Tire Track Eel (Mastacembelus armatus): Ultimate Care Guide

Common Name(s)Tire Track Eel, Zig Zag Eel, White Spotted Eel
Scientific NameMastacembelus armatus
OriginIndia, Thailand, and Myanmar
SizeUp to 26 inches
Minimum Tank Size50 Gallons
Food & DietOmnivore
Lifespan8-18 years
Water pH6.8-7.2
Tank MatesAcara, Knifefish, and Gouramis
BreedingSpawning (rare in captivity)
Common DiseaseIch, Fungus
Tire Track Eel (Mastacembelus armatus)
Tire Track Eel (Mastacembelus armatus)

Consider the Tire Track Eel for a one-of-a-kind aquatic critter to occupy your freshwater aquarium. You will undoubtedly be captivated as you watch this well-known spiny eel swim along the bottom of your tank.

Although not a true eel, the Tire Track Eel’s spiky form allows it to move and behave similarly to an eel. Track eels have lengthy bodies and snouts and can reach lengths up to 26 inches. They are tan or light brown in hue and feature dark zig-zag lines along their body, akin to tire tracks. Tire Track eels are also known as zigzag eels and white-spotted spiny eels. Their natural habitat is in Southeast Asia, namely in India, Thailand, and Myanmar

Tire Track Eel Care

Because track eels require more specialized care, it is preferable to choose this species if you have prior experience with aquariums and fish keeping.


The tank water temperature for Tire Track Eel should be kept between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water pH

pH should not fall below 6.8 or rise above 7.2. Tire Track Eels prefer moderately hard water, ideally between 10 and 16 dH.

Tire Track Eel Size

In captivity, a full-grown Tire Track Eel can grow to be 26 inches long, though it will rarely grow larger than 20 inches.

Tire Track Eel is a huge fish that may grow up to 36 inches in the open. While you may acquire small fry of no more than 4 inches, to begin with, they can easily develop to that size in nature. Because of changes in lifestyle, feed, and movement space, their growth in captivity is at least 10 inches smaller than their growth in the wild.

Tire Track Eel (Mastacembelus armatus)
Tire Track Eel (Mastacembelus armatus)

Tire Track Eels Lifespan

Tire track eels have a lifespan ranging from 8 to 18 years. Like their growth, their life expectancy varies due to their health and living conditions.

Food and Diet

Tire Track Eels are omnivores in their natural habitat. Small fish, worms, larvae, and invertebrates are favorites. They may also consume plants or other organic stuff in some cases.

You should avoid relying on manufactured foods because they are unlikely to appeal to your Tire Track Eel.

This species does not need to eat frequently. In fact, they only require feeding a couple of times per week. Tire track eels can go a whole week without eating; others may even refuse to eat of their own volition.

As a result, you can feed them once a week or once every two weeks – both are absolutely acceptable!

Tire Track Eel Tank Size

If you want your Tire Track Eel to realize its maximum potential in captivity, you must provide a huge tank.

To keep them, a large tank is required. A fully matured fish requires an aquarium with a minimum volume of 50 gallons. This species should ideally be housed in a tank of at least 70 to 75 gallons.

If you intend to keep more than one Tire Track eel in an aquarium, you should double the tank size. This is because freshwater eels like their own space and will struggle if they have to compete for it with others of their own kind.

Tire Track Eel Tank Setup

Once you’ve decided that Tire Track Eel is the best fit for your aquarium, you must ensure it has the proper setup to thrive. Consider what tank mates, aquarium plants, and substrate exists in your current tank setup. Depending on your current setup, some adjustments may be required.

A thick layer of soft substrate consisting of sand or gravel can be added to the tank to create a perfect aquarium for these freshwater eels.

You should also add rocks and caverns to the tank to provide your Tire Track Eels with plenty of hiding spots.

Aside from soft substrate, aquarium plants can be used to mimic the environment of their native habitat. We do not advocate overcrowding your tank with plants because these species tend to uproot them when burrowing, resulting in a cluttered tank.

Using floating plants that keep the water clean and fresh while staying out of the way of the eels is recommended because Tire Track Eels are nocturnal creatures. You must keep the tank dark and the lighting to a minimum. Floating plants will help reduce light intensity.  

Do Tire Track Eels Burrow?

Tire Track Eels are lurkers who enjoy burrowing in the substrate and foraging there. It’s crucial to keep this quality in mind when setting up an aquarium. Otherwise, your Tire Track Eels won’t be as comfortable due to a shortage of places to hide in the bottom of the tank.

A thick layer of soft substrate made of sand or gravel can be added to the tank to create the ideal environment for these freshwater eels.

