Northern Snakehead

Northern Snakehead

Channa argus


Snakeheads are able to gulp air, which enables them to travel across land.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Washington - America’s Freshwater Ecosystems

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Northern Snakehead Northern Snakehead Northern Snakehead

Northern Snakehead

The northern snakehead is a tubular, stealthy fish with a robust head and a powerful jaw used to capture prey.

This species has the ability to gulp air and absorb oxygen through a modified swim bladder that functions much like a lung, which allows the snakehead to travel across land to move into new bodies of water.


Primarily a piscivore, this voracious fish will eat anything it can fit into its mouth.


Large specimens can reach about a meter in length and weigh close to 20 pounds.


Native to China and parts of Korea. It first appeared in the U.S. as an invasive species in Crofton, Maryland, and now can be found from New York to Florida, and is starting to move out west.

Population Status

This species is considered invasive and is illegal to release back into native waters if captured.


Juveniles are consumed by larger predatory fish and waterfowl. Adults have no natural predators, which is causing big problems for native species. There is a local movement to get snakehead onto restaurant menus to help manage the population.

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A Note From the Caretaker

Our snakehead seems to recognize staff working behind the scenes, as it will rapidly change color and move toward the aquarist, even when not being fed.