The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Hoplias malabaricus
Hoplias malabaricus

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Hoplias malabaricus (Bloch, 1794)

Common name: trahira

Synonyms and Other Names: guabina, traira, South American snakehead, tigerfish, tiger characin, tararura, haimara, wolf fish.

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Distinguishing characteristics, key, and photographs appeared in Géry (1977). A color photograph of live fish is available in Axelrod et al. (1985). Given its wide native distribution and geographic variation, it is likely that Hoplias malabaricus represents a species complex.

Size: 50 cm SL.

Native Range: Tropical and subtropical America from Costa Rica to Argentina, including the island of Trinidad (Taphorn 1992; Planquette et al. 1996).

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences:

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Hoplias malabaricus are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
FL197419771Little Manatee

Table last updated 2/20/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Means of Introduction: This introduction represented either releases or escapes from a fish farm (Courtenay, personal communication).

Status: Formerly established in Hillsborough County, Florida. No specimens have been collected since January 1977; presumably species was extirpated by extremely cold temperatures during that month (Courtenay and Hensley 1979). Shafland et al. (2008) recently surveyed for this species and found no specimens.

Impact of Introduction: According to Courtenay (personal communication), Florida Hoplias were causing severe injuries to native centrarchids, especially Lepomis species.

Remarks: In its native range, this predacious fish has been reported to move overland through wet vegetation or mud at night or during rainstorms (Taphorn 1992). Live fish are difficult to handle and potentially dangerous because of their sharp teeth, strong jaws, and slippery bodies.

Voucher specimens: Florida (UF 97060; 134655, 178226; FSBC 8842, 8843, 8844, 8962, 8963, 9593).

References: (click for full references)

Axelrod, H.R., W.E. Burgess, N. Pronek, and J.G. Walls. 1985. Dr. Axelrod's atlas of freshwater aquarium fishes. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr. - Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL.

Courtenay, W.R., Jr., and D.A. Hensley. 1979. Survey of introduced non-native fishes. Phase I Report. Introduced exotic fishes in North America: status 1979. Report Submitted to National Fishery Research Laboratory, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gainesville, FL.

Géry, J. 1977. Characoids of the world. Tropical Fish Hobbyist Publications, Inc., Neptune City, NJ.

Hensley, D.A. 1976. Collection of postlarval and juvenile Hoplias malabaricus (Characoidei: Erythrinidae) in Florida. Florida Scientist 39(4):236-238.

Hensley, D.A., and D.P. Moody. 1975. Occurrence and possible establishment of Hoplias malabaricus (Characoidei; Erythrinidae) in Florida. Florida Scientist 38(2):122-128.

Planquette, P., P. Keith, and P.-Y. Le Bail. 1996. Atlas des poissons d'eau douce de Guyane. Tome 1. Collection Patrimoines Naturels 22. Publications scientifiques du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris.

Shafland, P.L., K.B. Gestring and M.S. Stanford.  2008.  Florida’s exotic freshwater fishes – 2007.  Florida Scientist 71:220-245

Taphorn, D.C. 1992. The characiform fishes of the Apure River drainage, Venezuela. BioLlania (Guanare, Venezuela), special edition 4.

FishBase Summary

Author: Leo Nico, Matt Neilson, and Bill Loftus

Revision Date: 7/31/2019

Peer Review Date: 10/4/2012

Citation Information:
Leo Nico, Matt Neilson, and Bill Loftus, 2024, Hoplias malabaricus (Bloch, 1794): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=673, Revision Date: 7/31/2019, Peer Review Date: 10/4/2012, Access Date: 2/20/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [2/20/2024].

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For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.