Northern Snakehead Fish Characteristics, Feeding

The Northern snakehead fish is a species of snakehead fish which is native to China, Russia, North Korea and South Korea.

It’s natural range is ranging from the Amur River to Hainan. It is also called by many other different names, such as ocellated snakehead, eastern snakehead, amur snakehead or simply as snakehead. It is also known by many other different names in many other languages in many other parts of the world.

The Northern snakehead fish has also been introduced to other regions, where it is considered invasive. The first import of the species was from Czech Republic to Europe in 1956.

It is considered to be a highly invasive species in the United States. However, read some more information about this fish below.

Northern Snakehead Fish Characteristics

The Northern snakehead fish are long, thin fish with a single dorsal fin running the length of the fish. Their dorsal fin is consists of around 49-50 rays.

Their anal fin is also pretty long with 31-32 rays. They have a small, anteriorly drpressed head. The eyes are above the middle part of the upper jaw.

Their mouth is large, extending well beyond the eye, and have villiform teeth in bands with large canines on the lower jaw and palatines.

Coloration of the Northern snakehead fish is generally golden tan to pale brown, with dark blotches on the sides and saddle-like blotches across the back.

Blotches toward the front tend to separate between top and bottom sections, while rear blotches are more likely to be contiguous.

Generally the Northern snakehead fish on average reach a length of up to 85-100 cm, but some fish can reach up to 150 cm body length.

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Their average live body weight is between 1 and 2 kg, and the larger sized fish can reach up to 8 kg body weight. Photo and info from Wikipedia.


The mature Northern snakehead fish are voracious carnivores fish species. The fry initially fed on zooplankton, before moving on to a diet of small insects and crustaceans.

But the juveniles may feed on small fish. Diet of the mature fish may include fish up to 33 percent of their body length.

Their common food includes small fish, cray fish, various catfish, dragonfly larvae, beetles and frogs.


The Northern snakehead fish reach maturity at age of 2 or 3 years, and they reach about 30-35 cm body length within this time. They can double their population in a minimum of 15 months.

The females can lay up to 100,000 eggs a year, and the eggs are fertilized externally. Fertilization generally occurs in the early morning in shallow water. Eggs of these fish are yellow in color and spherical.

The eggs are of about 2mm in diameter. After laying, the eggs generally hatch after about 1-2 days, but can take much longer if the temperature is very low. The eggs are guarded by both males and females, until yolk absorption.


Northern snakehead fish are mainly used for food. They are very popular as food, especially in China.

Special Notes

The Northern snakehead fish is mainly a freshwater fish species, they they can’t tolerate salinity. They can’t tolerate salinity of up to 10 parts per million.

They are actually a facultative air breather, and use a suprabranchial organ and a bifurcated ventral aorta that permits aquatic and aerial respiration.

And this unusual respiratory system allows it to live outside of water for several days. These fish can wriggle their way to other water bodies, and they also survive being transported by humans.

The Northern snakehead fish’s preferred habitats are stagnant water with mud substrate and aquatic vegetation, or slow and muddy streams.

These fish are respected among some Chinese fisherman for their virtue, as parent fishes are known to sacrifice themselves to protect their young.

The young fish are said to rush to feed upon their mother after their mother gives birth and is temporarily unable to catch prey. However, review full breed profile of the Northern snakehead fish in the chart below.

NameNorthern Snakehead
SpeciesC. argus
Binomial NameChanna argus
Other NamesAlso known by some other names such as ocellated snakehead, eastern snakehead, amur snakehead or simply as snakehead
Breed PurposeMainly food
WeightGenerally 1-2 kg, but can reach up to 8 kg
Special NotesMainly a freshwater fish species, cann’t tolerate salinity, can live a few days outside water, mainly feed on small fish, used for food
Breeding MethodNatural
Climate ToleranceNative climates
Body ColorGenerally golden tan to pale brown, with dark blotches on the sides and saddle-like blotches across the back

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