Chesapeake Bay Introduced Species Database

Channa argus

Common name(s):
Northern Snakehead
The Northern Snakehead, native to Asia, was first caught in a pond in Crofton, MD in 2002. They are a major concern here because they are voracious predators and could impact our native fish species. Their 2002 discovery prompted a rapid response and eradication effort that lead to the removal of over 1,000 juvenile fish. However, in 2004, an established population of Snakeheads was found in the Potomac River. Genetic analysis indicates that the fish have been introduced many times in North America. Because Snakeheads are imported for food and occasionally sold in the aquarium trade, their introductions are likely to be a combination of accidental and intentional (illegal) introductions. Snakeheads have not yet had a significant ecological or economic impact, but the Potomac River population has spread to brackish waters near the mouth of the river and may be moving into other tributaries. In April-July of 2011, several catches of snakeheads were reported in the Bay outside the Potomac River, including St. Jeromes Creek, Nanticoke River, and up the bay to the Rhode and Northeast Rivers. Their spread may have resulted from heavy winter and early spring rains which resulted in unusually low salinities in Chesapeake Bay permitting wider dispersal.
Image courtesy of Virginia Department of Natural Resources.


Channa argus


Ophicephalus nigricans; Ophicephalus argus; Channa argus argus; Ophicephalus pekinensis

Potentially Misidentified As:

Channa marulius; Channa micropeltes; Channa maculata

Common Names:

Northern Snakehead


Potentially Misidentifed Species- Channa marulius (Bullseye Snakehead), C. micropeltes (Giant Snakehead), and C. maculata, are native to Asia and have all been collected in North America, though only C. marulius, has established populations on the continent. Channa marulius, is locally established in southeast FL. A single specimen was caught in Baltimore Harbor, in September 2002. This fish was apparently dying and was apparently the result of a single prank release during the "snakehead" media furor of that summer. Specimens of C. micropeltes have been caught in ME, MA, RI, WI and MD. Locations of the 2 earlier MD collections were not given by Courtenay and Williams (2004). A single specimen of C. maculata was collected from the Charles River, Boston MA. All 3 of these species, unlike C. argus, are subtropical-tropical and unlikely to survive Chesapeake Bay winters (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2004; Courtenay and Williams 2004).

This data was last modified on Thursday, October 31st, 2013.
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