Eels are a type of fish that resembles a snake. They’re known for their smooth slippery bodies that range in length from 5 cms to 4 meters depending on the type of eel. Their weight ranges from 30 grams to 25 kgs while there can be gray eels or black eels to colorful ones.
Eels in deep sea have gray or black color while those found in tropical reef have colorful patterns. Most eels can be found in shallow waters of the ocean.
Basic Types of Eels
Beach Congers grow up to roughly four feet in length and are found frequently in the northwest Pacific Ocean. Like many other eels, the Beach Conger looks for its food at night, and it eats mostly crustaceans and small fish. It is also found mostly in rocky areas and coral reefs.
Black Spotted Eel
This is actually a spiny eel, which is technically not an eel at all, and it is known for its attractive body. The body is dark-tan or light-brown in color with a series of linear black spots. The spots are darker at the top of the eel, but they get lighter as they go down the body.
Most of the spots are rather round, but some are vertically elongated instead. The Black-Spotted eel can live up to 18 years and can grow as long as 20 inches in length.
These eels are omnivores by nature, but they eat everything from worms to shrimp and small fish to plant matter. If you keep this type of eel in your aquarium, make sure that you feed it at night after you turn off the lights, because it is a nocturnal animal.
The one characteristic that sets the Electric Eel apart from other eels is the fact that it can electrify and paralyze its prey, which no other animal can do. It is somewhat of an enigma since the experts still don’t know everything there is to know about them.
Like the Lungfish, which also has an elongated body, the Electric Eel needs air to breathe and will rise to the surface of the water every 10 minutes in order to gulp air. In fact, it needs to breathe air about 80% of the time in order to stay alive.
It is found mostly in the South American region, and their electrical jolts are even harmful enough to paralyze some mammals that are as large as a horse.
The Electric Eel has an elongated and cylindrical body that is a dark-grey color, and it has an orange throat. Their eyes are emerald green, and over 80% of their body is covered with the elements necessary to electrify an animal.
Electric Eels grow to around eight feet in length and get up to 45 pounds, and their lifespan is approximately 15 years.
The Fimbriated Moray has a body that is yellowish-green in color and has black spots. It feeds mostly on small fish, and it gets up to roughly 2.5 feet in length.
Found in the Indo-Pacific area, the Fimbriated Moray is also called a Spot-Face Moray or a Dark-spotted Moray and prefers protected areas such as top reefs, lagoons, harbors, and the outer slopes of coral reefs. It is a carnivorous animal and hunts for food during nighttime hours, preferring crustaceans in addition to small fish.
The Giant Moray is found in the Indo-Pacific region living in reefs. The adult moray has leopard-like spots that are black in color, and their main diet consists of fish and various crustaceans.
Although the Slender Giant Moray is longer, the Giant Moray has more body mass, hence its name. Younger morays are tan-colored and have large black spots on their body, and one of the more significant aspects of the Giant Moray is that they are poisonous to humans if they are eaten.
The Grey Conger ranges from three feet to a little over five feet in length and has a head that looks similar to a catfish. Feeding mostly on finfish, the Grey Conger was first noticed in the mid-1800s, and it is found in the Atlantic Ocean, including areas such as South America, Jamaica, and Cuba.
They mostly stick to habitats such as coral reefs and rocky regions, and they can also be called the Antillean Eel. They come out at night to eat, mostly small fish, and this type of eel is frequently sold either fresh or salted in local food markets.
Half-Banded Spiny Eel
Though not considered a true type of eel, the Half-Banded Spiny Eel resembles other types of eels with its long, slender body. It only grows to about eight inches in length, and it has vertical markings that present a more banded look, hence its name.
Although it is small, the eel is very hardy and can even be kept as a pet in an aquarium if it is kept with other fish that are too big for it to eat.
It is a nocturnal animal that is commonly found in Asia, southeastern Thailand, and Indonesia, among other places. They prefer bodies of water that have pebbly or sandy bottoms, and they also like dense vegetation. The Half-Banded Spiny Eel has a pointy snout and can live up to 15 years.
Longfin African Conger
This type of eel is found in the Indo-Pacific area and can get to over four feet in length. It lives over 250 feet below the surface of the ocean and can be found in waters near East Africa, the Easter Islands, south of Japan and northern Australia, to name a few.
This eel has two rows of very sharp teeth and is brownish-grey in color, although it also has yellow on and below its fins, a black patch on the pectorals and on parts of its eye, and narrow black edges on its median fins.
The Longfin African Conger can be found on reef flats and in shallow lagoons on seagrass beds. Like many other eels, they feed mostly on crustaceans and small fish.
Also called the Mulatto Conger, the Mottled Conger can grow up to nearly four feet in length and is most often found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It can also be called the Marbled Conger and actually refers to several different types of fish.
