snakeheads keeping conditions


Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006

With this thread I would like to tell you something about the needs of the snakeheads..........
About the Size of the Tank,their own size they can reach,food the need,water parameters and so on!

I will start ....and then ,day by day I will put every species I have a little bit knwoledge of into the list!

First species:
-Channa aurantimaculata
The minimum size of a tank for them should be: 1,5m lenght x 50cm deep x 50 cm high
They can reach a size of about 45cm
Ch. aurantimaculata is not a tropical fish and should not kept together with other fish that prefer tropical temperatures!
They come from a subtropical area in india..........
Prefered temperatures are: 18-24°C

They start breeding at a temperature about 20° C
Channa aurantimaculata is a mouthbrouder in the male sex..............just like stewartii and gachua
They are also egg feeders..........

A friend of mine ,here in Germany has breed them 2 times.........
They are sexual matured at a size of about 30cm!
They will not breed in warmer if you keep them tropical you will have no success breeding them

My friend keeps them in the garden pond in the summer time and catch them out in October-November!(that depends on the temperatures)

Ch. aurantimcaulata can be fed with shrimps,mussels,little fish (because of animal protection here in Germany I prefer dead fish-I also use no live fish because it can bring diseases in your aquarium!)
Also they can be fed with insects,like Zophobas,Earthworms,grassoppers and so on!
juvenile fish can be fed with bloodworms,maggots,krill etc.......

Channa aurantimaculata sometimes like to dig........
So it is better to put plants into baskets.......
They also like to hide in caves (for example: PVC Pipes)
As for every other snakehead in captivity they need a good cover against jumping out......
You can stop this jumping behaviour with floating plants........
Also they like to hide underneath floating plants..........they give them cover while they breath at the surface!
They can be kept in nearly every matter if it is hard or soft!
But they prefer softer water (I mix tab water with rain water-or use reversal osmosis)
The colours will be better ,too!

Channa aurantimaculata is a close relative to Ch. stewartii and Ch. barca-we call it stewartii /aurantimaculata group

I advice a tank for their own!

So..........this was the first species!

Questions can be posted!





Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
Channa asiatica

This species can reach a maximum size of about 32-35cm!
I know 3 different varities at the moment:
-The most common asiatica in aquarium keeping has white dots on the body
-then there is some varitiy without any dots,only brownish stripes
-and ther is a viarity often seen in japanese websites with red and white dots on the body

I am keeping the common ones and also I have the one with the red dots(but only one of them,it is the only red spotted asiatica here in germany)

About keeping them:

Channa asiatica is one of the most aggressive snakeheads I have ever seen!
You should keep them in a tank as big as you could offer them!
Minimum size: 150cm length x 50cm deep x 50 cm high
If you keep only one is okay to have a length of 1m

They are inhabited in China....and China is not tropical at all so you should keep them in an unheated aquarium at a temperautre about 18-24°C
They have no problem when the temperature falls down for a short period of time!
A friend of mine has 4 of them in a tank of 2m x 60cm x 60 cm outside in the a temperature of 6 °C
But they are not completly winterproof!
But they are very suitable to keep outside in a pond in summertime!

Ch. asiatica is a fish that produces floating eggs!
About 800-1500
They have a drip of oil inside, so they can swim!
Mostly the female is guarding and caring about the eggs.
She is taken the egs into the mout ,checking them and releasing them out again through the gill covers!
During the breeding time,they have a beautifull colouration!
Ch. asiatica needs about 2-3 days to hatch.but that depends on the temperatures.
They start breeding a 18°C !
Sexing Ch. asiatica is possible,but difficult:
Normally males have more white dots on the body!
But that is only a trend.......

The babies were not fed by the mother with eggs ,like the mouthbrouders do.......
So it is impotant to feed them!
I do this with freshly hatched artemia nauplies.....beginning on the fourth day after hatching!
You can feed them with this until they have reached a size of about 1cm-1,5cm
Then I change to other food!
It is neccessary to feed them with live food in the first day!
They will not eat dead food!
The babies of Ch asiatica are comletly black coloured........with bright eyes!
They do not have the stripe in the middle of the body as the othersnakehads have!
They change colour at a size of about 1,5cm...then they become brighter!

The problem with Ch. asiatica is,that theyare very agressive...even if you have a couple!
Often there is the problem,that they kill each other (and that is not matter of the tank size) a short time after breeding!
Mostly the males kill the females-2 weeks after breeding.....
So I think the best way is to seperate the parents after the breeding!

