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Moray Eel Care Guide: Species, Diet

It's no secret that human beings have a hunger for the bizarre. Don't believe me? Well, switch on your television and flip through the various science, history and nature channels an you'll quickly notice how much unusual stuff is aired.

Anyway, maybe this is why some aquarists are drawn to members attached to the Muraenidae Family, better known as the Morays. Although not typically for everyone, these sort of aquatic animals happen to make fantastic aquarium pets.

In fact, several species belonging to this particular family have been known to be very good starter fish tank pets for the novice or beginner fish tank keeper. However, because the moray eel is part of a particularly diverse group, you'll need to ensure you get the right one for your tank.

Moray eels are members of the Muraenidae family, as we've already mentioned above. There genus comprises a total of approximately two hundred species and about sixteen genera.

What characterizes them all is the lack of pelvic and pectoral fins, large toothy jaws, small holes on the gill openings that lack bony covers and anal fins that continue around the tail.

These eels lack scales and instead of them they excrete a lot of body slime which is used to protect them from parasites. Some of them, for example the yellowmouth moray eel, exude toxic slime which dissuades parasites from attacking them.

Another interesting thing about this type of eel is that their mouths are almost always left open. Even though it sort of looks menacing, they do this only because this happens to be the way they respire.

As water is pumped over the gills using the gill cavity muscles, the mouth stays open throughout. When it comes to coloration, many moray eels sport dull and monochromatic colors, however, there are others that display more dramatic color tones that are accompanied by bands, mottling and/or spots as well.

While some moray eels dentition is fang-like, for instance the dragon moray, most of the others have molar-like dental formulas. which are ideally adapted and designed to crushing invertebrates with hard outer shells.

Concerning their general diet and what they like to feed on, the moray eels can be grouped under one of three categories. These are;

  • Mainly fish eaters
  • Mainly invertebrate eaters
  • Those that feed on both of what has been mentioned above equally

The Purplemouth Moray eel is one of the classic fish eaters that belong in this family. it has smaller teeth on each side of its jaws and very sharp dagger-like dentition that runs across the mouth's roof, according to ​petcha.

Obviously, this goes without saying, it's vital for you to know a little something about what the moray eel likes to feed on before adding it into your community fish tank or aquarium at home.

What Do They Look Like?

There's no other creature in the entire ocean that has been vilified because of the way it looks like the Moray eel. Their appearance that has commonly known to be infamously sinister puts a certain predetermined description in most people's minds.

However, the fact they have relatively beady eyes, large mouths as well as long, snake-like body shapes doesn't help their cause too much. Generally, a lot of their whole body is devoid of anatomical structures which is largely due to the fact that most of their species lack pelvic and pectoral fins. Its dorsal fin that runs from the head's base to its tail and which fuses the anal and caudal fins is the only exception to this.

They also happen to be absent of scales which have been replaced by the existence of a tough, thick skin. Goblet cells are abundantly embedded under their skin with the purpose of secreting mucus all across their entire body.

And when it comes to determining the gender of this aquatic animal, it's nearly impossible to determine the sex using your naked eye. This is actually what makes them a little difficult to breed when in captivity.

Another fascinating thing about the moray eel is that it typically has very bad eyesight and does not depend on its eyes to find its way around. Because of this, they've evolved a very acute sense of smell, which they use to move around as well as detect prey with.

Underneath those not so effective eyes is a mouth that's well-defined and well-developed. The Moray eels narrow head means that they normally lack the pressure needed to swallow certain types of prey.

However, this complication is rectified by their second set of jaws known as the pharyngeal jaws. These jaws come to the mouth's front whenever they want to grab and pull prey into their mouths and eventually, the inside of their body.

Gills are located on each side of their heads, and are normally round and small. For their gills to be adequately supplied with water for respiration, they need to keep their mouths constantly open. This family has approximately two hundred species that call themselves a member. So, the variance of appearance between most of them can certainly be expected.

This is usually shown through their differing jaw structures, body patterns and sizes. The slender Giant Moray comes out on top as being the longest of them all and measures about four meters or thirteen feet in length. The smallest of them is the Snyder Moray eel which comes in at around five inches or twelve centimeters long.

Jaw types usually change based on their general diet. Those of them that feed on crustaceans have jaws that are rounded and shorter with teeth that are molar-like allowing them to be able to crush hard shells, according to ​fishkeepingworld

Those that have a largely fish diet have pointed jaws that contain longer teeth. Nevertheless, all of them posses distinctive individual appearances which makes most of them easily identifiable.

What Are The Most Common Species Of Moray Eel?

In this list we're going to highlight some of the most common as well as most popular Moray eels. These eels are beloved by many aquarists because they're so adaptable and can quickly wean onto foods that are non-living.

