snakehead

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snakehead,

common name for members of the family Channidae, hardy freshwater fish native to S and E Asia and tropical Africa, where they are a popular food fish. Snakeheads are elongated fishes with long dorsal and anal fins, small heads, large mouths, sharp teeth, and slimy skin. They use primitive lungs as well as gills to breathe, and some are able to migrate over land. Voracious predatory fish, they feed mostly on other fish. A number of the species are raised in aquaculture in their native ranges. The northern snakehead (Channa argus) and the giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes), both of which may exceed 40 in. (1 m) in length, have been found as introduced species in the United States since 2002, where they have no natural enemies and are considered invasive.

Snakehead

 

(Ophicephalus argus), a freshwater fish of the order Ophiocephaloidea. The body is elongated (up to 85 cm long) and weighs up to 7 kg. The dorsal and anal fins are long. The head is flattened and covered with scales and looks like the head of a snake (hence the name); the mouth opening is large.

The snakehead has an epibranchial organ for breathing air; the fish can live in polluted waters and even out of water (for several days). It is found in the Amur basin and Lake Khanka, and also in China and Korea. It lives alone or in small groups, feeding on small fish and bottom organisms. Spawning takes place in June and July in several sessions. The average egg capacity is 7,300. The eggs are pelagic. The snakehead builds a large nest (up to 1 m in diameter) out of stalks and leaves at the surface of the water. The larvae stay near the nest; the fish reach sexual maturity in the third year. Snakeheads have some commercial importance. In some places they are raised by stocking ponds with larvae. Snake-heads have been acclimatized in Middle Asia.

REFERENCES

Berg, L. S. Ryby presnykh vod SSSR i sopredel’nykh stran, 4th ed., part 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1949.
Pmmyslovve ryby SSSR. Moscow, 1949.

G. I. LINDBERG

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