Channa micropeltes – Giant Snakehead

channa micropeltes

Last updated on July 18th, 2022 at 10:42 pm

Channa micropeltes, also known as Giant Snakehead, Channa Channa, or simply Channa, is a species of fish in the Channidae family, native to South and Southeast Asia, where it occurs in fresh water and brackish water. The snakehead has been introduced to many other parts of the world, including North America (where it was initially called the walking catfish), and Hawaii, where it may threaten native fish populations and the ecosystem.

Also known as the Giant Snakehead, this fish is native to Southeast Asia and Northern India and has been introduced to other parts of the world where it has become invasive.

The Snakehead fish can grow up to three feet in length and requires large amounts of food, which can make it difficult to maintain in home aquariums. The Snakehead’s diet consists primarily of mollusks, crustaceans, insect larvae, and smaller fish species, but will readily eat any type of fish-based or plant-based food source.

They are highly invasive and destructive species due to their predatory nature and adaptability to different environments. They are also considered an excellent food source and are commonly used in Chinese cuisine as well as soups, stews, and curries.

Species profile

channa micropeltes

Channa micropeltes is a species of snakehead fish endemic to eastern India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. These freshwater species grow to a standard length of about 33 inches (84 cm), with an alleged maximum length of 51 in (130 cm). It can be identified by its large and protruding eyes, as well as its black vertical bar pattern on both sides.

Compared to other snakeheads, it has very small scales which makes it possible for anglers to pick them up while they are still alive. Its body has blotches below its pectoral fins instead of distinct bands. They grow fast and are aggressive predators, feeding primarily upon other fishes but also including crustaceans, frogs, and aquatic insects in their diet.

Channa micropeltes habitat and distribution

The giant snakehead can live in lakes, swamps, slow-moving streams, and ponds in northern Thailand (Sukhumvit), Cambodia, southern China (Guangdong and Fujian provinces), Indonesia (Sumatra and Borneo), Malaysia (Perak), and Myanmar.

It has been introduced to California’s Kern River, Hawaii’s Hilo Bay, Lake Nasser in Egypt, and numerous other locations around the world. In some areas of its native range, it is considered an invasive species, but it is not known to be a threat outside of Asia. Its preferred habitat is freshwater lakes or sluggish streams with soft substrates (mud or sand).

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Unlike most fish that breathe via gills on their flanks, Channa breathes using its modified stomach as a lung and must remain constantly submerged in water except when mating. Aquarium specimens will survive for a short time out of the water but die within 24 hours due to drying out.

Channa micropeltes size and weight

Native to Southeast Asia, giant snakeheads (Channa micropeltes) can grow up to 6 feet (2 meters) long. These fish are not just longer than most of their counterparts, but also more stout, which means they’re capable of doing damage should they decide to chomp down on you. They can weigh up to 46 pounds (21 kilograms).

Their size also means they can survive in smaller bodies of water that other fish would not be able to do well in.

Channa micropeltes tank size

Channa micropeltes grow quite large, so keeping them in an appropriately sized tank is essential. Some hobbyists keep them in tanks upwards of 2,000 gallons, although 1000 to 1,500 gallons should be adequate.

Tank set up

This fish is very large, capable of reaching over 70 cm (27 inches), so a good size tank of 180 gallons or more is recommended. The tank needs to be well planted and dimly lit. Do not add other large fish into your aquarium with a snakehead as they will most likely be eaten!

This fish does not get along with most other types of fish, however, small species such as rasboras can be kept in community tanks if there are no other bigger fish present. They must have either live or frozen bloodworms added to their diet as they cannot survive without them.

Because of their large adult size, Channa must be housed alone in an aquarium that gives them plenty of room for swimming and hunting around for food.

Channa micropeltes tank mates

Channa micropeltes is an aggressive species that will attack and eat any fish smaller than itself. Tetras, barbs, rainbowfish, gouramis, and most other tropical species all make suitable tank mates for Channa micropeltes. Avoid adding other large or medium-sized fish to your aquarium as they’ll be seen as food by Channa micropeltes.

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Channa micropeltes breeding

channa micropeltes

Channa Micropeltes are egg layers and should be provided with an appropriately sized aquarium. They prefer heavily planted tanks with plenty of hiding places and a fine gravel substrate. Males will dig pits in areas of dense planting and establish territories that they will defend against other males.

Females can be kept together, but again, care must be taken to ensure only one male is present unless breeding is desired. Breeding occurs when environmental conditions are suitably warm, typically spring/summer months. A mature female will deposit between 250 to 500 eggs on flat surfaces.

