Please visit our Sponsors

FAQs about Snake and Worm Eels

Related Articles: Snake and Worm Eels, Moray Eels, Other Marine Eels

Related FAQs: Zebra Moray Eels, Snowflake Morays, Other Marine Eels, Freshwater Moray Eels,

Eels, ID      2/9/19
<Hi Charlie>
I was wondering if you can help me ID an eel in Indonesia?
<Ahh yes...it appears to be a Harlequin snake eel (Myrichthys colubrinus). >
Thanks, Charlie
<You’re welcome. Wil.>

Snake Eel boo boo?       10/21/15
Here's the story. So I noticed about 2 months ago, that along the top of my Banded Snake Eel there were spots on the dorsal fin that were gone and there were sores. I separated him into a 40 gallon tank by himself and they healed. The only critter I thought did this was the Harlequin Tusk……. So I sold him, which he is the only one I would have thought to have done this since I have never seen this before, but I never had a harlequin in the same tank as a snake eel. Besides that I woke up to an obliterated large Solar Fairy Wrasse, and the Tusk looked quite full….. that was the other reason….. besides my Lubbock hid WAAAAYYYY to <too> much after I added the Tusk.
After the Banded Snake Eel healed, I put him back in the main display….. and it happened again about a month later (when I noticed). I know something was wrong when he is not swimming around every 2 or 3 days (when he is hungry).
I didn’t have a rose bubble tip anemone at the time, but I do now, however I do not suspect it. I DO suspect my Frogspawn which has caused ME lesions/sores on my skin! Here is my list…. everyone gets along fine, and besides the Frogspawn I do not know what to expect.
<Something has stung this fish>
Water parameters all good and normal…. 500 calcium,
<Much too high.... see WWM Re... sigh>

pH 8.2, alk 6-8, Mag 1300, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10 nitrate, blah blah blah. I did wonder if maybe it was the live rock, but I have NEVER seen this issue with the spotted snake eel or a different banded snake eel that I had 10 years ago.
<Have seen this over an over... from water quality, nutrition, social.... other environmental causes>

Baby Purple Tang
Young Copper Banded Butterflyfish (have had for 9 months… big fatty)
Solandri Puffer (this guy was in the 40 gallon tank when the snake eel was healing last time)
Pair of Pink Skunks
Pair of Perculas
Yellow Tailed Damsel (chill personality species no aggression ever seen)
Lubbocki Fairy Wrasse
Cleaner Wrasse (I have had him for well over 1 year)
Royal Gramma
Engineer Goby (was in the tank with him when he healed too)
CORALS (mostly frags):
Rose Bubble Tip
<The bigger stingers here>

Palythoas large colony… generic coloring that was also in the tank when he was healing
Purple Mush,
Trumpet Branching coral
My suspect is the Frogspawn, but I wonder if you would concur. I have only see the Copperbanded “pose” angry when the Snake Eel came out, but never struck him that I saw. The wound is suspiciously about the same size as the frogspawn…… AS I TOOK the eel out, what was left behind was white stringy slimy stuff…. I am guessing he was wrapping himself up to heel? He does NOT like to go under the sand…. never did from the time I got him…. maybe once or twice, but he is a large adult so I wonder if the babies are more likely……. So the sand is only sand…. no crushed coral, etc.
I put in Metroplex, but wonder if I should do Kanaplex instead….. that stuff is potent!
<... in the main, display system? A mistake.... see, as in actually READ on WWM Re.
We can't help you if you won't read. Bob Fenner; sighing still>

Re: Snake Eel boo boo?       10/21/15
<Ms. C>
First, the calcium I know is on the high side, yet I am working to lower it. I had this happen when I started using TropMarin at $99 for a 5 gallon bucket.
<Wow; a bargain!>
I have NEVER ADDED any calcium or magnesium to make it this high, so please do not assume I just put in up there on purpose. Jumping to conclusions that I don’t know that 450 is the high end are we?
>See WWM re... I'd keep below 400, Mg in proportion<
**SIGH**… should stick with cheap salt?
<....? See WWM re this also>