When kept in captivity, all of the candidates below should probably live for around ten years or so. But, this largely depends on whether pristine water conditions are maintained, potential escapes are adequately prevented and they're not overfed.

These are usually very territorial aquatic animals. Each Moray eel requires its own tank.

  1. Zebra Moray Eel
    This one is a rather striking eel that is best suited for large fish tanks and is docile toward other tank inhabitants except crustaceans. It easily adapts to life in captivity and has a unique and aesthetically pleasing patterns of alternating brown, black and white vertical stripes. During the day time, this eel can be particularly shy so they'll need to be provided with many hiding spots in their aquarium. It also grows really fast, about a ratio of one inch every month, another reason why they need big tanks.

  2. Snowflake Moray Eel
    These should have actually been number one because they're some of the morays that are most commonly available in the aquatic trade, for very good reason at that.

    It's a hardy, colorful, small and docile Moray eel. This means that they can easily be housed in reef and community aquariums. The fact that they have such a mellow, light and sociable personality is why they can even be kept amongst their own kind.

    They chow down on crustaceans so try not to keep it in the company of ornamental crabs such as shrimps, lobsters and crabs. The snowflake is ideal for those that are considering trying to care for a Moray eel.

  3. Chain-Link Moray Eel
    This moray eel also has a unique brown or black on white pattern. It also happens to be a peaceful, crustacean-consuming Moray eel as well.

    Similar in temperament, care and size to its cousin the Zebra Moray. It's a species that makes a fantastic centerpiece to any large marine aquarium out there. However, it's the biggest of them all so you'll definitely need a very big home fish tank or aquarium if you want it to be comfortable.

  4. Dragon Moray Eel
    This is an aptly named, particularly rare and unusual Moray eel. Sporting an orange, yellow, red, brown and white spotted color pattern alongside white and red nostrils that are prominent and flare vertically not forgetting its sharp teeth, this moray sometimes sort of looks like you have a small dragon swimming around in your aquarium.

    While it fits well in larger tank setups, the fact that it's so rare makes it very expensive. Oh, and it's a piscivore which will eat any fish smaller or the same size as its head so avoid keeping it among certain tankmates, according to ​tfhmagazine.

  5. Goldentail Or Golden Moray Eel
    This Moray eel doesn't necessarily need a large marine aquarium because it's not that big even when fully matured into adulthood. It's also an ideal candidate for any fish tank because its has a very docile personality as well.

    The Goldentail Moray eel comes in numerous color schemes which range from gold and bright yellow to gold and a speckled brown.

    If you have other fish that you are considering mixing with this eel, such as a Royal Gramma, think carefully because It will eat both small fish as well as crustaceans so you should be very careful when picking tankmates for it. It is a perfect Moray eel for the novice aquarist.

  6. Golden Dwarf Or Dwarf Moray Eel
    Many people often wonder whether there's a miniature size Moray eel available for those that may not have gigantic marine aquariums. Well, your in luck because in comes the Golden Dwarf. Coming in at around ten inches long, it can typically fit into any fish tank or aquarium setup.

    However, there's a very big downside to this eel. It happens to be extremely rare which translates to it being quite expensive. If you want to get your hands on one of these aquatic creatures you might have to depart with around four hundred dollars to do so. Its coloration, condition and size is generally what determines how much it will be.

  7. Honeycomb Or Horned Moray Eel
    Its pattern is somewhat similar to that of the Dragon Moray eel and it comes in several color tone variations, From a brown, orange and white spotted pattern to a white and black honeycomb pattern.

    The Horned Moray eel eats mainly crustaceans, so you shouldn't house them together, and eats slow and small fish as well. Anything that doesn't have those characteristics mentioned can live harmoniously alongside this eel.

What Do Moray Eels Like To Eat?

As far as what Moray eels prefer to eat is concerned, these eels can be split into two groups. The first one consists of those species that mainly survive on eating fish but once in a while make a meal out of cephalopods or crustaceans as well.

The other group contains those Moray eels that almost entirely live off of hard shelled invertebrates and crustaceans. Whatever group your Moray eel may belong to, when in captivity, it's important you feed them a diet that contains a variety of food.

Even though it's certainly sometimes quite interesting watching your Moray eel chase down, capture and eventually eat live feeder fish. The diets should comprise of fresh or frozen marine fish flesh, squid and crustacean meat.

If the food is frozen make sure you thaw it completely before you proceed to feeding it to your Moray eel. Some of them can be enticed into feeding on food that's non-living if you impale it using a stick and with that same stick, feeding it to your eel.

Avoid feeding your Moray eel too frequently. Giving it excess food can lead its liver to getting fatty infiltration, which inevitably impairs the organ's functioning capabilities.

