African snakehead Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: November 22, 2022

The African snakehead is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that is native to Africa.

They are a popular fish in the aquarium trade and are sought after by many fishkeepers.

However, they are also a very invasive species and are banned in many states in the US.

If you are thinking about getting an African snakehead, please make sure that it is legal to own one where you live.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about African snakehead care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

African snakeheads (scientific name: Channa marulius) are a type of freshwater fish that’s native to Africa. They’re most commonly found in the countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.

Although they can be found in a variety of different habitats, African snakeheads prefer slow-moving waters with a lot of vegetation. This could be anything from a swamp to a river with a lot of plants and trees nearby.

These fish are predators and will eat just about anything they can fit into their mouths. This includes other fish, frogs, rodents, and even birds!

African snakeheads are a popular food fish in many parts of Africa. They’re also a popular choice for the aquarium trade due to their aggressive nature and unique appearance.


African snakehead

The first thing you’ll notice about the African snakehead is their long and slender body. These fish can get quite large (up to four feet in some cases), but their body is still very thin.

The coloration of these fish can vary quite a bit depending on the specific species. Some have brown or red spots on a light background while others are a solid color all over.

The fins on the African snakehead are all fairly large. The dorsal and anal fins are similar in size and shape. Both of these fins start towards the back of the fish and extend almost to the end of the tail.

The caudal fin is large and forked, and the pectoral fins are long and flat. The ventral fins are small and located towards the back of the fish.

One of the most distinctive features of the African snakehead is their large mouth. This mouth is filled with sharp teeth and can open quite wide.

Their eyes are located towards the top of their head and have a vertical pupil.


African snakeheads are a long-lived species with a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years in captivity. In the wild, their lifespan may be even longer.

African snakeheads are a hardy species that can withstand a wide range of environmental conditions. However, they will live longest in an aquarium that provides them with optimal water quality and temperature.


The African snakehead can reach lengths of up to 3.3 feet (1 meter), but most specimens only grow to be about 2 feet (60 centimeters) long.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for an African snakehead is 75 gallons. If you want to keep more than one snakehead, you need to add an additional 50 gallons for each fish.

African snakeheads are large, aggressive fish that need a lot of space to roam. They’re also known to be very good jumpers, so a lid is a must.

Water Parameters

African snakeheads are a bit more difficult to care for than some of the other freshwater fish on this list. They’re not as forgiving when it comes to water parameters.

One of the most important things to remember when caring for African snakeheads is that they’re tropical fish. That means they need warm water to survive and thrive.

Ideally, you should keep the water temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water gets too cold, the fish will become sluggish and may eventually die.

In addition to warm water, African snakeheads need water that is slightly acidic. The pH level should be between 6.5 and 7.0.

Finally, African snakeheads need a water hardness of 5 to 15 dGH.

What To Put In Their Tank

African snakeheads are one of the most unique freshwater fish you can keep. They’re large, predatory, and have an undeniable presence in the aquarium.

Because of their size, these fish need a lot of space to swim. They’re not the type of fish that you can keep in a small tank. A general rule of thumb is to have at least a 75-gallon tank for one African snakehead. If you plan on keeping more than one, then you’ll need an even larger tank.

The inside of their tank should be pretty simple. A sandy substrate is always a good choice since it’s soft and won’t hurt their delicate bellies if they end up rubbing against it.

As for decorations, you can get creative. Just make sure that anything you put in their tank is big enough that they can’t accidentally swallow it.

A few large rocks or driftwood pieces should be enough to make them feel comfortable. You can also add some plants if you want, but be aware that these fish will eat just about anything that moves.

Common Diseases

The African snakehead is a fairly hearty fish, but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to disease. In fact, there are a couple of common illnesses that these fish are susceptible to.

The first one is ich. This is a parasite that will attach itself to your fish and cause white spots to form on their body.

If left untreated, ich can be deadly. The good news is, it’s relatively easy to treat with medication (you can find this at your local pet store).

The other disease you need to watch out for is fungal infections. These usually occur in fish that have open wounds or cuts. The fungus will take over the wound and cause it to become infected.

If you notice any redness, swelling, or discharge coming from a wound on your fish, you should take them to the vet immediately.

Fungal infections are relatively easy to treat if they’re caught early, but they can quickly become deadly if left untreated.

As always, the best way to prevent these diseases is to maintain a clean and healthy environment for your fish. Regular water changes and a good filtration system will go a long way in keeping your African snakehead healthy and disease-free.

Behavior & Temperament

The African snakehead is a predatory fish, which means it’s not the best choice for a community tank. It’s not particularly aggressive, but it will eat smaller fish if it gets the chance.

This fish is a predator in the wild, so it’s not surprising that it has a reputation for being aggressive. The good news is that it’s not always aggressive and there are ways to keep it under control. The best way to do this is to keep it well-fed. If it’s not hungry, it’s less likely to attack other fish.

Another thing to keep in mind is that African snakeheads are escape artists. They’re known for jumping out of tanks, so it’s important to keep a lid on your tank. Otherwise, you might come home to find your fish swimming around on the floor!

Overall, the African snakehead is a beautiful but dangerous fish. If you’re willing to take the risk, it can be a fun addition to your tank. Just be sure to take precautions and be prepared for the worst.

Tank Mates

African snakeheads are not community fish. They’re too aggressive and will eat anything that they can fit in their mouths.

The only time that you can successfully keep them with other fish is if you have a very large tank and the other fish are much too large to be considered food.

Even then, it’s not a guarantee that the snakehead won’t try to eat them.

The only safe tank mate for an African snakehead is another African snakehead. If you want to keep more than one, you must have a very large tank. It’s best to have at least a 75-gallon tank for two adults.


African snakeheads are mouthbrooders, which means the female incubates the eggs in her mouth until they’re ready to hatch. This process takes about three weeks.

When the fry are ready to be released, the mother will open her mouth and release them into the water. The fry are then on their own and must fend for themselves.

As you can imagine, this process is a bit stressful for the mother. After she gives birth, she’ll need some time to recover. It’s best to remove her from the breeding tank and put her in a separate tank.

If you want to breed African snakeheads, it’s best to start with a group of six. This will give you the best chance of getting a male and female.

Once you have your group, put them in a breeding tank. The tank should be at least 50 gallons. It should also have a lot of hiding places. African snakeheads are shy fish and need places to hide.

The water temperature should be between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.

When the female is ready to spawn, she’ll lay her eggs in a hiding place. The male will then fertilize them. Once that’s done, the female will pick them up in her mouth and incubate them.

As we mentioned, this process takes about three weeks. After that, the fry will be released into the water. They’ll be on their own from there.


The African Snakehead is a great choice for a beginner fish keeper. They are hardy and can withstand a wide range of water conditions, making them ideal for those just starting out. They are also relatively easy to care for, as they are not as sensitive as some other fish.

While they are not the most social fish, they can be kept with other Snakeheads or fish of a similar size. Overall, we think the African Snakehead is a great choice for those just starting out in the fish keeping hobby.