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How many eggs do snakeheads lay?

A mature northern snakehead female can carry as many as 50,000 eggs, although some will not develop and others will be eaten by insects and small fishes following fertilization. Depending on water temperature, eggs can hatch in about 24-48 hours.

The reproductive behavior of snakeheads is quite interesting. Most, perhaps all, are nest builders. The northern snakehead, for example, builds its nest in shallow water by clearing an area of vegetation. This results in a cylindrical column of water devoid of most vegetation. Nests are about 2-3 feet deep and about 3 feet in diameter. When the fry hatch, they remain clustered at the surface of the nest until their fins develop. At that time, the young (early juveniles) begin swimming by diving down into the center of the nest, then rising back to the surface. Early juveniles remain in the nest for 3-4 weeks schooling and being guarded by one or both parents. All species of snakeheads guard their eggs and young, a behavior that is rare in US native fishes.

A few species of snakeheads are mouth brooders; that is, one of the parents will carry fertilized eggs in its mouth cavity. When the fry hatch, they are retained in the mouth until their fins develop to the point where the young can swim. Even after the young leave the mouth of the adult, the parents continue to guard the young fish until they are able to fend for themselves.

Learn more: Northern Snakehead (Channa argus) - FactSheet

Animated map showing snakehead distribution in the US

Snakeheads (Pisces, Channidae): A biological synopsis and risk assessment


Tags: Ecosystems, Biodiversity, Native Species, Snakeheads, Ecology, Predator, Aquatic