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FAQs on Mastacembelid, Spiny Eel Fishes of the genus Aethiomastacembelum

Related Articles: Spiny EelsThe truth about spiny eels; A closer look at these popular but problematic oddballs by Neale Monks, Husbandry of the Barred Spiny Eel, Macrognathus panacalus by Marco Lichtenberger, 

Related FAQs: Spiny Eel Identification, Spiny Eel Behavior, Spiny Eel Compatibility, Spiny Eel Selection, Spiny Eel Systems, Spiny Eel Feeding, Spiny Eel Disease, Spiny Eel Reproduction, By Species: Fire Eels, Peacock Eels, Tire Track Eels, Yellow Tail Spiny Eel (Mastacembelus panculus), Macrognathus aral,


Tanganyikan spiny eel skin problem      9/23/19
A few weeks ago I acquired 3 recently imported Mastacembelus ellipsifer Tanganyikan eels. They're all about half grown, 8-10" TL. I'll move them to larger quarters before long, but at present I am keeping them in a 55-gal aquarium with a couple of inches of fine, smooth sand and much artificial rockwork.
<Good... do you know how these Mastacembelids were treated ahead of your receiving them?>
I use untreated private well water which after being aerated and warmed to aquarium temperature settles in at pH 8.2 and is quite hard; my Tanganyikan cichlids are thriving in it. One of the eels started eating frozen mysis and krill immediately, a second joined in soon afterward, and the third finally started eating only a few days ago. It's that third fish that concerns me.
This fish arrived with what appeared to be a few slightly damaged dorsal spines, and now that it spends more time in the open and I can see it better (it was quite shy for the first couple of weeks), I believe they look somewhat worse, maybe even with a very slight white cottony look to them.
I have also now noticed at least one white dot on the fish's side near to the damaged spines.
Aside from maintaining best water quality, which I do assiduously, what would you recommend I do to treat this fish?
<In the trade years (decades) back we used to treat all incoming spiny eels w/ 250 mg.s per ten gallons with a "Furan" compound... changing half the water every three days, three times... the water quality/color is strikingly disimproved by this treatment>
(Actually I'll be treating all three eels together, as their present aquarium serves as my quarantine
tank.) Salt? Medication? Both? I much prefer to get on top of problems/solve them quickly and completely than to wait and see how they go, and it is my understanding that spiny eel skin problems can get very serious very rapidly.
Also, the more specific your advice, the more I and my eel will benefit from it. :^/
Thank you very much!
Gerry Binczik
<Not knowing the make-up of your well water makes me leery re advising adding salt/s. I would go w/ the Nitrofurantoin or such alone. Bob Fenner>

Re: Tanganyikan spiny eel skin problem     11/1/19
Hello again!
<Hello Gerald.>
I only just discovered that you replied to my 9/22/19 enquiry (below) online at http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/spinyeeldisfaqs.htm 
rather than by return e-mail.
<Nope; we email a reply first, and copy it onto the web page only as an archived message. Even then, it's only archived a few days after being on the Daily FAQ page. Just check your spam filter isn't blocking our messages, maybe?>
(I should have known to look there - D'oh!) Without the benefit of your reply, I had cobbled together what seemed to be an appropriate treatment for my ailing M. ellipsifer eel from the various earlier posts on that webpage. I'm writing today to let you and interested readers know what I did and how things went.
<Thank you!>
By the time I began treatment, two clearly de-pigmented spots (not quite completely white or fuzzy, but rapidly heading there) which were each about 1 cm in diameter had formed in the affected area on the eel's side, and the dorsal fin adjacent to that area had a clearly ragged appearance. I decided to throw the kitchen sink at it:
I removed chemical filtration and treated the water with aquarium salt dosed at 75 g/10 gal, KanaPlex at 125 mg (= 1 "scoop")/5 gal and MetroPlex at 125 mg (= 1 "scoop")/5 gal. Every other day I changed 20% of the water, replaced the salt removed thereby and re-dosed with fresh KanaPlex and MetroPlex, for a total of 3 doses of the medications. The eel was much improved - remarkably, the spots looked at least somewhat better almost instantly! - but still affected, so I immediately repeated the entire process through 3 additional doses.
Now, a month later, the eel looks fantastic!!! (See attached picture.)
Very active, always hungry, great color! Its dorsal fin isn't quite intact, but I'm sure that will come with a bit more time.
I'm extremely grateful for the helpful advice I found on your webpage, and I hope that this contribution will likewise help others in the future.
My best, Gerald.
<Thanks for this useful and clear method, which I am sure will be helpful to others. Cheers, Neale.>

