Significance to humans

Most channid species are important food fishes in southern Asia and China and the flesh is considered delicious. Some medium-to-large species are cultured in ponds or in cages set in slow-running rivers. Although sold fresh and sun-dried, several species, northern snakehead (C. argus) and striped snakehead (C. striata), are known as intermediate hosts of parasites harmful to humans, including Gnathostoma (jaw worms), and should be cooked thoroughly at a high temperature before eating. Two species have even been used as predators to control tilapia in aquaculture ponds. Larger species are popular game fishes in Asia, and several species feature in local beliefs or myths. In October 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service passed a rule that prohibits the importation of live snakeheads into the United States except by scientific, medical, or educational organizations, which would be required to obtain a permit to import the fishes.

1. Orange-spotted snakehead (Channa aurantimaculata); 2. Walking snakehead (Channa orientalis); 3. Rainbow snakehead (Channa bleheri); 4. Giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes); 5. Giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes) juvenile; 6. African snakehead (Parachanna obscura). (Illustration by Michelle Meneghini)

Channa Orientalis
M.L.MENEGHINI © 2003

1. Striped snakehead (Channa striata); 2. Striped snakehead (Channa striata) juvenile; 3. Bullseye snakehead (Channa marulius); 4. Bullseye snakehead (Channa marulius) juvenile; 5. Ocellated snakehead (Channa pleurophthalmus); 6. Northern snakehead (Channa argus). (Illustration by Michelle Meneghini)

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