They also can be quite agressive to other matter if they are guarding the fries!
The best way to keep asiatica is to give them a tank for their own!

Single fish sometimes become very shy and hide wherevere they can!

The tank decoration should be well strutured with wood,plants and stone!
So if they hunt each other,they can easily hide!
They need a tnak fith a good filtration ,but if you want to breed them htere should be no movement at the surface!
Also there shoud be floating plants where they can hide theri eggs between.

You can feed them with nealy every kind of food that fits into the mouth......
I feed mine with mussels,dead fish,shrimps,insects etc!
Do not feed them (and this is for every snakehead) every day!
Every second or third day is enough!
Exspecially if they are fully grown..........juvenile ones should be fed more often!

If you want to breed them.....make sure,that you have another tank for seperating!
Water parameter are irelevant!

asiatica Larven.jpg


Bild 279.jpg



Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
Channa spec Assam

This one is areally dwarf snakehead........

At this time it is the most smallest of all!

Fully outgrown it has a mximum size of 18cm!
You can keep this species in a tank of about 80cm in length!
They do not need a high water level.
20cm is enough!
They like to have a tank fully planted ,where they can hide between the matter if you see them!
They have to feel comfortable...........

In their natural habitat they are living in a swamp like or more like a lawn!
In the dry period there is nearly no water and the fish make some kind of hibernation in crab holes underneath the surface!
The native call this fish : Lal Cheng........what means : red gachua
As far as I know it is the most endangered snakehead species.......because most of them were wildcaught and they only known from a small habitat of a lenght of maby 400m (that is what was told to me by a friend who has visited the habitat)

It is often called blue bleheri in lfs.but it hasw nothing to do with Channa bleheri!
Both specis have no pelvic fins.....that is true!
But you can easily identify those two species!
Channa bleheri has a spotted caudal fin and Lal Cheng has not!
The caudal fin of Channa spec assam is only surounded by a red we know it from Channa gachua!
Also Channa bleheri is not a mouthbrouder at all....Channa spec assam is a mouthbrouder and an eggfeeder !
Lal Cheng is subtropical ,too and should not be kept in too high temperatures!
Best temperatures: 18-22°C

If you keep lal Cheng in warmer temperatures it might get bacterial infections that eat away parts of the fish.........I had to make this expirience in my beginning times quite often!
And the fish is sentenced to die.........for sure!
No medicamenation helps....I have tried it!
So to keep the fish in a good and healthy condition it is urgently neccessary to kepp it cool!

Sexing them is very easy:
Males have a higher dorsal fin and more blue in the fins as the females have!
Also the cheeks are more wide (because of mouthbreeding)
If you watch the fish from the top you can see it best!

But to sex them is not to breed them!!!
As any other snakehead you cannot put a male and a female togehter!!!
They have to find themselves out of a group.otherwise they will not harmonize!
And if they do not harmonize they will not breed!
We are not talking about breeding stupid guppies here!

About breeding:
If you have a couple it is good to tdo no waterchanges for a long long time!
And then with a cool water change and then they might breed!

Brucki ,a member of this forum ,is a real monster in breeding them!
I think he is the most successfull breeder in germany!
And I think he will write some better advices for breeding them as I can do!

Lal Cheng prefers shrimps as food and insects!
It is not a real remind that in choosing a good diet!

Because of their natural enviroment they do not nedd much food!
I have "lost" one of my Lal Cheng in a filter...........for nealy half a year!
And because of cleaning the filter I found it after this half year without any food!
It was more beautyfull than the others.........and well shaped.......not thin!
Feeding them every 2-3 days are enough!
A lot of people give too much food to their fish........
They become fat.........and their lifetime will be shorter!

I will also post a picture of a Lal Cheng ,that died because of the bacterila infection I discribed.........You can see the damadges !
(the fish is in alcohol)

Bilder stefan 059.jpg

Channa 130.jpg


spec Assam mit Infektion konserviert 2.JPG


Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jan 13, 2008
Long Island
ParaChanna AFRICANA!!!


Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
Okay..........africana then!

