Snakehead fish

Snakehead fish

Channa argus

Common name:

Snakehead fish

Scientific name:

Channa argus

Alternative common names:


The snakehead fish is known for its voracious predation of other fish species, ability to withstand freezing and ability to tolerate alack of water for up to four days. The body of the snakehead is torpedo-shaped, which tapers towards the tail.The high fertility of the fish and its tolerance to a wide range of conditions as well as a lack of natural enemies in its introduced range make it likely to be a formidable invasive were itto become established.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Russia, Korea, China, Africa.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

Listed under List 7: Prohibited Fresh-Water Fish No.18.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

If you have seen this fish, let us know the location. Email:

How does it spread?

Swims and spreads naturally through water courses. It may move in stream and river networks, reproducing and spreading to adjacent watersheds. Floods, commercial farming, aquarium trade also play a role.

Why is it a problem?

It disrupts recreational and commercial fishing, harms indigenous fish and wildlife and impacts on the economy. It feeds on indigenous birds, reptiles, frogs and other fish species.

What does it look like?

Description: Tan to pale brown with dark brown blotches on the sides and saddle-like markings on the back. It has an elongated body with long dorsal and anal fins, many sharp teeth and a large mouth reaching far behind the eyes. It can reach between 30-90cm in length.

Habitat: Prefers stagnant, shallow ponds, swamps and slow streams with mud or vegetated substrate, with temperatures ranging from 0 to 30°C.

Breeding: This species can produce up to 15 000 eggs in a spawning. The hatching period depends on the water temperature. Both parents guard the eggs and fry. Late May and July to December is the breeding season.

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