This type of eel can breathe both under the water and on land, and when they are juveniles, they are known as primary male or primary female fish. In fact, in this species, it is the males that dig burrows to guard the nest of eggs after they are hatched.
Ocellated Spiny Eel
Also called the African Spiny Eel, this eel is light-brown or tan in color and has short vertical stripes and blotches that look like a broken line and which can be found on the entire body. It is a durable but shy fish that is also very attractive, and they were first described in the mid-1970s.
The Ocellated Spiny Eels are found in Africa and migrate during the dry part of the season to areas such as lakes, canals, and floodplain areas. They grow up to approximately six inches and can live up to 18 years.
The Peacock Eel is very attractive and has colors and patterns that can vary depending on where it originated. They are usually light brown in color and have a yellow stripe running almost the full length of their body. They also contain several spots that look like eyes imprinted on their upper body region, and they are both common and hardy.
They usually don’t get more than a foot long, and they can live anywhere between eight and 18 years. The Peacock Eel is also good for people considering having an eel as a pet because they are easy to get along with, even if you put other Peacock Eels in the aquarium with them.
Purple Spaghetti Eel
This is a true eel that is part of the Moringuidae family which also includes worm eels. Growing to roughly 17 inches in length, the Purple Spaghetti Eel has a very thin, long body that resembles spaghetti, hence its name, and its head is so small that it is indistinguishable from the rest of its body.
In fact, its eyes are so small that you cannot see them, particularly since they are covered with skin. It has a purple- or pinkish-brown color, and it can live anywhere between five and 12 years.
The Purple Spaghetti Eel was first mentioned in the early 1820s, and they are found in the Eastern Indian Ocean, including Malta, Indonesia, India, and the Philippines. They can be found in various types of water, including brackish, saltwater, and freshwater bodies of water. They are sometimes called the Paddle-Tailed Eel, and they feed on foods such as larvae, small fish, crustaceans, and even insects.
Slender Giant Moray
The Slender Giant Moray is roughly 13 feet in length, making it the longest species of Moray. It has a dorsal fin that is grayish-brown in color and which fades to white on its ventral. Slender Giant Morays are found in the Indo-West Pacific Ocean, and their bodies are cylindrical in shape and very long.
Their facial features almost look prehistoric, and since they often swim in the deeper parts of the ocean that are quite muddy, their color helps them blend in so they do not attract predators. The Slender Giant Moray has very sharp fangs inside of its mouth, and it uses its gills in order to breathe.
Eating mostly small fish and crustaceans, the Snowflake Moray is usually found from seven to one-hundred feet below the ocean. It lives in the Indo-Pacific area and is also known as the Clouded Moray. It is not a very big eel, reaching only around 20 inches in length, and it is the most commonly kept saltwater eel.
In fact, when in captivity the Snowflake Moray can live for four years or even longer. If you keep one in a tank, it is recommended not to place animals such as crabs or shrimp in there also, but rather, it is best to pair them with large, aggressive fish such as tangs, wrasses, and lionfish. The Snowflake Moray has also been known for its ferocious bite.
Also known as the Fine-Spot Moray, this type of eel lives in the Pacific Ocean and was discovered in 1904. In reality, the Snyder’s Moray represents several sub-species of eels, and it is known to be the smallest of all types of eels, measuring only a little over four inches in length.
The Snyder’s Moray has a reddish-brown body and brown and white spots, and you can find it frequently in coral reefs. In addition to the Pacific Ocean, the Snyder’s Moray can also be found in waters close to the Great Barrier Reef, Guam, and the Hawaiian Islands.
Tire Track Eel
With an elongated body and a pointy snout, the Tire Track Eel is a durable but very shy fish that starts out small, roughly six to eight inches in length. If you put it in an aquarium, you should include spaces for it to hide because it needs places to retreat every now and then.
Originating from Asia, the Tire Track Eel has very distinct, dark-black markings that look like tires. It is a close relative of the Zig Zag Eel, and it gets to roughly 2.5 feet in length.
The Tire Track Eel buries itself in gravel and pebbles during the day and comes out at night to look for food, mostly worms, plant matter, small fish, and other aquatic invertebrates.
Other names for the Tire Track Eel include the White-Spotted Spiny Eel and the Zig Zag Eel, although the latter is actually a different type of eel. This eel is normally brown in color with irregular dark markings throughout its body.
The main difference between the Tire Track and the Zig Zag Eels is their size, because the latter can grow to much longer lengths than the former. The body markings on the Zig Zag Eel are also different, as they are more pronounced on the upper portion of its body, whereas the markings are found all through the body of the Tire Track Eel.
