Spotted Moray Eel (Gymnothorax moringa): Ultimate Care Guide


Spotted Moray Eel (Gymnothorax moringa) can be very interesting creatures and are like “living fossils” due to a lack of scales and a boney figure. They are truly gorgeous, colorful creatures that have rightfully earned their place in the coral reef environment.

Spotted Moray Eel Habitat

Spotted morays inhabit tropical waters saltwater extending from North Carolina in the United States, east to Bermuda and south to Brazil and they are also found in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean to southeastern Brazil. They are also found in the eastern Atlantic near Ascension and St. Helena. Spotted morays live a solitary life.

Spotted Moray Eel Senses

Moray eels have very poor vision. Instead, they rely more on their sense of smell and on sensory perception of currents in the water.

Spotted Moray Eel Anatomy

Morays are true eels (order Anguilliformes). Spotted Morays are part of a family that has more than six hundred different species. They have nostril tubes for scent tracking, a long snake-like body, white or yellowish with dark spots, and a snout-like mouth with round gill openings. The dorsal fin runs the length of the eel. Caudal and anal fins are also present.

Are Spotted Moray Eel Dangerous?

Spotted moray eels are not inherently dangerous, but have been known to bite people. They usually dwell far from shore and pose little danger to people wading in shallow surf, though, and the same is true for the aquarium owners who want to interact with them so they should not pose a threat when handled with care.

Do Spotted Moray Eel Bite?

Spotted morays are known to bite divers who insert their hands into holes occupied by eels. However, no fatalities have been reported, so extra care must be taken when handling them, such as using aquarium gloves.

Spotted Moray Eel
Spotted Moray Eel (Gymnothorax moringa)

Spotted Moray Eel Care

Caring for Spotted Moray Eel is not particularly difficult, but they can be shy and that can make it difficult to feed them. These nocturnal species usually swim around the reef looking for food at night or during the evening hours.

Here are more specific details on how to care for Spotted Moray Eels:

Temperature for Spotted Moray Eel

Water values for a moray should preferably be kept at 1.022 to 1.025 on the Standard Seawater Gravity and a temperature of 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (22-30 degrees Celsius).

Water pH for Spotted Moray Eel

To create the ideal environment for your Spotted Moray eels, try to keep your pH value between 8.0 and 8.4. Large, heavy fishes with lots of waste can end up causing excess metabolite build-up. This can cause them to become restless, and if anything, change his behavior and color. When water quality is deteriorating because of waste, he will readily exhibit this change.

Spotted Moray Eel Size

Spotted morays average 60-75 cm in length and 1.2 m maximum. Maximum weight is 2.51 kg.

Spotted Moray Eel Tank Size

Spotted Moray eels will require a large aquarium with volume of about 125 gallons or larger with strong filtration. Moray eels tend to be messy eaters, and an efficient protein skimmer will help to remove nitrate and phosphate waste that can build up in the tank.

Spotted Moray Eel Food & Diet

Spotted moray eels are carnivorous. They hunt and eat a variety of foods including fish, mollusks (octopuses, squid, cuttlefish), crabs, and other invertebrates.

Spotted Moray Eel Lifespan

Spotted Moray Eel live about 10-30 years in captivity and 10-40 years in the wild.

Tank Setup for Spotted Moray Eel

These timid eels require plenty of hiding spaces in which to feel secure. Moray eels need at least two and preferably three or more secure hiding spaces in the aquarium. Large rocks elevated on smaller rocks, PVC pipe, or coral make suitable eel dens, and the eels can also use PVC pipe for hunting and ambushing prey.

Breeding Spotted Moray Eel

It is difficult to determine the sex of the Spotted Moray eel even with a magnifying glass, making it difficult to breed a small number in captivity.

In the wild, oviparous reproduction happens at the summer solstice when the water temperature is the warmest. During reproduction, females scatter around 10,000 eggs in open water. Eggs develop into larvae that can then take up to a year to grow large enough to swim down to the reef.

This means that to breed them in captivity you need to increase the temperature of the tank.

Disease

Most morays including spotted morays saltwater fish and could catch freshwater diseases. Spotted Moray Eels are quite resilient and cannot get ich. However, there may be issues related to freshwater use, bad pH, and poor tank condition. So make sure you set up your tank right. Most diseases remain situation specific.

Spotted Moray Eel Tank Mates

All morays are carnivores. So smaller or same sized tank mates will mostly be potential meals. Even seemingly tough fare like puffers and triggers, and your otherwise smart, fast-moving basses, etc. can be sucked in, especially at night.

Morays generally do not cohabit with other moray eels in aquariums, and will attack, harass, and even eat tankmates. This also applies to fish of similar body type, such as lionfish, triggerfish, pufferfish, etc. Territoriality is rare.

If you want to mix morays with other fish, make sure the fish were introduced to the tank before the moray. Most importantly, the fish need to be at least three times larger than the eel’s girth. Groupers can be ideal companions, but you need to bear in mind the size differences. Cleaner Wrasse are also  suitable tankmates. In the wild they are particularly fond of moray eels because they produce nutrient-rich slime and the Wrasse would also pick off parasites.

Predators

Spotted Moray Eels are rarely seen as prey of apex predators in their ecosystem. Grouper, barracuda, sharks, and humans are common predators of moray eels. However, moray eels can cooperate with groupers to hunt. The grouper signals to the eel that it wants help feeding. The moray’s job is to swim with the grouper and trap fish. If the eel tries to escape, it gets eaten by the grouper!

Environmental concerns

Humans fish for moray eels, but most eels’ skin is toxic and could kill humans. These eels are not yet endangered, but the eel are vital to the underwater ecosystem and could disrupt fish abundance and behavior if overfished.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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