Northeast Region
Conserving the Nature of America


Snakehead Fish
Aliases: Channa and parachanna

Teeth of a Snakehead Fish
Northern snakehead fish have teeth.
Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey

Snakehead fish
Northern snakehead fish. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Nickname: Frankenfish

Description: These fish are long and cylindrical with enlarged scales on their head, hence the common name of snakehead. They have a large mouth with a protruding lower jaw that typically contains canine like teeth. Their coloration and size vary, with the largest one recorded being 4 feet in length. Snakeheads have the unique ability to live out of water for up to three days, and are able to slither across land.

Wanted for: Invading U.S. waters and competing with native species for food and habitat.  The predatory behavior of the northern snakehead has the potential to alter food webs and change the ecological balance of existing systems. The number and diversity of many native and desirable introduced species could be reduced if snakeheads become established in U.S. waters.

Last seen: California, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Rhode Island.

Link to Map:

What to do if you catch one: Do not release the fish or throw it up on the bank (it could wriggle back
into the water). Remember, this fish is an airbreather and can live a long time out of water. Kill the fish by freezing it or putting it on ice for an extended length of time. Photograph the fish if you have access to a camera so the species of snakehead fish can be positively identified. Report the sighting (see below). Keeping data on the size, number, and location of where snakeheads are caught or seen is vital to
controlling this invasive fish.

Human Health Risks: Most snakeheads will avoid contact with humans. However, when guarding their eggs or young, they can become aggressive if approached.




Several Snakehead Fish
Examples of Northern snakehead fish. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

To Report Sighting: Call the Aquatic Nuisance Species Hotline at 1-877-STOP-ANS (1-877-786-7267) or click here to report online. This voluntary reporting system, managed by the U.S. Geological Survey - National Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Information System in Gainesville, FL, helps everyone know where species occur so they avoid spreading them to new locations.

Sources: (.pdf file 337kb)

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Last updated: May 11, 2012