I only put this there to see if it was a possible reason for the sores, not for you to judge me. 500 is NOT too high by the way.
<Am not judging you; simply stating fact>
Read a few more website articles and books and you will see that it is not an issue UNLESS the pH ends up depressed!!! SIGH that you don’t acknowledge that in your reply.
<.... Google my name>
Second NO, I DID not put the MetroPlex in the main display. (((SIGH))) Like I am that stupid! I put him BACK into the 40 gallon tank with cured rock.
Also, I KNOW THE WORD IS too and not to…. I have a migraine, sorry. I am sure you NEVER make typos.
<Heeee! No worries>
Out of the brief list of what you suspect:
Water Quality: Do you THINK 500 calcium is what did it,
<Not likely, no>
if you did, then you should say something or OFFER help, not “sigh” and “you need to read” blah blah…. I do read… I read a lot and this is a NEW ONE TO ME and my pH is fine, so I didn’t think it was an issue and I KNEW there would be some comment about it! So maybe offer help instead of putting people down?
Nutrition: He only likes shrimp but i do add Selcon into it. REMEMBER he HEALED in a separate tank, so how could it be nutrition???
<Can't say w/o more data>
Social: You didn’t give ANY indication out of the list I gave to you WHICH fish would maybe be the culprit.
<See prev. corr..... the anemone or...>
My thought is that you have SAID you have seen this often. So WHY haven’t you written a paper or posted something on your website showing pictures of the wounds? NO? **SIGH** I have read through your website… I have NEVER SEEN a picture of this, I have never seen any suggestions on how to fix or cure this. NONE of my snake eels in the past EVER had this. My tanks are all about the same. I will be looking elsewhere for CONSTRUCTIVE conversation and problem solving.
<Chill pill dear. And we'll be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Update on Squigglesworth, the Key Worm Eel     3/2/13
Hey all,
Thank you so much for everything you do :) now on to the subject. On the first of this year, I received a free eel that you all tried to help ID.
Well, after figuring out it is a Key Worm Eel, I figured I would share my observations so if anyone else acquires one, they can at least have a little reference. Mr. Squigglesworth, as he has been named, now has some friends. I found yet another Key Worm Eel, as yet unnamed. After a little squabbling, they have settled down and now if one is out, the other soon follows. Mr. S, the original eel, loves sinking pellets and has taught the other one to eat. They bury themselves for most of the day and let us know when it is dinner time when they start searching their floor. They are currently living with many Blue Leg Hermits, two Green Emerald Crabs, a Blue Green Chromis, and a Pulsing Xenia. Of all these critters, the 2 eels completely ignore them. When they are out, the Chromis tries to school with them and the eels ignore the fish. On the food front, because Mr. S is so fast and shy, I had to just drop in chopped up foods until something worked. As I said, turns out he liked the algae pellets I was dropping in for the crabs. Now that I know he's willing to eat these, I have since purchased carnivore pellets of 2mm size for him and his new friend. Again, these are just my observations and in no way reflect the best possible scenario for these two. However, I couldn't find any information on these two so had to figure it out, including bugging you guys (Marco) for knowledge. In the near future, these two will be moving to a 55 gallon home as I think they might be happier with a bigger sand bed to tunnel through.
As I have always loved benthic critters and burrowing fishes, all my rock work is firmly on the glass bottom. So, without further ado, here is two nice blurry photos of two Key Worm Eels that never stop moving long enough for my camera or hide their faces otherwise :)
<Thank you very much for the update. It sure will help future readers, who get themselves one or more key worm eels. Thanks also for the pics. I hope you continue having fun with your unusual pets. Cheers, Marco.>

Re: Key worm eel - better pictures! Now comp./stkg.      3/18/13
Okay guys and gals, as always, thank you so much for your help and your website! Here's the next set of questions. ;) Mr. Squigglesworth and his girlfriend (the Key Worm Eels) have a Magnificent Firefish, a Blue-Green Chromis, and a Pygmy (Cherub) Angelfish all living peacefully together in a 35 gallon hex tank. We have decided that in the next few months, the eels will be moved to a 55 gallon tank to have more floor space.
<Sounds good.>
However, I would like to get a sand sifting goby for the 35 hex now that I can detect growth in the sand. The goby would be living with the eels temporarily until they move. I am partial to the Yellow Watchman Goby because of size, behavior, and looks but would like some suggestions.
<A lot to choose from. Start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/gobies.htm >
Also, eventually, I would love a Pygmy Hawkfish and a Cinnamon Clownfish. So, in the end; 35 gallon hex with: Magnificent Firefish, Blue-Green Chromis, Pygmy Angel, Pygmy Hawkfish, Cinnamon Clown, and a goby.
<The clown would do best with a partner and maybe an anemone if you have proper light and filtration. See
and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/clnfishart2.htm >
After the 35 is set, I'll also have the 55 set up that I'll need to stock so some of these guys can go in there instead, if it would be better. Just in case you were wondering, I admit my 'fishy' addiction. ;) but only if they can be completely spoiled rotten. ;)
<The 35 is already full in my opinion and I'd only add the fishes you want once the eels are removed. Also, I'd plan to take at least the Cherub angel to the larger tank.>
As always, you all are my go-to resource for knowledge, even if I can't really have all the fishies :) Sandra in Florida, USA
<Thanks for your kind words! Cheers, Marco.>

the Banded or Harlequin Snake Eel. Beh. 3/31/11
Just a quick question. I have one Banded Snake Eel
<Mmm, not easily kept; you're to be commended>
in my saltwater 250 gallon tank, from very first day it stays under gravel and comes out at night after three four days.
Is there any way we can encourage him/her to stay out during day time.
<If you can keep it alive for weeks/months, it will begin to stay out more>
<And you, Bob Fenner>