Parachanna africana

Well ,first of all why is this species called Parachanna?

sometimes the Name Channa is used for them also....but:
The african species (africana, obscura, insignis) have a different labyrinth organ as the asiatica species have..........
It is more primitive in shape (do not ask for Details..........I am not a scientist)
So they were called Parachanna (but if you use Channa everybody will know what you mean)

The maximum size have ever seen is about 32cm!
You need a tank with a minimum size of 120cm length and 50 cm deep
The water level is not so important..40 cm is okay!
P. africana is often misidentiefied with obscura (but different headshape and colouration......and......... Channa asiatica)
There are some similars between asiatica and africana ,yes.but you can easily identify both species because of the missing pelvic fins at Ch. asiatica!
Also asiatica has white dots and africana has not!

The headshape is nearly the same!
Parachanna africana is for my experience a very calm,sometimes really shy snakehead that like to hide most of the time!

The like a well structured and planted tank with dim light an floating plant to show full color and feel comfortable!
Also they like tea coloured water which you will have if you use peat or leaves
(if you live in europe you can use oak leaves as well)

Also they prefer softer water an a ph around 6-6,5 !
Because it is a tropical species you should keep them around 25-26 °C all the time!

I have not breed them yet,because they are a little bit difficult.....but I have a real couple and hope to manage it this year!

A firend of mine who was in africa has catched them in a shallow forest stream under hiding under roots of the trees standing at the river!
He brought them to Germany and managed to breed them twice!
He told me that you shoul have a acidic ph and temperature risen to around 29-30 °C...and of course soft water!
They have floating eggs and are no feeders.........
You should treat the larvaes as I told you in the Ch. asiatica discription!

About sexing them:
You need fully outgrown adults to sex them for sure!
Males have a head that is more sharp edeged and not as round as the female`s head!
Also the belly of the females is much rounder ...males look thinner in shape!
If they are spawning (is this the word for it.....???-I do not know...I am German)
They change the colours completly.........males have a light blueish touch then..and the belly is nearly black!!

Feeding africana:
My africana are quite lazy.and do not eat everything.......
They prefer insects,mussels and shrimps!
They do not hunt for fish in my aquarium.because I do not feed them with live fish!
At a friend of mine they hunt every fish like mad.......
Mine do not!

I also have them together with a couple ofPolypterus lapradi(30cm+) and before that I had them together with Ctenopoma kingselye and Ctenopoma acutirostre!
There were no problems at all.........BUT:
This might change if they want to I have to monitor them carefully!
At the moment I have just one couple........they found each other out of a group of 4 africana........
The 2 other are lying in alcohol now.because they were killed by the couple very easily over night!

4.12.2006 118.jpg


Bild 061.jpg

Bild 119.jpg

ebay neu 082.jpg

Channa 006.jpg

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Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
Channa bankanensis

There are some rumors about that fish.........

Literature says they get a size of 15 to 30 cm..well ,I Think this is confusing!

for my opinion I can say, that there are maybe several varities of Ch.bankanensis!

A friend of mine is keeping a varity that grows not larger than 20cm at all........
He also breed them several times,so they are sexual matured!

I have got a varity that grows up to 30cm........


Okay...keeping them:
Obviously they look very friendly...with this round shaped head....but believe me:
They are real predators with big teeth!

At my friends home the female bite off the males tail!
Every other tankmates were attacked and put to death as it is better to put them in a tank for their own!
No matter which varity you have got..........I think the minimum size for bankanensis at all is 120cm length and a depth of 50 cm !
Bankas are addicted to soft acidic nature they can be found in peat swamps at a ph of 3,9...........
So they prefer blackwater........but also can be kept in soft clearwater!

The tank should be well structured with from above with floating can put peat or leaves into the aquarium as well (that is what I do)
You need a lot of hiding places for them!
Because of the low ph level and the dim light it might be problematic to put bigger palnts in there(I have Anubias or Java Fern in there)

You can only sex them if they would like to breed!
Then,mostly, males have white little dots in ther pectoral fins and on ther head!
Females turn to a rustyred colour with a big white stripe in the length of the body.........
Also the belly is nearly white!
If they are not in a breeding mood they look very similar to the other sex!
They have floating eggs.........and it is neccessary for them to have this low ph range!
Otherwise they start to get fungal!
Bankas are tropical and should been kept at temperatures around 24-28°C
The eggs hatch afet 2 day (depends on the temperature)
The babys are eating nauplies after 4 day........when the eggbag (is this the word?) is gone!

They have a orange colour with a black stripe ...........and look very similar to young Channa lucia (who live along with them in the same habitats in nature)
Because of the dark water it seems as if they are glowing in the dark..........maybe this is the way the shoal of Juvenile communicate to the otheres!