Incubation takes 2 weeks and once hatched, fry requires brine shrimp nauplii or liquid fry food for at least 4 weeks after which they are large enough to accept frozen foods such as daphnia or tubifex. The giant snakehead is considered very aggressive by hobbyists, but they have proven to be undemanding captives if given ample space and well-maintained water conditions.

Careful consideration should always be made before adding any species of snakeheads to your tank; their predatory nature makes them formidable tankmates, capable of stalking much larger fish than themselves.


Highly carnivorous, channa micropeltes consume anything they can swallow whole. However, being a warm-blooded fish (like most members of Channidae), Channa is most active at night in order to ambush and consume prey. They are capable of swimming upriver during floods, even against strong currents; during drought periods they tend to retreat back into deeper water where prey is plentiful.

In contrast to other predators who may be more selective in their prey, channa micropeltes have been known to take nearly any animal that fits within its mouth. This includes primarily fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Channa micropeltes are generally considered to be one of the most aggressive fish species available. This has led to a long list of legalities on where you can keep them (basically anywhere is off-limits). It’s because they are very aggressive and can damage most other tank mates.

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Channa micropeltes care

channa micropeltes

A novice fish keeper can keep a Channa micropeltes in a large tank, with larger specimens requiring a well-decorated aquarium of at least 1000 litres. The giant snakehead is also best kept in groups of at least three or more. There are only four species that are commonly kept by hobbyists: Channa maculata (spotted snakehead), Channa mysorensis (Saravahi), Channa micropeltes (giant snakehead), and Channa striata (Indian swamp eel).

Although bony fishes may be traded as juveniles, most will grow too large for home aquaria, making it important to research extensively before purchasing one from an importer.

The preferred water temperature is 25 to 30°C and pH of 6 to 8; there should be plenty of hiding places among plants, rocks, or submerged driftwood to ensure they feel secure. Feeding needs to be tailored according to size; a juvenile feeds daily, while adults require food once every two days.

Channa micropeltes diet

The channa micropeltes are omnivorous and will feed on whatever they can find. Young fish are primarily carnivorous, while adults eat a variety of food including crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals.

Adults have been observed hunting at night on occasion. The bulk of their diet, however, comes from small fish which are snapped up by large open-mouthed lunges or with a quick flick of its powerful tail.

Water parameters

channa micropeltes

The giant snakehead has many demands for its habitat. The water should be soft and low in alkalinity and hardness, with a pH of 6.8 to 7.2, hardness ranging from 0 to 12 dH (1 is very soft), and a temperature range of 23 to 26°C (73 to 79°F). It is highly tolerant of oxygen depletion, even at high temperatures.

Its behavior is not unlike that of an air-breathing fish: it will gulp air at the surface if oxygen levels are low or if it sees prey there. It can also survive in brackish water; juveniles are able to handle salinities up to 30 ppt. This species prefers shallow weedy areas of lakes and ponds. In particular, giant snakeheads prefer dense vegetation around mudflats where they hunt for food.

The adult channa micropeltes often lurks under logs and rocks where it waits until prey comes by. Giant Snakeheads feed mainly on fish but have been known to attack small mammals, frogs, birds, snakes, turtles, and invertebrates such as crayfish too. If threatened by a predator such as humans or other large animals, they will attempt to bite them with their fangs which, when fully grown, are two inches long, making these dangerous additions to any aquarium especially when kept alongside other fish smaller than them.

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Channa micropeltes lifespan

The lifespan of channa micropeltes is typically, about 8 to 10 years. However, one was recorded at 12 years.

Parasites and diseases

The predatory channa micropeltes has also been identified as a carrier of bilharzia, an intestinal parasite that humans can contract by consuming water containing tiny crustaceans called schistosomes. If ingested, these parasites bore into our blood vessels and can cause fever, anemia, and chronic fatigue.

This is most likely to occur in farmers who work barefoot on paddy fields or fishermen who catch channa micropeltes from heavily infested waters.


The only predator known for channa micropeltes is Humans. The snakehead is one of only a few species of fish that are commonly eaten by humans; it is typically used in Chinese cuisine.

In fact, it has been called the world’s most destructive invasive species because of its ability to proliferate at such a fast rate and devastate aquatic ecosystems and native species. This adaptability makes it particularly dangerous to aquatic environments.

Do they make good pets?

No. They grow to an enormous size and will eventually eat other tank mates. It is not advised that you attempt to keep them as pets as there are many invasive species and it is illegal in most states/countries.

In some areas of North America, however, it is legal to own them if you obtain a license from your state DNR/fishing department, under certain conditions.