FW Eel  1/16/06 Hi, there! First off, I will begin by thanking whomever is reading/answering this e-mail. I am a relative newcomer to keeping FW eels. I currently own two such specimens. One 7" striped peacock eel, and one 4" zig-zag, or tiretrack eel. I purchased the tiretrack eel from Arizona Aquatic Gardens (azgardens.com) whose incompetent 'staff' told me that the zig-zag eel would grow no more than 10" or so. I have found since that my eel may grow to 3', which poses a dire problem to me. < Fire eels, Mastacembelus erythrotaenia, gets big, like three feet long. I have seen them in public aquariums at least that big. But the tire track eels that I am familiar with, Mastacembelus circumcinctus, stay around eight inches or so.> <<There are other "tiretrack eel" species. RMF>> However, there is an even bigger dilemma I am confronting today: is there such a fish as a dwarf starry night eel (*Caeco**Mastacembelus spp.), *and what size does such a specimen attain? Is it a strictly FW fish? What, pray tell, is the recommended pH and aquarium size of such a specimen? I have tried to Google this one out, and have even gone through the German and French websites, with very little success. I am contemplating the purchase, but I am cautious, as the seller (AAG) states such a specimen will not grow past 6". Is this even possible, in your opinion? Thanks again for answering my question and I bid you good day. George < While diving in Lake Tanganyika a few years ago we saw many eels. Some were only 4 inches long and swam like little seahorses while others were at least a foot long. Look at Caecomastacembelus, Afromastacembelus and Aethiomastacembelum on fishbase.org. These are the three genera of eels from Africa. All that I know of get up to a least a foot and a couple get up to two feet. The Lake Tanganyikan ones require hard alkaline water with the others probably tolerating almost any kind of water. The eel you are looking for may be in these groups.-Chuck>

Sick eel please help I have a Aethiomastacembelus elipsifer Tanganyika eel and it does not look like he is eating and has gotten very skinny. I was wondering if there was anything I could do to fatten him up. He is not very active and does not look very good. I have him in a 55 gal. with mainly a Tanganyika/Malawi setup. I have tried feeding him bloodworms, freeze-dried plankton, and flake food at night after I have turned the lights out and the other fish have already been fed. I even tried holding it in front of him and he will not eat it. He used to bury himself all the time and now he just stays in one spot out all the time. I am very worried about him. What should I do?   < These eels are very cool. I saw many different species in lake Tanganyika as few years ago. They ranged from little small 4 inch eels that would swim around like little sea horses to very large ones like fire eels. In the wild we saw them feeding on small shell dwelling cichlids in around the rocks. We caught them at night in minnow traps using very oily fish as bait in the trap. I would catch the eel and place him in a separate tank that is well covered so he won't jump out. Place a layer of fine sand on the bottom and a rock or cave that he can hide in. Make sure the water temp is at least 80 degrees. I would first try some live washed earthworms or some well washed black worms. Then I would get some feeder guppies and throw them in the tank. See if the eel will take the guppies out of your hand. If this doesn't work then maybe small strips or raw fish cut to bite sized chunks. In a large community tank these eels are reluctant to feed because of all the commotion the cichlids create. You eel may end up needing live fish all the time. -Chuck> Thanks, Jessica B.

African cichlids w/ eels I have been doing some serious research about this and have unfortunately gotten (as usual) conflicting advise on the matter.  First off I love the site, great answers.  What do you know about Aethiomastacembelus elipsifer or Aethiomastacembelus plagiostoma? <Not much. Members of this genus of spiny eels rarely come into the trade in the west> I have an African setup in a 55 gallon w/ black sand and tons of rocks to hide in.  Do you think these guys would do well?  I know to cover any and every hole to prevent suicide and thought about actinic lights  to possibly increase the time spent swimming instead of hiding.  Tell me what you guys think. Thanks, <If the cichlids are not overly aggressive... and you can get the eels in relatively good initial health... you just might have a very nice biotope set-up going. Please write in re your experiences with these Mastacembelids. Bob Fenner>

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