Do Tire Track Eels need salt?

Tire Track Eels, although freshwater fish, are susceptible to skin infections caused by burrowing scratches. Marine salt appears to aid in the prevention of certain infections. Add two teaspoons of salt per 2-1/2 liters of water.

Tire Track Eel Breeding

Captive breeding of Tire Track Eels is uncommon and poorly documented. However, based on knowledge of spiny eel spawning, simulating flood conditions can assist in kick-starting the breeding process.

Furthermore, the food quality should be enhanced during the mating season, and clean water should be provided to the tank.

Tire track eels mate by courting for hours and chasing each other around the tank. They lay eggs safely in the plants, and the fry hatches within four days.

It can be difficult to breed them due to their hostility toward other members of their species.

Tire Track Eel Male or Female

Sexual distinctions are unknown, and identifying the sexes of Tire Track Eels is nearly impossible, albeit a mature female may be more full-bodied.

Tire Track Eel Disease

Tire Track Eels are like any other tropical freshwater fish regarding disease susceptibility. They are susceptible to all of the common health issues.

White spot disease (also known as Ich) is a prevalent health concern. It’s a parasitic ciliate that spreads swiftly in a community tank. White spots appear all over the body as a result of the condition.

While it is fatal, it is also very curable if detected early. Any diseased fish should be quarantined, and over-the-counter medications should be available to relieve symptoms.

Tire Track Eels are also susceptible to fungal diseases. Fungal infections typically manifest as wool-like growths on the fish’s skin, mouth, or gills. Infections, like Ich, can spread if treatment is not provided.

The good news is that many of the most common aquatic diseases can be avoided with careful care and tank maintenance.

Regularly check the water conditions. Check the temperature and pH levels to ensure your Tire Track Eel’s habitat is ideal.

Perform partial water changes every two to four weeks to avoid major issues. Ammonia and nitrate levels will be kept low with 25% adjustments.

Tire Track Eel Tank Mates

If housed with other Tire Track Eels, some may become aggressive or territorial, and they should only be kept with other species that are too large for them to devour.

You may maintain your eels in community tanks with the correct tank mates and expect them to get along reasonably well.

Compatible and Incompatible Tank Mates for Tire Track Eels

Medium to large fish that share Tire Track Eels’ docile attitude make excellent tank mates. They will not engage in brawls or intimidate their tank mates. However, because they are meat-loving omnivores, they will quickly ingest small fish, so they should not be housed with fish that can be eaten.

Tire Track Eels thrive in tanks with similar-sized fish that will neither prey on nor be preyed on by the eels.

Tire Track Eels are compatible with most fish species, as long as they are not so little to be eaten by these freshwater eels. Tire Track Eels are usually indifferent to their tank mates and avoid fighting. They should be fine if their tankmates do not attack them. Some viable options are Acara, Knifefish, and Gouramis.

Tire track eels can be kept together, but only while a juvenile. When surrounded by their own species, freshwater eels become hostile and defensive of their territory. So, while you can keep tire track eels together when they are young, for quiet community tanks, you should separate and keep them separately.

Tire Track Eel and African Cichlids

Tire Track Eels should not be housed with cichlids in general because cichlids can be aggressive and may attack the eel. You may be able to house the calmest and least aggressive cichlids with a Tire Track Eel if you choose the calmest and least aggressive cichlids.

Tire Track Eel and Oscar Fish

There are conflicting opinions about whether or not Tire Track Eels and Oscar fish make good tank mates. Be cautious if combining the two, and pay attention to the size of each fish and the amount of space you have to house them. Oscars may attack the Tire Track Eel if it is not of equal or greater size.

Where can I find Tire Track Eel for sale?

Tire Track Eel can be purchased online or in brick-and-mortar pet and aquarium stores. The cost of Tire Track Eel is 25 USD to 150 USD

Tire Track Eel vs. Fire Eel

The fire eel is an enormously elongated fish with a unique pointed snout and underslung mouth. It is a member of the spiny eel family, which also includes Tire Track and peacock eels. The many tiny dorsal spines that precede the dorsal fin give rise to the group’s common name.

The body is compressed laterally, especially in the back third, where it flattens as it reaches the caudal fin and forms an elongated tail. The base color of the fire eel is dark brown/grey, with the belly being a lighter version of the same color. The body is marked by several brilliant red lateral stripes and spots that vary in intensity depending on the individual’s age and condition.

In juvenile fish, the patterns are often yellow/amber, turning to a deep red in larger ones. Red edging is common on the anal, pectoral, and dorsal fins.

The fire eel is the biggest species in its family, reaching lengths up to 3.3 feet.

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