Bowfin and Snakeheads: Distinguishing Features

Snakeheads (family Channidae) from Africa and Asia are occasionally imported illegally into Texas. They closely resemble native bowfin (Family Amiidae) but are unrelated. This page depicts one species of snakehead. About 27 others have been identified, some with different color patterns. Pelvic fins may be lacking in several snakehead species. Snakeheads are environmentally harmful. If you see or catch one in Texas, please contact a game warden or a Texas Parks & Wildlife Fisheries office.

Line drawing of bowfin [D]

Bowfin (Amia calva)
Native species, not prohibited in Texas

Line drawing of northern snakehead [D]

Northern Snakehead (Channa argus)
Exotic species; prohibited in Texas

Figures and text prepared by R.G. Howells, Heart of the Hills Research Station, Ingram, Texas

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Text Descriptions of Graphics:
Bowfin (Amia calva)
  • No scales on head
  • Bony plates between lower jaw bones
  • Pelvic fins at mid-body
  • Anal fin short
  • Eyespot (Ocellus) at base of tail, in male specimens only
Snakehead (Channa argus)
  • Enlarged scales on head
  • No bony plates between lower jaw bones
  • Pelvic fins closer to head
  • Anal fin long, almost as long as dorsal fin
  • Eyespot present in some species