There’s a Head of a Snake in My Aquarium!

There’s a Head of a Snake in My Aquarium!

There is A Head of A Snake in My Aquarium
submitted by Chewy Ltd.
September 2019

For some of us we really do want a Head of a Snake in our Aquariums and as a follow up to the Invasive Species and Exotic species that was done on the Mysis Shrimp Article that was posted in a previous SLC Aquatics Fish Family Newsletter. I decided to take another look into Invasive species and what can be done. I also looked at a certain Family of fish. This Family of fish known as Channidae is broken up into 3 extant(still in existence) Genus known as Aenigmachanna, Channa and Parachanna. This article is going to concentrate on the Genus Channa where some species may be getting a bad rap due to certain species in that Genus. This is due to their representation in YouTube Media as well as media in general and how certain species of this Genus may be a lot different than what people think of how this genus is described. The Genus is known as the Genus Channa and commonly referred to as Snakeheads. First off, like everything there are only so many species of this Genus that have been discovered and classified by science but more like so many other fish, some are actually being discovered since a lot of the resources on the Internet can keep up with this. Places like India where a lot of new species to the hobby have been introduced, relatively lately, such as the Indian Mudskipper and the Indian Pea Puffer that seem to be popular all over with the aquarium hobby as they are a tropical fish that are handled by many pet shops around the world. However when most people think of certain fish by common name they think of the characteristics of those fish in how media have depicted them such as the blood thirsty Red Bellied Piranha that Jeremy Wade of River Monsters has literally gone into a pool without the fish paying attention to him. Could the same be said about a misrepresentation of the Snakehead family? Through watching National Geographic features on the Snakehead the viewer is not actually told about the nature of all of the species just some that have been proven to be invasive due to the fact of the way that the species that they have chosen represent that side of the nature of certain species that are known to be predatory fish that come from Russia and parts of Asia where these fish are actually thought of as a fish for Human consumption and are considered a delicacy when served in some of those Asian Cultures.

Invasion of the Snakeheads! | National Geographic
Due to when this documentary was released it states out of the 29 species of Snakeheads “Many of the Snakeheads are Predators” which comes down to the specific research that you do on these species. But what about the other species that are not top predators, as this is where the educational factor began for myself as I got to know a current director of the Calgary Aquarium Society that moved from India and was familiar with various different species of Channa that inhabit the water ways of India. That informed me about what is known as the Dwarf Snakeheads in India that are marketed and bred in various different countries of Asia and are actually bred in England by various different hobbyists. (England being the only English Country to not have these particular fish Prohibited according to the information that I was able to research if your country or state allows certain species please comment below with that information). I know how Americans feel about the Asian Arowana and them not being able to keep them however both USA and Canada have the Genus Channa prohibited due to how “Many of the Snakeheads are Predators”. So for a few years I have been studying this particular group of fish to find out more or less some more back ground information as to what Channa species would be dangerous for an environment and the reasons why these regulations exist. It is truly understandable why the Northern Snakehead would be banned from Canada as there would be really no natural predators and would deplete endemic fish stocks if released into Canadian and Northern American States.
At the beginning of my research at the time I was discussing this with my friend from the Calgary Aquarium Society I was intrigued due to the fact that one of the Snakeheads known as the Blotched Snakehead (Channa maculata) was released in Burnaby Park in Burnaby British Columbia that caused the Fish and Wildlife People to become involved in eradicating that particular predatory Channa species from the Lake just before meeting him.
So I did go in not knowing about the other species that this article is about. However when discussing the topics of fish from India and surrounding areas he did mention the fact that he kept a certain species known as Channa Andrao that feeds upon insects and other invertebrates in nature and has the breeding habits of a betta but the parental behavior of the family Cichlidae. The species maintains a size of about 5 inches in length. Kind of sounds like your every day pair of Cichlids that are kept in the hobby that are from Tropical India, but a little less aggressive to fish as some of these dwarf snakeheads can even be seen on YouTube with small fish. Just doing the research to find out that these fish are not exactly portrayed correctly but governments have banned them primarily due to the fact of Identification. It seems as though once they read the word Channa or Snakehead they freak out as though it is a natural disaster. Meanwhile we see various different types of exotic and invasive species swimming around in areas where fish farms are. Little attention is paid to them of the same size such as Jewel Cichlids being found in Florida pools with little thought given by the public. There are many beautiful species of the Snakehead family that are kept in the aquarium hobby that most hobbyists do not know about due to the fact that most of the English speaking countries have prohibited the species. So very little study is done on this group especially by those involved in the hobby. There are few that I would really like to have; a Head of a Snake in My Aquarium such as Channa bleheri (Named after Heiko Bleher), Channa Andrao (Named after Andrew Rao) and the Beautiful Channa Barca that is depicted below and has been shown to live with small tetras and other small fish on Youtube. The video below is of young Channa Barca from the video collection of my friend, Mr. David Leuken of Fengshui Aquatics (Fish Farm and Exporter) of Thailand.