Zoanthid ID & juvenile angel & eel ID 3/8/2010
Hey Crew !!!
<Hey Abdo!>
Abdo here, from the land of the pharaohs :D (AKA aquarium no man's land!!!)
<Ahh, hope to be diving w/ friends in Sharm this coming May>
First I just want to show my deeeeep gratitude for you guys being there,
really makes the difference !!! from the bottom of my heart: THAAAAAAANK YOUUUUUUUU
now down to business
I have just ventured into invertebrates and I'm having a hard time identifying that group of polyps I just bought, the tank they were in at the retailer's was such a biohazard that a military submarine wouldn't survive !!!
anyway I attached a picture, it was taken the day after I put them in the tank, they were acclimated very slowly over 4 hours and now I think 80% of them have opened completely :D Yay :D Hope you guys could help me treat the polyps well :)
<Looks to be some species of Zoanthid; very nice>
Another question, hope I'm not being a pain in the neck here......
I bought what I identified positively as a vermiculated angel, at just under an inch long!!!, do you have any special recommendations regarding such a fish, given its size and other tank inhabitants ??? any advice ???
<Mmm, yes... keep it with small-ish, easygoing fishes, non-predatory invertebrates and you should be fine. These angels grow quite quickly when small, given good circumstances>
lastly (I promise), I had bought those 2 eels a while ago, and I've been having such a hard time identifying them it drives me crazy !! their looks are not special but their behavior amazes me!! They are grey with white bellies, 30cm long with 1cm diameter or so, small eyes, dotted lateral line near the head and curved, burrow under the sand and they do it backwards, meaning they stick their tails in and slip into the sand bed, and once they grab a piece of food they quickly pull it down under the sand to eat it, the retailer said they we're from the red sea, but I wouldn't count on anything he says.
the closest matches I could find in Dr. Burgess's atlas of marine aquarium fishes were "Pisodonophis cancrivorus" and "Muraenichthys tasmaniensis" but I'm not so sure..... I attached the best picture I could take, hope it helps.
<Mmm, is an Ophichthid... a Snake Eel... looks a bunch like an Apterichthys species... Unfortunately I don't see this species in my in-print reference works, and Fishbase.org is running VERY slowly currently. I would go there, and search "By Country" (I did for Jordan), Marine fishes (which will come out by default by species) and re-sort by family... Look at the Ophichthids found there (the Red Sea)... and try to find these species for photos, further descriptions>
I have a 110G + 20G sump, since August 2008, sandy bottom with one pile of LR, some locally obtained Ulva, 2 four stripe damsels, 1 domino, 1 silver moony, 1 Aidablenius sphynx, many coastal shrimps, 1 vermiculated angel, 1 common goby, 1 red tomato, 1 urchin with short sharp spines (red sea), several mussels and oysters, some Nerites, the 2 eels and the clump of Zoas.
<Sounds very nice indeed!>
Thank you in advance, and sorry for the long email :S
<Thank you for sharing! Bob Fenner>

Stargazer snake eel
Brachysomophis spp. snake eels -- 01/07/10

I was just wondering if there was any information on captive care of either a reptilian snake eel, or a stargazer snake eel, or anywhere that might be able to order one in.
<The latter can be difficult and will also depend on where you are. Ask at your shops to ask their suppliers and the rare fish traders online.>
I've been unable to find any information whatsoever.
<Try searching for Brachysomophis henshawi and Brachysomophis cirrocheilos. They are best kept in single specimen setups. Training to dead food can be difficult. You should have the possibility to feed it live food (small fishes (no FW-feeders) and crabs). They also need a large open surface area with not much live rock. Aside that care should be easy.>
I assume it is safe to say they are ambush predators?
<Yes, mostly, but will also come out to hunt.>
How deep would the sand bed need to be?
<At least 20 cm / 8 inches, preferably 30 cm / 12 inches.>
Do they hide just under the surface, or burrow down like a garden eel?
<They hide at an angle to the surface, not as vertical as some garden eels.>
Thanks for any help.
<Welcome. Marco.>