For my expirience Ch. bankanensis grows slower than other snakeheads............but this might be because of the soft water they live in!

Ch. banakanensis prefer fish and shrimps,but also insects as food!
They are fast and good hunters!

0,1 Banka und Jungtiere.jpg

4.12.2006 046.jpg

banka Kopf und Flosse.jpg

bankanensis Gelege Nov 2007.jpg

bankanensis in Hand.jpg

Larven Makro 3.jpg

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banka Mutter mit Jungen.jpg


Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
Channa bleheri

Channa bleheri was described in 1991 by Dr. Jörg Vierke
It is funny that he never was at the habitat!
Until now nearly nobody was at the habitat of Channa bleheri because in that area there is some kind of civil war going on!

Ch. bleheri comes from the northern part of india where it is subtropical.
So Channa bleheri needs a cool tmeperature range to feel well!
Best temperatures for keeping are about 20-24°C, but for a short time it is not a problem, when the temperature rises up to 28 °C..but only for a short period!

Channa bleheri,also called rainbow snakehead is often baught by beginners,because of their beautyfull colours.......
But it is not a fish for beginners!
When the fish is kept in to high temperatures the colours fade and they become inactive!
Also the fish is not the best swimmer and so they are lying on the ground quite often!
Chann bleheri is more a bottom dweller ,than a pelgaic snakehead!
The maximum size of Ch. bleheri is around 18cm!

If the tank is lare enough it might be possible to keep a small group of this species and also it can be in a tank with other fish if they have a size close to the bleheris own size and if they like the same temperatures!
Tropical fish are no tankmates for them!
Channa bleheri can be kept in tanks about 80cm length x 40cm deep x 40cm high!
Because of their behavior it is okay to keep them in a low water level abround it is easier for them to get to the surface if they want to breath air!
if you want to keep a group of bleheri you shour choose larger tanks!
Startin from 1,20 m in length!

They like fully planted tanks with floating plants..........sometimes they like lying in the plants close to the surface!
You shoud have enough hiding places like stones and wood or potts for flowers where they can hide in!

Channa bleheri is often confused with Ch. spec Assam (Lal Cheng) that looks quite similar,but Ch. bleheri have a spotted caudal fin!

If you want to breed Ch. bleheri it is necessary to chill them down to a tmeperature of 16-18°C in the time from October until March..........and then bring them back on temperature of 24-26°C
I put my bleheri in a special prepared tank in the basement!
In Nature they have a cooler temperature as well and a cold rush of melting water from the himalaya mountains!

Channa bleheri is not a mouthbrouder like Ch. spec Assam,gachua or stewartii.......indeed it looks a little bit like them because of the wide cheeks of the males!
So you can ,if you have the expirience, sex them within using the wide cheeks for the males and also a bigger head and the smaller,more round shaped head of the female!

Channa bleheri is bulding something like a nest at the surface,where it is collecting the floating eggs in!
The eggs have a drop of oil inside,so they swim!

The special thing is that bleheri is not a mouthbrouder at all,but it feeds feeding eggs to the juveniles just like a mouthbrouder!

So it is the only species that shows this behaviour!
If you have young bleheris, do not sperate them from the parents!
Leave them with them because they feed their brood..........
If you speperate them they might die on fungal infection ,because it seems to me as if something is missing in their diet!

Channa bleheri can be fed with insects,worms, shrimps,maggots, mosqito larveas and mussel meat!
They are not specialised fishhunters!
Do not feed them every day!
They are quite inactive an do not need as much food!

Channa bleheri Totale.JPG





bleheri 1.JPG


Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
Channa gachua (better: so called Channa gachua!)

This dwarf species is one of the most difficult species for discription at all!

First of all:
What is Channa gachua?

Original Channa gachua was discribed by Hamilton in 1822..........
And it was dircibed from india!

But in the meantime there where a lot of different types of Channa gachua founded everywhere in Asia!
We have them from Thailand,Myanmar,Laos,Vietnam,Kambodscha,China,Sumatra,Malaysia,Boreno ,even Bali and Indonesia and also Pakistan,Afghanistan and a lot of more countries as well!

Are this all Channa gachua?

I don`t think so!