In closing this article, though I do understand some of the particular issues involved in allowing certain species into countries, but one of the reasons that could be a cause of all species being banned is not many custom workers are trained in the field of species identification, thusly, I would think that permits would have to be required at the point of the exporter similar to the permits that are part of the C I T I E S Golden Arowana program that identifies the fish.

Credit for Research Help
Daniel Keeping Fish



BBC News

Snakeheads for Sale in England
Book: Fishing for Snakeheads by Joe Bruce

Fox 6 WBRC News article recently in Georgia, USA
submitted by SLC Aquatics
Oct. 2019

Chewy LTD’s Response:
Yes I have seen quite a few articles dealing with Snakeheads throughout the 4 years of researching the fish of this Genus for many years there are many different species of Snakeheads so people automatically freak out due to the fact that not all knowledge is known.

This is the northern snakehead however there are over 39 species of Snakeheads this species though is what the media thrives upon .. it is the same as Sharks not all Shark species are man eaters either … Channa Bleheri The Rainbow Snakehead only gets to a maximum of 8 inches which is A Dwarf Snakehead The Genus are banned and it should only be species that can become invasive and cause great issues. The Southern USA is full of invasive big predatory fish plus the government of Florida actually introduced the Peacock Bass (Cichlid from the Amazon) to try to eradicate other smaller invasive species. It is the issues of how big these predatory fish get.

Dwarf Snakeheads can live in a community tank with other fish around their same size that impact their waterways the same as Fire mouth Cichlids that are kept in the aquarium hobby This is a video of a 6 and a half inch Rainbow Snakehead living quite peacefully with Firemouth Cichlids and other fish that are kept in the Hobby.

Here is some information on Channa Bleheri from a few other resources. The Difference between Channa Bleheri The Rainbow Snakehead and The Northern Snakehead are quite different and this is the problem you can even see American Aquarists that I know posting on this while those that have put study into the fish from Hobbyists to Ichthyologists know the difference between species. It is very similar with Catfish it is like comparing the common pictus catfish to a fish like the Big Retailed Catfish out of the Amazon. And the redtail catfish is known as a predator but the North American Hobby has that fish.

Channa bleheri – Rainbow snakehead

Rainbow Snakehead – Channa bleheri

The Genus Channa has many different species that come from a wide range each species has its own area and they all range in size just like Cichlids, Catfish, Characins (Tetras) and other families of fish. I know that the USA is plagued by the Russian Snakehead which come from Russia and have a vast range in area and temperatures so they are a prime invasive species but this is like comparing a firemouth cichlid to a Peacock Bass in size. The Dwarf Snakeheads come from a tropical environment so they would not survive winters in Canada and due to their size they would be around the same type of threat as a fish the same size that are commonly kept in the aquarium hobby.

The Northern Snakehead the one in that article you sent me is the POSTER species the one that the media wants to draw attention too and make people think of how bad Snakeheads are I see articles on them All The time they have a massive natural where this species of snakehead fish native to China, Russia, North Korea, and South Korea, ranging from the Amur River to Hainan. This species deserves to be prohibited and banned. It is one of the largest snakeheads.