Seeing animals that have excess fat deposits across their body as well as face is not an uncommon thing to come across, especially in public aquariums. It's usually a result of an aquatic animal that has been given too much food.

Several field studies show that the Moray eel is naturally an infrequent eater. Some of their species even only eat once after every four or five days.

Therefore, if you don't want your fish to become obese, try stick to feeding it just about twice in one week. Overfed Moray eels can sometimes regurgitate their partially digested fish food and that will, more often than not, help mess up your aquarium.

It's not unusual to find that your Moray eel just doesn't want to eat sometimes. They occasionally lose their appetite. This can be a sign that you might be overfeeding your eel. Some other reasons for this could be the fact the water temperature in the tank may have significantly dropped for some reason or its quality may have deteriorated drastically.

Other times they just won't eat for practically no recognizable reason at all. Anyway, a common remedy to this problem is partially changing out the aquarium water. If that doesn't work, try changing up its diet and waiting patiently. All it may need is a little time to regain its full appetite.

Nevertheless, there exist others that can display a perpetual feeding complication when in captivity. These include the Zebra Moray eel, the Banded Moray eel and the Ribbon eel.

All these that we've mentioned are highly likely to need special attention when food presentation and selection is concerned. The Ribbon eel is a particularly difficult Moray eel to care for.

They may only choose to eat live food. With the Zebra and Banded Moray eels, they might sometimes require crawfish or fiddler crabs. The above is also likely to compete with other predators for food.

What Are There Tank Requirements?

One of the most vital factors when it comes to figuring out how big of a tank or aquarium the particular aquatic animal you've chosen to care for will need largely depends on how big that said animal generally is. These can be opposition factors such as heavy bodied fish, for instance the Moray eel, requiring larger aquariums than the more smaller and slighter aquatic animals.

However, Moray eels, being that they're sedentary by nature, means they might need way less room than those animals that are naturally active. The rule of thumb that's usually very reasonable when it comes to the smallest tank size any type of fish or aquatic animal should be provided for is; The fish's length should be considerably more than the minimum width of the tank so that the fish, when wanting to turn and move around, doesn't have to literally fold and bend itself.

Like we've pointed out a little while ago somewhere in this article, the morays' species of eel have approximately more than two hundred members in their family.

They range from the eight inch dwarfs to the ten foot giants. Given that they're accustomed to living in cramped spaces, they can be kept in quarters that are relatively small.

But, if kept in small aquariums, they're highly more likely to try and jump out of the tank, rearrange and knock around the aquascaping and potentially interfere with the equipment in the tank.

A thirty inch Moray eel can comfortably turn and move about in a space that measures about eighteen inches in size. Their snake like structure makes them so much more flexible compared to many other fish, but that doesn't mean they have to be subjected to undue contortions whenever they desire to navigate their aquarium surrounding.

While the smaller Moray eels can comfortably exist in a tank that can hold up to about seventy five gallons of water, the more gigantic ones will need a considerably larger tank.

Theirs needs to measure a minimum of about one hundred and thirty gallons, but that number could go way up depending on the particular species of Moray eel. However, the very humongous ten foot beasts aren't advised for home settings because they need the public aquarium's monster tanks.

What Should The Tank Setup Look Like?

In the Moray eel aquarium or fish tank, aquascaping is something you absolutely need to consider. These fish are a particularly shy bunch. In order for it to feel completely secure when in captivity, meaning your home aquarium, you'll need to offer it hiding spots that are big enough for its whole body to hide in.

You can use artificial coral or live rock to construct reef walls and coral heads. You'll need cable ties to bind these materials tight so that your Moray eel doesn't destroy them. they're known for digging under aquarium decorations and could topple over the pieces that you've placed in the tank. You can't over look this because some of this incidents end up with your fish getting injured by the decoration.

Also, you'll need to remember that the Moray eel is a great escape artist before setting up your tank. Openings that happen to be large enough for its head to get through will be thoroughly utilized as being a way out. Escape and desiccation are known to commonly cause death to a lot of Moray eels.

Prevent this by carefully inspecting all canopy and lid openings that can accommodate the size of a moray before placing them on top of the aquarium or fish tank. Make sure they are fastened tight so that the option of trying to push them slightly off the top is taken away from them.

Most aquarists never realize their exceptional strength, sliminess and suppleness of their eel until it's too late. They can very easily topple acrylic covers and unsecured glass and slither its way out of the aquarium.

It takes a considerable amount of weight and pressure to make sure you've completely secured the cover of the Moray aquarium.

Do They Need A Filtration System?

Moray eels are usually very messy aquatic animals. This, in turn, translates to them needing the presence of a high quality filtration system included in their tank.

This filtration system can either be biological, mechanical or chemical. Nitrogenous waste products can be accumulated using many different filtration techniques.

