The snakeheads are members of the freshwater perciform fish family Channidae, native to parts of Africa and Asia. These elongated, predatory fish are distinguished by their long dorsal fins, large mouths, and shiny teeth. They breathe air with gills, which allows them to migrate short distances over land. They have suprabranchial organs, which are primitive forms of labyrinth organs, that develop when they grow older. The three extant genera are Channa and Aenigmachanna in Asia and Parachanna in Africa, consisting of more than 50 species.
They are valuable as a food source and have become notorious as an intentionally released invasive species.
Snakeheads are valuable food fish. Called nga yant in Burmese, in Manipuri as ngamu, they are prized fish eaten in a variety of ways. In Vietnam, they are called ca loc, ca qua, or ca chuoi, and are prized in clay-pot dishes and pickled preparations. Larger species, such as C. striata, C. maculata, and Parachanna obscura, are farmed in aquaculture. In the United States, chefs have suggested controlling the snakehead invasion by serving them in restaurants. In Indonesia, snakehead fish are called ikan gabus, served as the main parts of traditional dishes such as Betawis’ pucung gabus, and considered to be a delicacy due to their rarity in the wild and in aquaculture, as they are harder to raise than other popular freshwater fish such as catfish and carp.