The northern snakehead is a large, long fish with a mottled, snake-like pattern. It lives in the Potomac River and its local creeks and streams. It is an invasive species.
The northern snakehead's elongated body grows to 33 inches in length. It has tan, dark brown or black coloring with a mottled, snake-like pattern. Its long dorsal fin runs along most of its back. It has a large mouth with a protruding lower jaw and many teeth.
Northern snakeheads inhabit ponds, lakes, streams, rivers and other freshwater areas. They can live out of water for up to four days if kept moist and will lie dormant in mud during droughts.
Found in the Potomac River and several of its tributaries in Maryland and Virginia. Snakeheads are native to China, Russia and Korea.
Snakeheads prefer to eat fish, but will also feed on frogs, crustaceans and small birds, mammals or reptiles.
There are no natural predators of the northern snakehead in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Spawning occurs in June to July. Females can lay as many as 15,000 eggs one to five times per year. Eggs hatch in 1 to 2 days. Larvae remain in the nest, which both parents guard. Larvae are nourished by a yolk that they absorb by the time they are less than one-third of an inch long. After that, they feed on small crustaceans and fish larvae. Young may be golden brown or pale gray, darkening as they grow older. The northern snakehead reaches sexual maturity at 2 years old.