Northern snakehead


Have you seen Northern snakehead?

Be on the lookout for Northern snakehead and report it to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection helps protect Queensland's natural aquatic environment, the businesses that rely upon it and our way of life.

Call us on 13 25 23.

Northern snakehead is a large predatory fish native to freshwater habitats of China, Russia and Korea.

These fish are obligate air-breathers – capable of breathing from the atmosphere. They can survive in poorly oxygenated waters and up to 4 days out of the water.

The species has the potential to become invasive if feral populations establish in Queensland.

Scientific name

Channa argus

Other names

  • Snakehead
  • Raigyo
  • Thunder fish


  • Long slender fish with torpedo shaped body.
  • Large, can grow more than 85cm.
  • Small head, somewhat flattened.
  • A single dorsal fin runs the length of the fish.
  • Brown with dark blotches.
  • Males are darker in colour and have flatter head.
  • Juveniles have similar colour and pattern to adults.


  • Very hardy fish can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions.
  • Prefers to live in stagnant, shallow ponds or swamps with a muddy bottom or aquatic vegetation and has also been found to live in canals, reservoirs, lakes, and rivers.


  • Northern snakehead is native to China, Russia and Korea.
  • Introduced populations are found throughout Asia and Japan and the United States.

Life cycle

  • Typically reach reproductive maturity at 2–3 years old.
  • Adult females build circular floating nests from clipped aquatic plants and release their eggs.
  • 1300 to 1500 bright orange-yellow eggs are released with each spawning.
  • Up to 5 spawns annually.
  • Both parents guard the nest of eggs from predation and continue to guard the hatched fry for several additional weeks.
  • Eggs may hatch in fewer than 3 days, dependent on temperature.

Affected animals

  • Native aquatic animals


  • Able to adapt to different environments and rapidly increase their population.
  • Out-competes native species for food and habitat.

Legal requirements

  • Northern snakehead is a prohibited invasive animal under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • Report any suspected sightings to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 immediately.
  • Biosecurity is a shared responsibility and by law everyone has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable and practical steps to avoid introduction or spread of marine pests.
  • If you catch one of these fish, do not release it back into the wild.

Further information