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Spiny Eel Care Sheet


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Thought I would throw this on the forums, article I did for out club news letter. Feel free to pick it apart and add to it.

Substrate: Make sure you have a fine substrate deep enough for your eels to be able to dig deep enough to cover their whole body. With a great place to dig and hide your eel will feel more secure during the day when they like to rest, it can then take things slowly and learn its new surroundings while feeling safe. When choosing a substrate for your spiny eels, the things you need to look is a fine and smooth substrate, I found silica to be fine enough, but some of the edges are sharp and they stick to the eel’s skin. I use river sand or finer grade Daltons propagating mix with good results.

Feeding: Spiny Eel are usually caught wild on a barbless fish hook, they have travelled a long way to get to you and it might take them some time to get used to the different foods now available to them. Bloodworms usually are the staple of any Spiny eel; I also find white worms and guppy fry go down a treat. When they are larger they can be given earth worms, meal worms and larger guppy fry. Spiny eels can be quite fussy, as they have been caught wild they are used to live foods, they use their pronged nose to search through the substrate for insects and crustaceans. Because of this it may pay to have some white worms on standby, just to get your eel comfortable in the first few weeks. Once they are used to things they will take different kinds of foods, ox heart and even flakes and pellets.

Sexing: Sexing your spiny eels is almost impossible until they reach adult sizes and then it doesn’t get much easier. The females will be much deeper in the body, though well fed males show little to no difference.

Breeding: There have been no known cases of spiny eels breeding in captivity that I am aware of.

Tank Decor: Spiny eels like lots of caves and hidey holes. They like a lot of plant cover too but as they are diggers this proves somewhat of a problem. Placing PVC piping under the substrate will work, as they will chose that over digging themselves in most of the time. Some of the eels won’t be as bad for digging as others.

Behaviour: These fish in my opinion are one of the smartest; they all have different personalities and habits. They learn to recognise their owners and different people; they usually can be trained to eat from your hand with little effort. They are also good with other fish, as long as they can’t fit in their mouth, but will target any fry that might be in the tank, guarded or not. They are generally nocturnal but will get used to day time feeding after time.

Tank Size: Spiny eels vary in size, so make sure when choosing one you don’t get anything that will outgrow your tank, they can be fast growers on a good diet. Half Banded spiny eels only get to around 20cm in captivity, where as the fire eels can get up to 1m in a good tank with good food.

Lids: Spiny Eels are escape artists, they can survive for quite some time out of water. Any hole or gap in your lids, or filter systems will probably be investigated in no time and exploited to its fullest. Make sure all lids fit securely and any holes or gaps are covered with something like filter mesh.

Tire Track Eel Ian, and Zebra Spiny Eel Gonzo


Ignis the Fire Eel



Neil the Half Banded






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Nice write up! good info, but hey! I called my eel's Gonzo!

If you have as many as I do one most certainly has to be called Gonzo ;)

Ian is looking good :)

He's a beast, eats everything and anything. He's a bit nasty to the fire eel and pays no attention to the zebra spiny. Thanks ever so much I really have a soft spot for these guys.

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There are quite a few different types available here, a good indication of their potential size is the size of their eye when young. If you look at the difference in eye size between the Zebra spiny and the Half Banded spiny, the zebra spiny has much larger eyes. Then look at the first picture of the fire eel and compare the eye size with the picture underneath, first image he was about the same size as the half banded and zebra spiny. The half banded eels eyes are already in much better proportion, not big ol cute baby eyes.

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  • 13 years later...

I am starting a predator tank and I want to put a few eels in it. I am starting with small fish in a 60 gall with plans to upgrade in the future to a 125 or 150. I have the black sand substrate.  I plan to add the following:

fire eel, leopard eel, African butterfly fish, ghost knife, 3-5 clown loaches, a few plecos (royal, medusa), 3-5 silver dollars, 3-5 roseline tetras, a sun cat, and a dinosaur bichir. I may only get 1 more eel: the leopard - if 3 is too much. 

This partially planted, narrow, tall, 60-gallon tank with a 150-gall flow canister filtered tank with many hidey holes is cycling and has the 3” spiny eel as its only resident so far.

Any comments, recommendations, advice for me?


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