Spotted/tiger snake eel Hello, <Howdy> I just wanted to say thank you for your past answers, they have proved helpful when I have not been able to find an answer on your site. I have a comment about the opinion of the Ophichthidae family; that no one should own one. <Mmm, well, not "no one", but folks (as always) should be informed as to the history, likelihood of their survival, their husbandry...> I DO AGREE about the ribbon eels, those poor things are beautiful and due to their environment, shouldn't be kept. Bravo for those who have managed to keep them alive. Now for my issue. I was at a LFS and was going to get a couple of engineer gobies to keep my 2" sand bed stirred. The man there showed me 3 adults that were returned because of their 12" size where making a sandy mess of everything. I was disappointed as I really wanted an eel, but not in a reef/fish/invert (no shrimp) tank. He then showed me a Spotted Snake Eel, or as some call it a tiger eel. Upon my investigation of the animal's scientific name (Myrichthys maculosus) light colored with large brown spots all over including large brown spots on the face (there is another snake eel that has spots on the face, but they are tiny dots....not mine). I was sold the snake eel (we will call "spot") for 39.99, which I come to find was quite a good deal. He told me to feed spot once or twice a week ghost shrimp. Okay, I get spot home and watch him swim in and around all my live rock (found a hole he hangs out in now) and I got to thinking, this little guy HAS to eat more than that given his activity level. So I put in the ghost shrimp, and he only finds and eats DEAD ONES because his eye sight is awful. <... this is a nocturnal animal...> I then bought some frozen silverbacks to mince and feed my anemone, and thought for kicks I will offer a whole thawed one to spot. BOY DID HE LOVE IT!!! He eats right out of my hand (which is not uncommon for the wild ones in Hawaii or Australia). <Mmm, not found in Hawaii: Fishbase Summary.> He had 3 large ones one night and then 1 1/2 days later ate 2 small. I know he is hungry when he swims around bobbing his head up and down. My point is, these particular Ophichthidae are NOT hard to care for as long as you FEED THEM!!! <Good point> I read they tend to get starved to death. Cool thing is, my 3 young ocellaris clowns are quite safe (2" babies) as SPOT is as blind as a bat and not interested in anything that moves!! So please, those who have purchased these snake eels, have fun, do your homework and you will LOVE them as a pet. In my opinion BETTER THAN A POISONOUS PUFFER FISH!! Take care, and I hope you put this on your "Snake Eel" page. <Will do, definitely> Those of us who bought our snake eels (since a real eel is out of the question for reef) LOVE THEM so much and if we made the mistake of buying them, should not be made to feel like a bad person. By the way my LFS had a blue ribbon eel that was eating live mollies (big ones) every other day........a ribbon eel is NOT, in my opinion good for reef tanks with little creatures!!) Take Care! Carrie :) <Thank you for sharing this valuable input. You have likely saved many Myrichthys! Bob Fenner> Unicolor snake eels Hi, Do you know anything about unicolor snake eels, (Uropterygius concolor) ? _ http://liveaquaria.com/product/prod_Display.cfm?pCatId=1737_ ( http://liveaquaria.com/product/prod_Display.cfm?pCatId=1737) They seem like an interesting eel and kind of look like the ribbon eels. Can I keep these kinds of eels with damsels and clownfish? <If you read what I read, it says they ambush small fish during the night. James (Salty Dog)> thanks <You're welcome>

Myrichthys colubrinus and Blue Ribbon Eels My girlfriend purchased a Banded Snake Eel about two years ago, an amazing creature. We have found this particular Eel/Snake to be one of the easiest marine animals to keep in our tank. However I'm reading online that its not recommended for home aquariums. Is there a particular reason why the Banded Snake Eel is considered a "Restricted Species" in many pet stores? <Mainly that most folks experiences are 180 degrees different than yours... Most Snake Eels, Ophichthyids, die from lack of feeding in captivity... the remainder generally escape their enclosure through an opening at the top.> Feeding is extremely easy, and it requires only basic water/light conditions. I would recommend this snake/eel to anyone; would you? <I don't. Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ophichthidae.htm and the FAQs beyond> We purchased a Blue Ribbon Eel out of impulse a week ago, and they are not something I would ever recommend to any aquarium owner. <Me neither... same reasons> To our surprise the pet store in which we purchased this Eel understands its difficulty to keep and is allowing us to return it. We have tried live foods, but all it was interested in was in our "Disappeared" juvenile Damsel. Quite an expensive meal for a fish that probably wouldn't last another week in our tank. We didn't do our research and just bought on impulse; something that saltwater fish tend to do as their vibrant colors and exotic looks entrap onlookers. <Live and hopefully learn> We are taking the Blue Ribbon Eel back to the pet store tomorrow. Better to have it die in someone else's tank then our own, however we would rather it not die at all! We would just like to personally thank you and your site for helping us with our future purchases as you classify which species are best for home aquariums. <Thank you for your input and acknowledgement. Bob Fenner

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: