Channa gachua, also known as dwarf snakehead, has recently exploded in popularity, especially among aquarium hobbyists in the United States.
It is a freshwater fish native to India and Bangladesh but has been introduced in other regions of the world including Africa, South America, and North America. Channa gachua can be found in both still and flowing water bodies like ponds, streams, lakes, rivers, ditches, etc., with an optimum temperature range of 25 to 28°C (77 to 82°F).
Also known as the lizardfish, and related to the Asian and German snakehead, channa gachua are some of the most colorful freshwater fish you can add to your aquarium or pond. The bright colors of this species include red, orange, yellow, black, and white.
Origin and descriptions
The dwarf snakehead is a very striking looking fish that, despite its name, is actually more closely related to catfish than it is to other snakeheads. The Channa Gachua, also known as Channa dwarf snakehead or Dwarf Channa, originates from India and Sri Lanka. They were commonly sold in aquarium stores all over Asia up until 2002 when they were placed on CITES II making them illegal to sell without an import permit.
Despite how pretty they are, I wouldn’t recommend keeping one unless you have lots of experience with larger tropical fishes. Keeping your Dwarf Snakehead happy can be quite difficult due to their aggressive nature and large adult size (about 12 inches). Before you buy a channa gachua, read our care guide below so you know what to expect, we want you to be happy with your new addition!
The dwarf snakehead or channa gachua is a tropical freshwater fish in the family of Channidae. It is native to India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. They are considered invasive species to many areas where they were introduced as aquarium fish.
The dwarf snakehead is also a predator species that can grow up to 2 feet in length. Although it’s not uncommon for some members of their genus to reach lengths beyond 10 inches, dwarf snakeheads have been caught at lengths just above 12 inches (300mm).
On average, you will see them growing anywhere from 5-7 inches; however, there have been reports of them reaching lengths up to 10 inches. Dwarf snakeheads typically eat anything they can get their mouths around, so if you plan on keeping them as pets, you will need to provide live food at all times.
The channa gachua is one of several species of snakeheads that live in brackish waters. As such, they are tolerant of a wide range of water conditions, including both fresh and saltwater. Due to their tolerance for a variety of habitats, they can be found in bodies as small as drainage ditches to large rivers like Florida’s Kissimmee River. They are primarily nocturnal animals, meaning they hunt at night, but can adapt to being out during the day.
Dwarf snakehead size
This species can grow up to 11 inches (28 cm) in length.
Dwarf snakehead tank size
The minimum recommended tank size is 55 gallons (208 Liters)
Tank set up
Because of their size, dwarf snakeheads don’t require large tanks. However, if you have one or more in a tank with other types of fish, you need to be aware that these aggressive fish will eat any fish small enough to fit into their mouths. A 55-gallon tank is sufficient for a single channa gachua; larger tanks are required if more than one snakehead is housed together.
The tank should provide plenty of hiding places such as plants, rocks, and cave structures. This species prefers well-filtered water but isn’t overly picky about water conditions. Water temperature should be between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Ammonia levels should always remain at zero ppm. Nitrites should also stay below five ppm, while nitrates should never exceed 20 ppm.
Phosphates shouldn’t go over two ppm. Lighting should be indirect to avoid exposing your pet to too much light, which can stress it out and cause problems with disease development. Because most live foods contain phosphates, stick with frozen foods for your cichlid — preferably bloodworms — to keep phosphates low.
Channa gachua tank mates
The dwarf snakehead is a territorial fish, so you’ll want to keep only one fish per tank. That said, if you have other large species of fish in your aquarium, there’s no reason why they can’t be kept together. If you do choose to keep multiple dwarf snakeheads in one tank, consider giving them their own corner of the tank with plenty of covers – like plastic plants or branches – where they can feel safe.
Just make sure that your other fish aren’t too small; while dwarf snakeheads typically don’t target smaller fish as prey items, they will eat anything that fits into their mouths!
