Photo credit: Vance Crain, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
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Species at a Glance
Like many species of snakeheads, the bullseye snakehead is commercially important in both aquaculture and targeted fisheries within its native range. This species is available in some live fish markets and obtainable, but rare, in the aquarium trade. The only U.S. state with an established population of bullseye snakehead is Florida. This species prefers to inhabit deep clear lakes and rivers with rocky or sandy substrate, although other authors report them inhabiting standing water in canals, lakes, and swamps with submerged aquatic vegetation (Rainboth 1996). Spawning period and timing seems to vary geographically, but generally occurs between May to August (summarized by Courtenay and Williams 2004).
Snakeheads (family Channidae) are morphologically similar to the North American native bowfin (Amia calva), and identification of the two are often confused. Snakeheads are distinguished from bowfin by the position of pelvic fins (directly behind pectoral fins in snakeheads, farther posterior in bowfin) and the size of the anal fin (elongate and similar in size to dorsal fin in snakeheads, short and much smaller than dorsal fin in bowfin). Additionally, bowfin can be identified by the presence of a bony plate between the lower jaws (gular plate) and a distinctive method of swimming using undulations of the dorsal fin.
The bullseye snakehead has a distinctive orange spot (ocellus) on caudal peduncle that may fade with growth. It is one of the largest species of Channa (Talwar and Jhingran 1992).
The bullseye snakehead can be found in many residential lakes and canals in Broward and Palm Beach counties, Florida (Shafland et al. 2008).
The bullseye snakehead is native to south and southeastern Asia, from Pakistan to southern China (Courtenay and Williams 2004). It is currently established in Florida (Shafland et al. 2008). This snakehead's means of introduction is unknown, but it is known to have been been illegally introduced in Florida, most likely as a food source for human consumption.
The impacts of the bullseye snakehead are largely unknown. However, it is known that this predatory species has the potential to impact native fishes and crustaceans directly. Bullseye snakeheads have been found to consume native centrarchids, lizards, toads, and small fishes; however, snakeheads are also consumed by other large predatory fishes present in south Florida canals (e.g., largemouth bass Micropterus salmoides and butterfly peacock bass Cichla ocellaris; P. Shafland, pers. comm.)
Information for this species profile comes from the USGS NAS Bullseye Snakehead fact sheet.