name of Channa barca. In most cases they where one of the many stewarti variants and in some case the fish that is now known as Channa aurantimaculata. Channa barca seems to grow to 90cm/36" and is a blue fish with black spots and a very high dorsal fin. I had the pleasure to see video footage of a recently caught fish. A local fisherman caught the fish on dry land. The information availeble is that the fish feeds on cockroaches it finds under a specific tree. This fish leaves the water to feed, which makes it one of the most unusual fish. It was pure luck that the fish was caught. It literally crossed the fisher mans path and I'm sure he was very surprised and at the same time also very exited. Most of the local people have never seen this fish and only remember it from stories their elders tell them. The fish, a 40cm/16" specimen, was sold to Thailand where it is preserved in alcohol for scientific purposes. The price paid for the fish was 600 US dollar. This was the exporters price. For the aquatic trade we have to allow for the airfreight, the wholesalers and the aquatic retailers profit on top of the $600. Should this fish ever appear in the aquatic trade we could expect to pay astronomical prizes for just one specimen. Many believe this to be the most desirable snakehead of all but due to its potential large size, and it's unique feeding habits, it is unlikely to ever be successfully bred and kept by the average aquarist. Hopefully it will not be long before we can learn more about the fish. I'm getting all exited just thinking about it
Channa marulioides is a beautiful fish from Indonesia that can grow to about 70cm/28". For a single specimen an 180x60x60cm /72x24x242 tank would last for live. I have an over 50cm/20" female maruloid in my collection and she is the most pleasant snakehead of that size I have ever met. She displays no aggression at all and only during feeding time her temperament seems to heat up a little. According to information shared by an American aquarist these fish will live in a group if the tank is large enough. After observing my own fish I do believe it is possible to keep this snakehead in groups, providing the tank is very large, 240x90x60cm/8x3x2'or more. After recent observations of her behaviour towards the giant gourami that she shares her tank with I believe a large sized tank is the key to the fishes pleasantness. In an 180x60x60cm/72x24x24" tank a larger fish of this species needs to be kept alone. In regards to captive breeding I think the size of the fish prevents any successful breeding in the aquarium. When channa marulioides is offered in the shops it pays to ask from where the fish where imported to make sure of the fishes identity. I will explain why shortly.
Channa marulia is a snakehead from the Indian region that looks very similar to channa marulioides. In fact marulioides translates as " looks like marulia". It is very easy to confuse the two fish when they are young. The easiest way to tell them apart without having to count scales on the lateral line and the rays in the fins is to know the origin of the fish. As Marulia come from India and marulioides from Indonesia this is the easiest way of identifying the fish. With 120cm/48" in length this is the longest snakehead and is only rivalled in size by channa micropeltis. The fish are known to be aggressive and unsociable towards their own kind and other fish
Many keeper of channa marulia have been bitten by their fish during tank maintenance. Luckily no one was seriously injured as far as I know. Most attacks have been committed by fish under 60cm/24". This is not surprising as most aquarists would not be able to keep channa marulia larger then this. When keeping a marulia snakehead larger then 60cm/24" the utmost care is advised during the weekly maintenance tasks. Even so you may think your fish will never strike at you caution is advised as serious wounds can be inflicted
The biggest and reputedly meanest of all snakeheads is Channa micropeltis. Not only the fishes pure size and bulk but also the evil eyes and big mouth full of teeth are enough to make anyone believe the horror stories that are told about this fish. The reports of channa micropeltis of over 120cm/4' and even150cm/5' in size are most likely the exaggerations of eager fishermen angling this fish for sport. Surely a fish of this size would be documented for others to see. I haven't seen any pictures or evidence of these claims. But lets make no mistake about it that the fish is very well equipped killer and hunter. However I believe the reputation this fish enjoys is a little misleading. Firstly the fish is not evil and secondly it only follows its natural instincts by hunting and eating the other fish that hopeful aquarists keep in the same tank. Lets face it; this fish is not suited to any tank mates other then a partner of the opposite sex. Channa micropeltis is a fish that has to be kept on its own or as a pair if the adequate space can be provided. Amazingly many micropeltis can be shy and insecure in an aquarium for a very long time. Channa micropeltis that are caring for their young are very defensive towards their young and will attack anything they perceive as a thread. The reports of channa micropeltis attacking human that have come to close to their fry are true and should be taken serious. A large parent fish could inflict a dangerous and deep wound to the body of an unsuspecting swimmer.
Channa striata has been named as the most widely distributes channa in Asia. Due to it's wide spread there are numerous local varieties just like in channa gachua. I have also been told about a smaller variety that does not exceed 60cm/24". We know from channa gachua that the fish's local variants differ in size and behaviour so I believe the same can be expected of channa striata. When buying channa striata one should be prepared to house a fish that can reach 90cm/36" and be prepared to provide the adequate space. Again with channa striata it is possible that several unknown species are combined under this name due to the lack of scientific advances in the Channidae field.
Only one scientist, Prachya Musikasinthorn, works with this group of fish and progress is unfortunately very slow. Most of the available data has been collected and shared by an enthusiastic channa keeper from Switzerland. His website,
Snakeheads.org is known worldwide for it's collection of information and pictures. Snakeheads.org has to be the leading source on snakeheads that is available. In the future we will hopefully find more people keeping snakeheads and the fish will take their rightful place in the aquarist hobby. Unfortunately most people talking about snakeheads are still thinking about that little red fish that ate all their community fish and grew at an alarming rate. In fact there are many other species of snakehead that even so they are not suited for the community tank are still small enough to be kept in the average aquarium. Their predatory nature, beautiful colours and their excellent care for their young make them one of the most interesting fish we can observe in the aquarium.

Ulrich Alsfasser
For Practical Fishkeeping Magazine
June 2004

rite now i only have my big channa marulioides left
i had a episode involving channa aurantimaculata that pt me nearly totally of snakeheads as they eradicated each other and it did cost me dearly.,
i dig up some photos but most r on a zipodrive i can't connect to my laptop as the connector isn't compatible. i hope to get that sorted next weekend

5,301 Posts
Baloo first of all I want to welcome you to this site. I have read your PFM articles and have seen the pics of your Marulioides, and I must say that your Marulioides is a flawless specimen. I hope to see some pics of that badboy here soon :nod:

Thanks for sharing this 'must read' article and I hope to hear more from you in the future

* Pinned, for obvious reasons

777 Posts
thanks for posting this article to the site...i already read this article courtesy of jan...and it gave me alot of usefull tips about my new chanas...this will surely help alot of aquarist who are thinkin of getting one in the proper care and info on these beautiful fish...
thanks and welcome.

19,146 Posts
first things first...welcome Ulrich..glad you could make it over and share your excellent written informational guide to snakeheads with us.
.i know that this will help members better understand the species and exactly know what there getting themselves into..thanks once again.

i too hope to see more pictures of snakeheads from past to present that you've owned..your Marulioides is a true beauty..glad you decide to keep her in the end..the setup you've created for her is very well designed..keep up the good work baloo..

70 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
glad to share it with you

thats what it was written for. unfortunatly thge mag didn't print it all and took a few bits out of context.
thats what happens when editing i suppose
but hey, they pay well

only my mum calls me ulrich and only if shes pissed with me
call me uli

ulrich is only for official buisness when i get payed

or do you wanna pay me?

1,601 Posts
Baloo or Uli, first of all please welcome and thank you so much for such wonderful articles on Snakeheads. Just amazing and is so informative, thank you again!
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