Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 21:23 EDT

Giant snakehead

The Giant snakehead is the largest in the Channidae family, capable of growing over 50 inches. It is widely distributed in the freshwater of Southeast Asia and some regions of India. The scientific name of the giant snakehead is Channa micropeltes, and other names include Red snakehead and Ikan toman (where Ikan is Malay for fish).

The young of the Giant snakehead is red in color, with orange and black lateral stripes appearing after about two months. As the Giant snakehead matures, they lose their stripes and instead develop a bluish black and white pattern on their upper body.

Being a high level predator means that the Giant snakehead eats many other fish, amphibians and even small birds, but is not preyed upon by many other species. The Giant snakehead is considered gregarious, with the young often following closely to their mother. There have been reports of protective mother Giant snakehead attacking men who have disturbed the snakehead’s school of juveniles.

Channa micropeltes as food fish

In Singapore, where the giant snakehead is known as the Toman, they are cultured in fish ponds and reservoir as game fish because they put up a strong fight when hooked. The giant snakehead is also a good food fish, and is often served in Chinese restaurants. Some people, however, dislike the muddy taste associated with freshwater fish.

Channa micropeltes as an invasive species

In 2003, a giant snakehead was caught in Rock River, Wisconsin. This is one of few reports of giant snakeheads caught in the United States. However, unlike its relative, the Northern snakehead, the Giant snakehead is unlikely to proliferate and remain a permanent alien because it prefers the warmer temperatures of 77 to 82.4°F (25 to 28°C).

Giant snakehead