The White-Spotted Conger is found in the northwest Pacific Ocean and gets up to roughly three feet in length. It has a long snake-like body and is also found in various oceans around North America, Brazil, and Bermuda, and as well as in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.
They are very active during the day and prefer foods such as crustaceans and fish that are near the bottom of the sea. Their bite can be dangerous to humans, even though some people like to keep them in aquariums when they are young and small.
As its name suggests, the Zebra Moray looks similar to a zebra with its black-and-white stripes. Found in the Indo-Pacific area around reefs, this type of eel eats mostly mollusks, crustaceans, and sea urchins.
In fact, they like any type of chunky meat, including raw table shrimp, clams, and even squid. The Zebra Moray can also be found on the eastern coast of Africa and places such as the Red Sea, Galapagos, and even in Hawaii.
Moray and Conger – What’s the Difference?
The conger is a scale-less marine eel found in coastal waters. It is a part of the Conger genus.
The moray is part of the family Muraenidae, which consists of large, cosmopolitan, carnivorous eels.
Differences Between Freshwater and Saltwater Eels
Eels that live in freshwater are from the family known as Anguillidae, which consists of 19 species and six subspecies. They sometimes return to saltwater oceans for brief periods when they are adults and wish to mate and breed their young.
Freshwater eels are known by their long, snake-like bodies and their fins, which merge together to form a continual ridge instead of being two separate fins like saltwater eels have.
Their bodies are usually one to three feet in length, and one type of freshwater eel, the Snowflake Eel, actually travels great distances and migrates overseas to western Europe until it becomes an adult.
Saltwater eels have bodies that are different from eels that live in freshwater because they are both longer and more cylindrical in shape and size, and they have a set of gills with multiple slits. They can grow to nearly five feet in length, and they are mostly found in marshes and oceans.
Although freshwater eels rarely swim to saltwater areas, it is not that uncommon to find saltwater eels enjoying freshwater areas on a semi-regular basis, and like freshwater eels, they use these alternative regions to mate and breed. Saltwater eels prefer tropical regions, but if the water gets too warm they have been known to migrate to areas further north.
Another characteristic of saltwater eels is that this class contains very poisonous eels, as well as the most popular types of eels, which can sometimes be a problem if you don’t know the difference.
Common saltwater eels include Worm Eels, Moray Eels, and Spaghetti Eels, as well as the Electric Eel, which produces an electrical current that is strong enough to paralyze its prey, something that no other animal can do.
In addition, some fish and eel are very similar chemically and biologically, and, in fact, they can only be distinguished from one another at the cellular area.
Check out our article “Popular Saltwater and Freshwater Fish”
Some Interesting Statistics
The Heaviest Eel
The heaviest eel is the European Conger, which is roughly ten feet long and can weigh as much as 250 pounds.
The Longest Eel
The longest eel is the Slender Giant Moray, which can grow to over 13 feet in length.
The Smallest Eel
The smallest eel is the Snyder’s Moray, which only grows to a little over four inches in length.
Interesting Facts about Eels
They are Nearly Blind
Eels have very poor eyesight, so if you keep them in an aquarium and start to feed them, experts usually recommend you use a set of tongs rather than your hands, because the eels may accidentally bite your fingers in the process.
Eels Can Live for a Very Long Time
Although the lifespan for many eels is relatively short, there are certain eels that can live up to 85 years, which is a long time.
Strange Courtship Rituals
When courting, eels will open their mouths wide and wrap themselves around one another, only letting go after the females lay their eggs, which the males then fertilize.
Their Skin is Smooth
Eels have skin that is smooth, scale-less, and slimy, allowing them to get around even the roughest reefs without getting scratched or harmed. They also have very strong jaws and sharp teeth.
Unique Swimming Patterns
Eels stay mostly on the ocean floor in eel pits, which are basically holes. They are able to swim both frontwards and backward, and they can even travel on land for short periods of time.
Their Diet Explained
Eels are mostly carnivorous and eat things such as fish, octopus, crustaceans, frogs, and snails, as well as other animals. When they start to eat their food, they tie their bodies in knots in order to anchor down and better get at the food. They have voracious appetites, and their fantastic sense of smell helps them find their prey.
Eels get up to roughly 50 pounds in weight and can grow as long as 13 feet in length, depending on the species.
Fish, Not Reptiles
Although many people think eels are reptiles (snakes), they are actually fish. They do have long bodies like snakes do, but they are actually a fish with a scale-less body.
In fact, there are hundreds of species of eels, and they can be found in many different colors, including brown, white, yellow, green, orange, black, and even blue. They can also be found in waters in nearly every single area on the planet.
Check out our article “11 Different Types of Stingrays” to learn some fascinating facts about these sea creatures!