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

Updated: December 17, 2022

The forest snakehead is a beautiful freshwater fish that is native to Africa.

This species is not commonly kept in aquariums, but they are becoming more popular among fishkeepers.

If you’re thinking about getting a forest snakehead, you need to know how to care for them properly. That’s what this guide is for!

Below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Forest snakehead care. Tank size, diet, tank mates, and more.

Species overview

The forest snakehead (Channa argus) is a freshwater fish that’s native to various parts of East Asia. The most common places you can find them are in China, Korea, and Russia.

They prefer habitats that are heavily vegetated with slow-moving water. This could be anything from ponds and lakes to swamps and marshes.

Due to their ability to breathe air, forest snakeheads can survive in water that is low in oxygen. This gives them a bit of an advantage over other fish in their environment.

These fish are known to be quite aggressive and have been known to attack other fish, as well as mammals and reptiles. They are also known to be very good at escaping from tanks and aquariums, so be sure to keep a close eye on them!


Forest snakehead

The first thing you’ll notice about the forest snakehead is their unique coloration. The body of this fish is a very light brown or beige. This color is broken up by a series of dark brown or black spots that run along their sides.

The spots on their body tend to be more of a semicircle shape and they’re arranged in a series of rows.

The fins on this species are very dark in color. The dorsal fin is tall and starts quite far back on their body. The anal fin is shorter but still quite tall.

The caudal fin is forked and symmetrical. The pectoral fins are long and thin. The ventral fins are very small in comparison to the other fins on this fish.

The eyes on the Forest snakehead are very large and protrude slightly from their head. They have a large mouth that is filled with sharp teeth.


The average lifespan of a forest snakehead is 10 to 12 years.

This is a pretty long lifespan for a fish, especially one that is considered semi-aggressive. There are a number of reasons why they can live so long.

First of all, they are a very hardy fish. They can tolerate a wide range of water conditions and are not particularly susceptible to disease.

Secondly, they have a very slow growth rate. It takes them a long time to reach their full size, which means they don’t experience the same level of wear and tear that other fish do.


The average size of a forest snakehead is between 3 and 4 feet in length. However, they can grow to be up to 6 feet long! As a result, you need to have a large tank if you want to keep one of these fish as a pet.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a forest snakehead is 48 inches (4 feet) in length.

This is a large fish and it needs a large tank. If you’re looking for a smaller freshwater fish, this is not the one for you.

Water Parameters

The forest snakehead is a tropical fish that requires warm water temperatures and high levels of dissolved oxygen.

The ideal water temperature for forest snakeheads is between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water temperature drops below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the fish will become sluggish and may stop eating.

The ideal pH range for forest snakeheads is between 6.5 and 7.5.

The ideal water hardness for forest snakeheads is between 4 and 8 dGH.

The ideal alkalinity level for Forest snakeheads is between 4 and 8 dKH.

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up an aquarium for a forest snakehead there are a few things you need to take into account.

First and foremost, these fish get BIG. We’re talking up to 3 feet long in some cases. That means you need a tank that can accommodate them (at least 150 gallons).

Since they’re such large fish they also produce a LOT of waste. You need to have a filtration system that can handle the load (we recommend a canister filter).

When it comes to the inside of the tank, these fish don’t need much. A layer of gravel on the bottom is fine, and you can add some plants if you want (just be aware that they might uproot them).

Driftwood and rocks can also be added for decoration, but it’s not necessary.

The most important thing is to provide them with plenty of open space to swim. They’re not too fussy when it comes to the specifics.

Common Diseases

The forest snakehead is a hardy and resilient fish, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get sick. In fact, there are a few diseases that these fish are particularly susceptible to.

The most common illness that affects the forest snakehead is gill flukes. This is a parasitic infection that is most often contracted in stagnant or slow-moving water.

The symptoms of this disease are pretty easy to spot. Your fish will have trouble breathing, and you’ll see mucus and slime on their gills. If left untreated, this disease can be fatal.

The best way to prevent your fish from getting gill flukes is to make sure their tank has good water circulation. A filter will help with this, but you may also need to install an additional aerator to really get the water moving.

You should also avoid keeping your snakeheads in water that is too stagnant. If the water in their tank isn’t moving around much, it’s a good idea to do a water change to freshen things up.

Behavior & Temperament

The forest snakehead is a predatory fish that is not recommended for beginner aquarists. In the wild, these fish are known for being quite aggressive. They are known to attack other fish, as well as smaller mammals that come too close to their territory.

While they can be kept in aquariums, it is important to do your research before adding one to your tank. If you decide to get a forest snakehead, it is best to keep them alone in a tank. They are not compatible with other fish, and will likely attack and eat any fish that they come in contact with.

When it comes to their temperament, Forest snakeheads are not the easiest fish to work with. They are aggressive and will often attack their tank mates. They are also known to be jumpers, so it is important to keep a lid on their tank at all times.

Tank Mates

In their native habitat, forest snakeheads are found in slow-moving waters. This is important to know because it will help you when it comes time to choose tank mates.

First, you need to find fish that come from similar environments. This will ensure that they can handle the same water conditions.

Second, you need to find fish that are a similar size. Forest snakeheads can grow quite large, and they’re not afraid to use their size to their advantage.

That being said, here are a few potential tank mates for your Forest snakehead:


Forest snakeheads are mouthbrooders, which means that the female will hold the eggs in her mouth until they hatch. This can take anywhere from 21 to 28 days.

Before the female lays her eggs, the male will prepare a nest. This is usually a pit that he digs in the substrate. He’ll clear out any debris and make sure the area is clean.

When the female is ready to lay her eggs, she’ll release them into the nest. The male will then fertilize them. After that, the female will pick them up in her mouth and hold them there until they hatch.

During this time, the male will stay close by and protect the female. He’ll chase away any potential predators and make sure the area is safe.

Once the eggs have hatched, the fry will stay in the female’s mouth for another week or so. After that, they’ll be released into the open water.

The fry are very small and vulnerable at this stage. They’ll need to be fed live food to survive. Baby brine shrimp are a good option. You can also grind up flake food into a powder and sprinkle it over the tank.

As they grow, you can gradually start to introduce larger food items.


The forest Snakehead is a great fish for those who are looking for something a little different. They have a unique appearance and are very easy to care for.

While they are not the most active fish, they are very peaceful and make a great addition to any community tank.

We highly recommend this fish to anyone who is looking for something a little out of the ordinary!