Golden Cobra Snakehead (Channa aurantimaculata)

golden cobra snakehead

Last updated on August 3rd, 2022 at 12:36 am

The golden cobra snakehead, or channa aurantimaculata as it’s also known, belongs to the family Channidae and subfamily Channinae. It’s native to the countries India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan in South Asia, but has been introduced to many parts of Southeast Asia including Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as eastern Africa.

A beautiful and non-venomous species native to India, the Golden Cobra Snakehead (Channa aurantimaculata) can now be found in many areas of the Southeast Asian continent. They are typically quite well-adapted to their new home environments and are often sold as pets because of their beauty and personality. If you’re interested in owning one of these fish as a pet, here’s some information you should know before diving into this exciting hobby!

Origin and description

golden cobra snakehead

This fish is a tropical Asian species of freshwater fish belonging to the family Channidae. Channa means ‘mango’ in Hindi. It has been introduced into Indonesia, Malaysia, and West Africa. In southeast Asia, it is popularly known as Clown Fish. It was one of the 16 fish species discovered by Sir Stamford Raffles during his voyage around Southeast Asia between 1817-1824.

The golden cobra snakehead grows to approximately 35cm long although larger specimens may reach 50cm or 1ft 8in when fully grown, with an average weight being 0.7kg or 1lb 7oz.

The golden cobra snakehead is native to Asia, particularly India and China. As its name implies, it has a bright yellow coloration with black spots on its body. It can grow to be up to 20 inches long and weigh up to 2 pounds. Like other species of snakeheads, it is predatory and feeds primarily off other fish as well as small animals like frogs, lizards, rats, and mice.

They can also survive in both freshwater environments as well as brackish water. They are known for their strong bites, sharp teeth, and voracious appetites which make them difficult to keep in captivity because they require ample space and large amounts of food. They are not poisonous but have high toxicity levels.

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If you eat one that hasn’t been properly prepared (fried or grilled), you will experience nausea, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain among many other symptoms that mimic food poisoning.

Species profile

golden cobra snakehead

One of the most widespread and common snakeheads, Channa aurantimaculata is a freshwater fish native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. The golden cobra snakehead can reach up to 26 inches in length and almost three pounds in weight.

Its scales have an alternating pink/gold pattern reminiscent of an actual cobra’s skin pattern. Despite their unattractive appearance, snakeheads are considered some of Southeast Asia’s best food fishes.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the golden cobra snakehead is Channa aurantimaculata

Golden cobra snakehead size and weight

They can grow up to 8 to 16 inches. Most of these are caught in small ponds and lakes, although there are reports of them reaching up to 36 inches and over four pounds in larger rivers.

Golden cobra snakehead tank size

The minimum tank size for this fish is 90 gallons.

Tank set up

Aquariums should be at least 90 gallons and can be filled with a variety of bottom dwellers. Good tank mates include schools of tetras, barbs, or rasboras that won’t nip at its fins but will instead compete for food. Floating plants are good to provide shade and some surface plants are appreciated by most bottom-dwelling fish.

This fish is great for a community aquarium as long as it gets along with other non-aggressive fish. It’s territorial towards its own kind so don’t house more than one per tank unless you have very large tanks. It is also capable of injuring small fish such as neon tetras and cardinal tetras.

Other meaty foods such as feeder guppies, earthworms, or brine shrimp could also be used to supplement their diet but make sure they don’t consume these too quickly because it could upset their digestive system resulting in problems like diarrhea or bloating.

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Golden cobra snakehead tank mates

As with most species of snakeheads, Channa aurantimaculata can be kept in a tank of its own. If you do decide to add other fish to your tank, make sure that they’re large enough not to be considered food by your snakehead. Some good tank mates are larger Cichlid species, Bichir, or Catfish that are large enough so as not to be considered food for them.

Golden cobra snakehead breeding

golden cobra snakehead

Golden Cobra Snakeskin fish will breed in any freshwater aquarium with a high oxygen level. They should be spawned in pairs and conditioned with live food prior to breeding. Eggs are usually laid on plants or inside caves and should be removed after spawning.

The eggs will hatch in 2 to 3 days at 30 to 35 degrees C, but care must be taken not to disturb them as they may become infected by fungus. Fry can be fed infusoria until large enough to accept newly hatched brine shrimp. In some cases, the fry can cannibalize each other if there is insufficient room for all of them to avoid one another.

Spawning has been documented in captivity. Eggs should be incubated at a temperature of 82 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit for 48 hours prior to hatching. Fry are easily fed crushed dry foods, micro-worms, or Daphnia and will readily accept most prepared commercial fry foods.

Juveniles can be grown on brine shrimp and finely ground dry foods. Adults should be offered frozen bloodworms, blackworms, tubifex worms, and other large live foods. They may also be trained to eat small fishes such as minnows or danios if provided with live or freshly killed alternatives.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The Golden Cobra Snakehead is a highly aggressive fish and will eat almost anything it can fit in its mouth. Considered by many to be one of the most feared predators of all freshwater fish, they are believed to have been responsible for deaths from attacks on humans and other animals. While not confirmed, there have been reports of them even attacking dogs!

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Children and pets should never be allowed near these fish under any circumstances.

Golden cobra snakehead care

golden cobra snakehead

The golden cobra snakehead requires a large tank with rocks and plants to provide hiding spots. Keep a tight lid on your aquarium, since these fish are notorious jumpers. They do best in an established tank with water temperatures between 75 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly acidic to neutral pH, and a medium-hard level of water hardness. Channa aurantimaculata is relatively easy to care for as long as you can meet these conditions.

Golden cobra snakehead diet

They are carnivorous and will eat small fishes, invertebrates, and small mammals. The golden cobra snakehead also preys on mollusks, crustaceans, and other aquatic organisms. The diet of snakeheads can vary with their size.

Smaller species prefer tiny organisms such as mosquito larvae, zooplankton, and small crustaceans, while larger species can consume a variety of larger prey. Mosquito larvae comprise much of their diet in stagnant pools or bodies of water rich in vegetation. This insectivorous feeding habit makes snakeheads an ideal fish for mosquito control programs.

Water parameters

The ideal water conditions should have a temperature of 68 to 82°F, pH of 6.0 – 7.5, and a hardness (dH) of 5 – 20.

Golden cobra snakehead lifespan

Their average lifespan is 10–15 years, if cared for properly. It is not uncommon for Golden Cobras to live beyond their 15th birthday. Some have lived up to 20 years!

Parasites and diseases

Diagnosing disease in a fish is often tricky. Many diseases can look like other more common disorders, and many of them go by different names in different parts of the world. The most basic sign that something might be wrong with your fish is to check its overall health—fish should always look healthy and act normally, not listless or slimy or anything else that could indicate illness.

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Keep your eye out for black spots on fins, scales, and gills—these can indicate parasites or fungus. And don’t forget to check water quality; it’s easy to overlook some details when you first set up a tank, so make sure you know how hard water affects your fish before they get sick.


The most notorious predators are humans, bullfrogs, other snakeheads, and large piscivorous fish such as catfish. The golden cobra snakehead is often preyed upon by larger snakeheads too. It is also susceptible to predation by a number of species including humans and larger fishes that have been known to consume them.

Do they make good pets?

The short answer is no. Golden cobra snakeheads are aggressive carnivores that can grow to over 2 feet long and weigh as much as 3 pounds, which means that even in a tank, they take up a lot of space. They are also very hard to care for properly: their diet is highly specialized, and they don’t usually get along with other fish, which makes them a great food for larger fish but not necessarily ideal housemates.