Some good tank mates are African cichlids, danios, tetras, rainbowfish, dragonfish (Synodontis catfish), rasboras, and loaches. Also, you can keep different types of dwarf snakeheads together in one aquarium but they should be separated by gender. When they’re healthy and full-grown adult fish, males tend to be larger than females.
Channa gachua breeding
Channa gachua is a livebearer and is a social fish. They will become aggressive towards each other if they are kept in too small of an aquarium. A 100-gallon tank should be suitable for 2 dwarf snakeheads; adding 1 more can be done, but it’s not advised due to aggression issues.
The aquascape of a dwarf snakehead tank should consist of large areas of open space interspersed with some dense plants (such as Java fern or anubias). Adding floating plants into your community is also recommended, as these types of plants will provide additional security to your young fry from larger fish that may eat them.
It has been suggested that you add caves or half-logs into your aquascape for breeding purposes. This allows your female fish to hide her eggs from her male counterpart. Be sure to remove hiding spots once spawning is complete, though!
As mentioned before, adding some floating plants will prevent fry from getting eaten by older members of your group as well. You can keep track of who is eating whose eggs/fry by observing which fish make use of their hiding spots when laying their eggs/spawning at night.
Are Channa gachua aggressive or peaceful?
Although dwarf snakeheads are not very aggressive toward other fish, they are voracious predators. They will eat almost anything that fits in their mouth (including smaller tankmates). If a bite is too large to fit, they’ll shake it until it breaks. You may want to avoid keeping them with large or expensive species. They also require a lot of plants to hide in, so keep that in mind when choosing decorations for your tank.
Channa gachua care
This fish is extremely unique, beautiful, and hardy. Just remember that it can grow to be quite large! I’ve personally kept them in several of my freshwater tanks for two years with only a 50-gallon aquarium. They are very disease resistant, but still must be monitored for common diseases all freshwater fish experience.
Feeding these once-terrifying creatures is not very difficult at all. Offer small pinches of high-quality meaty foods, such as bloodworms, live baby brine shrimp, or daphnia once or twice a day along with standard tropical flake food flakes. These things eat almost anything offered to them; though they tend to prefer smaller worms and larvae over larger worms.
Channa gachua diet
These fish are carnivores, but they can also be taught to eat live and frozen foods. In their native habitats, they eat insects, larvae, worms, other invertebrates and even small fish. In an aquarium setting, you should feed your dwarf snakeheads a diet of meaty foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms. These fish will also happily consume flake food or pellet-based food along with some fresh vegetables like zucchini or carrots from time to time.
A pH of 6.5–7.5, temperature between 75–80°F (24–27°C), and low levels of dissolved salts are ideal for channa gachua. Tank size should be equivalent to or greater than three times its full adult length, so plan accordingly when you acquire your fish!
At a minimum, you should provide each dwarf snakehead with 8 gallons (30 L) of water per inch (2.5 cm) of body length; that means adult dwarf snakeheads need at least 32 gallons (121 L) per individual.
Channa gachua lifespan
In captivity, dwarf snakeheads can live up to 15 years old.
Parasites and diseases
Dwarf snakeheads are somewhat prone to scale worms, gill flukes, and parasitic crustaceans such as dwarf prawn gobies. They can also get monogenetic trematodes that cause fatal blockages of the intestinal tract. It’s important to quarantine new fish for at least four weeks before introducing them into your main tank.
Due to their size, dwarf snakeheads are not susceptible to most natural predators. Even as adults, they are too large for most other fish to eat. However, their eggs and fry can fall prey to larger fish such as goldfish or piranhas if they aren’t being watched carefully. Once grown, tankmates of similar size pose little threat.
Do channa gachua make good pets?
Channa gachua are attractive fish, but not necessarily a good fit for most hobbyists. Their adult size is 3 feet in length, making them hard to maintain in home aquariums. They also have very large appetites, so they will outgrow a 30-gallon tank within months.
Their large adult size, combined with their aggression toward conspecifics (other members of their species), makes it difficult to keep multiple channa gachua together.