The common wet-dry filters can be employed to maintain pristine water parameters. Canister water filters, filled with material that can help in nitrifying the growth of bacteria, will encourage biological filtration.

You should clean the filter media every two weeks using the aquarium's water in order to expel any accumulating detritus. Filling a container with fish tank water and then using it to agitate the canister media should do the trick.

Those systems that have foam pre-filters will allow you to clean your filter media much less frequently. A protein skimmer or foam fractionator also happens to be a very good idea when it comes to setting up a Moray eel aquarium.

However, ensure you get an external model because one that's inside will likely be ruined by the activity of your Moray eel.

What Is Their Behaviour Like?

While the addition of this fish gives your aquarium an alternative look, they happen to add some rare and interesting behaviors as well. The first and most iconic of them all is how they swim.

Like most other eels, they undulate in sinusoidal motions so that they can move their bodies forward. Another very common behavior is the hiding whilst slightly sticking their heads out all the while still moving their body underneath. When in the wild, this behavior is more for hunting purposes with the goal of ambushing their targeted prey.

Usually largely nocturnal, they'll still probably be down with any feeding routine you have in store for them and still look attractive during the daytime. Most of them lack scales, however, a mucus is secreted from their skin that is used to discourage parasites as well as protect them from germs.

This often acts as fish food for hungry cleaner fish. For many of these species, the mucus secreted by them may contain several different toxins. Fortunately, those toxins aren't usually strong enough to harm you, the owner, or other aquarium inhabitants.

What Other Fish Make Good Tankmates?

Housing a group of Moray eels together in the same aquarium can produce a fantastic display. However, successfully achieving this may pose certain challenges.

A Moray eel that has already established its space in an aquarium wouldn't like the idea of having its area breached by new eels or any other fish in general. This can sometimes lead to biting and/or chasing.

In many cases, rather than having to engage in lethal combat, the Moray eel will resort to pushing away the intruder using the sides of its head or placing its mouth wide open on the other eel's body.

In short, you should always remember that species of the same family tend to more likely have a quarrel with each other and larger Morays may resort to bullying the smaller ones.

You can house Moray eels alongside fish that happen to be much larger than them in size, however, there are some inherent risks you'll need to prepare for in this scenario as well, especially if that other fish in question is part of a fish-eater species.

This type of eel has an exceptionally big mouth gape, which means that if you're keeping a piscivorous eel, you'll need to ensure their bodies are considerably much larger than the mouth girth of your Moray eel. Also, introduce them before you introduce the Moray eel.

Nevertheless, Moray eels can sometimes catch large fish and tear chunks from their body by using a knotting technique. Oh, did we forget to mention that these type of fish can have cannibal tendencies sometimes as well(another strong reason why housing them with their own kind as well as other fish species can be dangerous).

A Cleaner Wrasse fish is the ideal tankmate for your Moray eel. When in they wild, they absolutely adore hanging around the company of Moray eels because of the nutrient rich slime they produce from their bodies. The Wrasse also likes picking parasites off their skin.

Keeping them around cleaner fish such as this one provides more good than harm. However, when in an aquarium setup, the Cleaner Wrasse is prone to falling prey to other fish eaters, so you might want to introduce them to the tank or aquarium way before you do your Moray eel.

Lionfish happen to be another fish species that coexist well will with Moray eels. Keeping them with smaller marine fish will risk those fish being treated as food by your Moray eel.

Do They Have Any Healthcare Complications?

Moray eels generally don't have many healthcare concerns you need to worry about. They happen to be a particularly hardy fish species. In fact, ensure that their water quality remains in pristine condition constantly.

Using the filtration systems available to you is probably all you'll ever need to ensure your Moray stays healthy. When it comes to bulletproof marine fish, they don't come any better than the Moray eel.

Copper based treatments rarely work that well on this type of fish and this is largely due to the no scales factor. But, you don't need to worry too much because they rarely contract whitespot or get affected by the attack of parasitic diseases.

Nevertheless, alternative medication should be sought after whenever absolutely required and make sure to be careful not to overdose your fish.

Bacterial conditions may arise from time to time, especially from potential trauma during transport, but don't fret when this happens as well. All you'll be required to do is feed them a few antibiotics and everything should be cool.


While a large number of Moray eels happen to be too big to care for at home, a half dozen or more of them will be able to live a long and healthy life in your home fish tank or aquarium. as long as you meet all the few needs required by them.

If you're looking to introduce some outlandish flare to your home aquarium, then it doesn't get any better than getting a Moray eel for yourself. They are largely advised for the more experienced aquarist and are popular among them in large part due to their unique behavior and color.

They can be housed in the company of other fish, but, those other fish have to be relatively bigger than they are themselves. And with that, we think your ready to get one for yourself, aren't you?


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.