Moray Eel – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

Whether you have decided to add a moray eel to your saltwater aquarium or are just curious to learn about these facicint fishes, Moray Eel are will fascinate you and capture your imagination (may also give you nightmares) . Moray eel can add a new dimension to your saltwater aquarium.  Moray Eels are vibrant exotic creatures that will bring you many years of enjoyment

Understanding your moray eel and its needs is the key to successfully keeping a moray eel in your tank.  This complete care guide for moray eels will provide you with the necessary understanding and knowledge.


Moray Eel Appearance

Moray eels have a distinctive look that makes them easily recognizable.  Almost everyone will recognize the snake-like body and the gaping mouth of the moray eel.

Colors of moray eels may vary from black to yellowish-brown.  Stripes and spots are common in some species.  There are about 200 different eel species found around the world.

Moray Eel Habitat

If you haven’t purchased your eel yet, you need to consider the habitat in your saltwater aquarium. You may need to re-arrange things a bit to have the necessary habitat for the moray eel to adapt.

Moray eels have a penchant for escaping tanks.  Much like octopi, eels can make use of what seems like the tiniest opening to affect their release.  The lid on the tank should not have any gaps or small openings.  Some people who keep moray eels will add weight to the top of the lid.

Some varieties of moray eels can grow to 12 feet long.  Most of the eels sold in aquarium supply stores are varieties that never grow to more than 30 inches.  At that, a 30-inch eel is large for most aquarium tanks.

When selecting your eel, think down the road. Make sure that you have enough tank space to accommodate the eventual size of the eel when it is mature.  Putting a little forethought into your eel’s habitat can prevent problems later.

Eels naturally want to find a place where they can spend their time protected inside a crevice or hole in rocks.  They prefer to lay waiting with their head sticking out of the hole, mouth agape, waiting for lunch to swim close.

Your aquarium décor should include numerous such holes and crevices, giving your eel a choice of its favorite hangout.  Remember that as the eel grows, it will need larger spaces as well. Make sure that your tank has enough gravel to allow for burrowing if your eel is a species that likes to burrow.

Providing the right kind of habitat will make keeping your eel healthy much easier in the long run.  Spending a little time on planning the habitat of your aquarium will pay off as your eel thrives in its new home.

System filtration when keeping moray eels is a priority.  Moray eels are nasty animals and produce a lot of waste.  You should increase the capacity of your filtration system to care for the extra load.

Moray Eel Tank Mates

You must choose the other inhabitants of your saltwater tank who are going to share space with a moray eel.  Moray eels are voracious predators and don’t appreciate having other eels as neighbors.  A tank filled with expensive exotic reef fish and a moray eel may be a disaster waiting to happen.

Trying to keep multiple moray eels in the same tank my also result in conflicts.  Morays are not above cannibalism, and too many morays, or other eels, in the same tank can be a recipe for mayhem.  Good habitat planning can lessen the risk.  Providing lots of crevices and holes will keep the competition for space to a minimum.

We need another word about moray eels and reef tanks.  Reef tanks are a problem due to water conditions, stability, and the predatory nature of eels.  Many experts recommend that moray eels not be kept in reef tanks with other fish.  Restricting the reef tank to the moray eel and some coral and anemones may be the best choice.

Moray eels maintain a symbiotic relationship with some cleaner wrasses and shrimp.  Adding some of these cleaner species into a tank with moray eels can be fascinating.

Moray Eel Diet

Carnivores by nature, moray eels will eat almost anything fish or crustacean.  They prefer live food and, in some cases, must be trained to accept frozen or fresh dead seafood.  In the tank, anything swimming may be seen as food by the moray eel, so the selection of tank mates is important.

When feeding your moray eels, you should exercise a lot of caution. Moray eels are quick, and their jaws are powerful.  Tongs or wooden skewers are good methods of introducing food into the moray eel vicinity.  It will help keep your fingers intact.

If your moray eels are juveniles, don’t feed them more than twice a week.  Never feed adult moray eels more than once a week.  Eels can die from overfeeding and rarely die from starvation.  Learning to manage your eels diet and intake is critical to successfully keeping moray eels.

A reminder:  Don’t attempt to hand-feed your eel, especially larger adults.  Moray eels don’t have good eyesight and your fingers may become a snack for you moray eel.

Breeding Moray Eels

Breeding moray eels in a home aquarium is a challenge for several reasons.

First is the problem of keeping two moray eels in the confined space of most home aquarium setups.  Moray eels are territorial by nature, and you will need a large tank to accommodate two eels old enough to breed.

Another challenge is to accurately sex moray eels.  It is almost impossible to sex a moray eel by eye.  Finding a male and a female is, at best, a gamble.

The last major hurdle to breeding moray eels is the extremely long larval stage.  Moray eels can remain in the larval stage for up to ten months. Such a long larval time makes it difficult to manage in a home aquarium.