In the United States there has been reported populations of Northern Snakeheads that go from Florida all the way up to Virginia I know of a fisherman that went out with a biologist to gather information on this on a report in Virginia. However the Northern Snakehead is an edible species just like the Peacock bass that fishermen can catch and even eaten. Here is the series of reports done by that fisherman It is part 1 of 4 parts where the biologist appears. You may find it interesting.

Part III with The Biologist from Virginia (You may think about how the media has played this factor once you hear the issues from the biologist from the State of Virginia that is studying the impact of these fish in that state)

Northern Snakehead

The Northern Snakehead is banned in Canada along with every other Snakehead just like all the rest of the countries except England who recognizes the difference so they can keep them, The Dwarf species are also kept in Aquariums in Asia and in Germany France Sweden etc because they realize that the Dwarf species come from Tropical India there is also tropical species of Large Snakeheads in Africa to that would not live in Canadian waters just like every other African fish would not live in Northern Cooler waters.

And here is a thought Canada is very proactive in trying to or eradicating Invasive species such as the Mysis shrimp that I submitted on Invasive species and how they handle that and put up a bounty for fish such as Pike maybe the USA would not have some of the issues that they have as exotic species are even caught in Florida from Swordtails, Platies, Cichlids etc and sold on ebay

Snakeheads are an edible fish as well and are a very popular food fish and are even farmed for human consumption in Asia. So there is money to be made by companies for eradicating species whether exotic or invasive Canadas Mysis issue is a prime example of that as the company is paid by the government to eradicate them plus they get to sell frozen mysis shrimp that is used by the world wide As stated Snake heads are edible . Many starving people out there including disabled and homeless people.

Here the fisherman catches the fish and eats it while he was out on the trip in that 4 part series.

SNAKEHEAD FISH | Giant Snakehead Fish | Snakehead Fish Farming

The giant snakehead or giant mudfish (Channa micropeltes) is among the largest species in the family Channidae, capable of growing to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in length and a weight of 20 kg (44 lb). Very Big Fish that is a food fish in Asia and it is a warm water species so it would greatly affect Southern States but would not be able to survive in Canadian Waters or Northern United States that have Cold Winters as they would not survive the winter time as per this article as the species comes from Malaysia and Indonesia .

The fear of a few Snakehead species being invasive like the Northern Snakehead is very real for Canada and The United States and I agree with them being prohibited as a species but as I stated there are 39 different species it would be like disallowing the Cardinal tetra because it is related to the Piranha …

Snakehead Caught in Burnaby Park in Canada

Vancouver Sun (media blowing it out of proportion due to fear)

The person who first filmed the Snakehead in Burnaby Lake in Canada

The fear that it was the Northern Snakehead was great in the media at that time people got frantic over reacted just like the media has programmed them to do with Shark species and it turned out to be a Blotched Snakehead (Channa maculata) which is a Snakehead again from Asia that would not have been able to survive our winters up here either just like any other tropical fish that can not survive the climate. Just look at the number of people the government used to catch the fish in the video presented by the Vancouver Sun to drain and catch the snakehead only to find out that it was a species that would not survive our winters. Would they do the same for an Oscar if it was seen in Burnaby Lake.?

And direct information out of BC Invasive even admits that this species would not have survived our winters due to our climate. I was talking with the BC Invasive board about these issues so why ban smaller tropical species? Would they do that for Oscars?

OSCAR Found in Burnaby Lake … You can bet the BC Government seeing that fish will not hire anyone to remove it the fish will end up being dead as under our regulations not even a hobbyist can go and catch that fish and it is quite obvious that Hobbyists did put these in as no tropical fish farms are in Vancouver would have storms to flood pools so that the fish can escape into the wild unlike Florida.

Thank you so much, Chewy LTD. for your extensive and thorough research of these species of Snakehead fish, in the wild and in our aquariums.