The Red Snakehead, also called the Giant Snakehead, is the second largest species in the Channidae family and one of the largest freshwater species within the hobby. Red Snakeheads are an extremely hardy, aggressive, and powerful species that are native to several countries throughout Southeast Asia (Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Cambodia, Sumatra, and Borneo). They get their name mainly from the fact that their heads have a snake-like appearance, but it may also have something to do with their sharp teeth. They are one of the few social species of the Channidae family and as juveniles they will swim together in schools as well as hunt together when mature. Red Snakeheads have an accessory respiratory organ, which allows them to breathe outside of the water for a long time. Red Snakeheads are currently banned throughout the United States, making them illegal to own without a permit (although they are still thriving in aquariums and ponds in other countries around the world). Outside of the United States the species is very popular and readily available.
Red Snakeheads require an aquarium of 450 gallons (preferably larger) as they will grow to be up to 42 inches long. They appreciate a sandy to smooth gravel substrate with several large pieces of driftwood as well as rock caves for shelter. They will thrive with plenty of dense, live vegetation and floating plants as they are ambush predators and also appreciate low to medium light and the ability to find shade. They can survive in a wide range of water conditions, but strong and efficient filtration is required to ensure clean water due to the extreme bio-load this species will bring down on their environment; high-end (possibly custom), external biological and mechanical filtration (e.g., a sump-style wet/dry filter) will be needed and quality chemical filtration is also recommended. Red Snakeheads will need a strong, tight-fitting lid on their aquarium as they will sometimes jump or get carried away while hunting live fish. Species specific aquariums are recommended as they are highly predatory and aggressive; although they can coexist with a few of the largest cichlids (Gars are usually a safe bet), large catfish, and various large Plecos. Tank mates should be chosen carefully and should comparable in size as adults.
Red Snakeheads are ferocious, predatory carnivores and mainly eat massive amounts of live fish, but also eat frogs, insects and crayfish in the wild. In the aquarium they should be fed a constant supply of live fish, but they will also accept live earth worms, frogs, crickets, and crayfish. For balanced nutrition, the best idea would be to have a separate tank of minnows and other baitfish and feed them high quality, vitamin-enriched flake foods to get them “gut-loaded” before they are fed to the Snakeheads. Feed twice daily.