Moray Eel Health Care

Moray Eels are quite hardy in captivity.  They are resistant to most common aquarium diseases and seem to be unaffected by Ick. Infections can result from poor water conditions.  Over-feeding or attacks from other inhabitants can result in injuries as well

Occasionally, moray eels will develop skin lesions or inflammation.  Bacteria cause these problems. Treat these like any other bacterial infection with a few doses of antibiotics.

Moray Eel Behaviors

Perhaps the most iconic behavior of moray eels is how they swim.  They undulate through the water using their whole body to propel themselves forward. It is almost poetry in motion to watch a moray eel moving with what seems to be almost effortless motion.

Everyone is familiar with the image of a moray eel in its den with its head partially exposed and its mouth open.  This pose is an ambush behavior typical of ambush predators.  The moray eels are happy to wait patiently for hours for an unsuspecting fish to swim within range.

In the wild, moray eels are nocturnal predators.  With patience and time, moray eels will become accustomed to whatever routine you set.  They will gladly come out in the middle of the day once they learn the routine.

Moray eels don’t have scales.  They are smooth-skinned and secrete a thick mucus that covers them from end to end.  The secretions protect the moray eel from damage and parasitic organisms.  Cleaner fish may feed on the mucous secretions as well.

What Kinds of Moray Eels Are Best for an Aquarium?

There are hundreds of species and varieties of moray eels.  Not all are suitable for an aquarium habitat.  Some grow to large over time and some don’t acclimate well to confined spaces.  The moray eels on this list come from suggestions on several aquarium sites.

Chain-Link Moray Eel

This moray eel has a unique brown or black pattern overlaid on white.  The Chain-Link moray eel is one of the most docile of the moray eels.  Chain-Link moray eels normally feed mainly on crustaceans. Reports are that these eels readily accept frozen seafood.

Keep in mind that the Chain-ink Moray Eel can grow very large.  This eel makes a great addition to a tank if the tank is large enough. As the centerpiece of a large saltwater aquarium, there may not be a better choice.

Dragon Moray Eel

Dragon Moray Eels are rather rare. If you want an unusual specimen for your aquarium, a dragon moray eel may be what you want. The Dragon moray eel is a stunning creature with multi-color spots. The bright red nostrils and prominent sharp teeth are why this eel carries the name dragon.

The downside is the rarity of this moray eel makes it extremely expensive.  It grows to a respectable size, so a generous tank is needed.  The Dragon Moray Eel should probably be kept in a tank of its own with no tank mates.   Anything in the tank alive that is the same size as the dragon moray eels head or smaller is a potential meal.

Dwarf Moray Eel

The dwarf moray eel, also known as the golden dwarf, is the smallest of the recommended moray eels.  The dwarf moray eel tops out at ten inches long, making it adaptable to almost any size saltwater tank.

Unfortunately, the golden dwarf eel is even rarer than the Dragon Moray Eel. Rarity makes it even more expensive.  The price of a Golden Dwarf Moray Eel is determined as much by its coloration and condition than by its size.

Horned Moray Eel

Colored much like the Dragon Moray Eel, the Horned Moray Eel is not quite as varied in pattern and color. The brown, orange and white spots may include a mottled honeycombed pattern. These eels are visually appealing and make great additions to your saltwater aquarium.

The Horned Moray Eel is a crustacean eater, so keep that in mind when adding other inhabitants to your tank.  Smaller slower fish may also fall prey to the Horned Moray Eel.  Larger and faster fish can usually live peaceably with the Horned Moray eel.

Snowflake Moray Eel

The Snowflake Moray Eel is probably the most common and available in the aquarium trade.  These eels are hardy, which makes them easy to keep.  Their docile nature makes them good inhabitants of reef aquariums and community aquariums.

Don’t expect to keep crustaceans in a saltwater aquarium with a Snowflake moray eel.   Snowflake eels are voracious feeds on crabs, shrimps, and lobsters.

Snowflake eels are hardy and docile. The Snowflake eel nature makes them an almost perfect selection for the first-time eel owner.

Zebra Moray Eel

Do you want a large, showy eel in your tank? The Zebra Moray Eel may be an excellent choice.  These eels are docile toward other tank mates. Their preferred diet is crustaceans, so don’t expect to keep crabs, shrimp, or lobsters for long in your tank.

Zebra Moray eels adapt readily to tank life.  Visually they are beautiful creatures with alternating brown, black, and white vertical stripping.  Zebra morays tend to be shy and will do best when there are plenty of crevices and holes in which they can hide.

You will need a big tank.  These eels can grow an inch a month until they reach their mature size, which can be 50 plus inches.  If you are planning on keeping a Zebra Moray Eel, you should plan on having a large aquarium.

In Conclusion

Moray eels are exotic and fascinating creatures.  Moray eels can be long-lived additions to your tank, often with lives approaching 30 years.  All it takes is a little planning and care. From a maintenance standpoint, moray eels are relatively easy to keep.  However, they are susceptible to water conditions.

Adding a moray eel to your aquarium can add a whole new dimension to your aquarium experience.  A moray eel will certainly garner a lot of attention from your friends and family.  They are different than other types of aquarium creatures and need different care.


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