I am helping scientists to find out what is the relationship between those different types of gachua by sending samples to them for genetic analysis.(natural history Museum of London)
And what we now yet is a drop of an ocean!
We know,that the original gachua Type from India has nothing to do with the so called gachua we know from Thaialnd,for example.
P.Musikasinthorn,one of the most known specialist of the genus Channa has suggested to give the so called gachua from Thailand another name,that is for now a used Synonym for them: Channa limbatus!
He has find out,that the number of scales of the Jaws of a Thai gachua is different to the number of sclaes to an inidan gachua!

Until now it is important to have the habitat in the name of a single gachua Type.......for example:
Channa gachua Krabi/Thailand
or Channa gachua Bengal
or Channa gachua Laos

Some importers have given fantasy names to them.........
For example:
The gachua type from Laos is also called : Channa spec Hibiscus

Or we have antoher called black jet,or Georgette snakehead!

This is the only way at the moment to make differences between the single types!
Here in Germany it is common to choose such a name to differentiate between the single types!
Even most of the live fish shops do so...........

all of them are less or more Channa gachua as we know them yet!
but in my long time of expierence with breeding these different types I can say that most of them have differences to other gachuas ..........
The gachua we know from India and Sri Lanka mostly have an Ocellus in the dorsal fin,if they are young..........
Gachuas from Thailand,Myanmar of the spec Hibiscus do not have this Ocellus!
The juveniles of this ones are more marbled in colour!

Channa gachua from Indian area normally have a red stripe underneath the eye.................
Channa gachua /limbatus do not have...........
The have sometimes a blueish stripe or nothing underneath the eye!
The pectoral fins of Channa gachua I kept from India an Sri Lanka have a ornage-black clouration...........
The most gachua/limbatus types from Thailand,Myanmar have mor black coloured pectoral fins!

And there are many other things,that are similar and different with all of the gachua/limbatus types! to keep them?
Most of the gachuas can be kepts as a couple in a tank about 1m in length and 40cm deep and high!
Around 160 litres!
The group of gachua / limbatus do mostly not grow larger than 20-25cm..........some of them stay even smaller , around 16-18 cm ,others grow bigger (a friend told me that he has found a gachua snakehead in Bali with about 30cm........)

The temperature ranges depending o the habitat where they come from............
There are also tropical gachuas as subtropical ones!

All gachuas/ limbatus are easy to keep,because they are really tough and hard and so this makes them to the best snakehead species for beginners!
Also they are qite nice in colour!
And they can build up a real relationship to the keeper.........
Most of mine wre eating out of hand............
And my first ones from india liked to sleep an rerst in my hands as well!
They are not shy.........

They are easy to breed as well.........because they are mouthbrouders and feeding eggs to their babies!
Mostly they were not adicted to special water parameters..........
It takes about 5 day to hatch....and then the father is caring about them a the time!
The mother feeds them mostly 2 times a day with unfertilized the grow fast!
In good conditions they grow nearly 1 cm per week!
You can feed the baies with tiny frozen food also!
Do not seperate them from the parents!
You can leave them with the parents until they reached a size of nearly 4cm.........monitor them carefully!
Some parents start to breed again,while they have the old babies wimming around still!
And if you are not quick enough tey might eat them as well!
The parents prefer bigger food.....such as insects,worms,maggots,little fish.
Some types prefer inscts..other fish.....that depends on their habitat as well!

An aquarium for Channa gachua should have a lot of hiding places ...........because sometimes it might happen,that a couple gets in trouble.........
And if you do not have enough places where they can hide you can easily loose a part of the couple!

In bigger tanks you might be able to put other species in to aquarium as well.........but remember:
Ch. gachua is easily breeding...and if they have babies they will guard them and fight for them!
So it is better to give them a tank for their own!

I will post some pictures in the next time of different gachua watch out!

Cheers to you all!


Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
Here are some of the bad pictures of my first gachua I have ever kept!

Sorry for the very bad quality..........but I have not any better ones!

I had tried to make something with the photoshop...........but I am soooo bad in computers!

This gachuas were very nice..........they do not attack any other fish...even they had babies!
The have done something very interesting:
normaly the do mouthbreeding...............but one time the have done a floating nest,too!

At the juveniles dorsal fin you can see the Ocellus.........

The were imported from india!









Feeder Fish
MFK Member
Jun 29, 2006
This is another gachua from India........

It was coming from the area around Calcutta!

They had a different colouration on the back of the body and als a different colour of the fins!

ebay neu 084.jpg

Channa gachua Indien 2.JPG

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ebay neu 094.jpg