I wanted to name our little friend xray because you can see right thru his eye and out the other side. Cool little buddy. bloop bloop bloop... :) hunnys daughter named him col. sanders.? these fish are cool!! We're down to 2 (had 4) that are doing very well. New tank and just learning...it's not quite as simple as we thought it would be. Buy tank, add water, add fish. Learning that there's a little more to it than that. Sorry lenny (fish 1) and wigga (fish 2). And RIP Red. (poor little betta..learning curve..oops. and where can we buy a panda telescope? Anybody know? :) bloop bloop bloop... bettybloop
We have two large iridescent sharks we are looking to find another home for. Our tank is too small and they are very large. Do you have a big tank? Do you know they can grow 3-4 feet? Where are you located? Jackie
Hi! I thought I was buying a danio but it ended up being PetCo sold me a super small juvenile Ranbow Cichlid! Now I would like to buy a similiar one so this lil guy can have company. If you know where I can find another one, please let me know! I haven't been able to find another one at Petco since I bought mine...thanks! Kobie
I am looking for a source of several hundred cichlids. They will be research animals, not pets. I am doing a study looking at male mate choice and fecundity based on selection of female in relation to the size of her orange 'patch'. The animals will not be required all at once (actually it is preferable that they are not all at once) but we will need about 50 at a time. We need fish which are greater than 1 inch in length and about twice the number of females to males.
If anyone has any suggestions! Kristy
Looking for a 6in+ sized cat, if you have one let us know Erich
The Zig Zag Eel Mastacembelus armatus has a very long history. It was recognized and described over 200 years ago by Lacepède in 1800. It has been a favorite spiny eel kept by aquarium enthusiasts for many years. Some other common names for this eel include Tire Track Eel, Spiny Eel, White-Spotted Spiny Eel, Marbled Spiny Eel, Giant Spiny Eel, Giant Mottled Eel, Car Track Spiny Eel, and Leopard Spiny Eel.
This fish is not considered to be a true eel, but like all members of the Mastacembelidae family, known as the Spiny Eels, its body shape is definitely eel-like. It is very cute little fish when it is first acquired. It has an elongated body and a long snout, and is generally about 4 inches long. But be aware that this fish will grow, and could reach close to 3 feet in length. An adult will require a very large aquarium.
The popularity of the Zig Zag Eel M. armatus is rivaled by its similar looking relative, the Tire Track EelMastacembelus favus. These eels are recognized and named for their distinct, irregular dark black markings. They both have 'tire track' or 'zig zag' type markings and both bear the common names of Zig Zag Eel and Tire Track Eel.
The term "tire track eel' can get rather confusing, There are actually several spiny eels that are called Tire Track Eels, and so are often mis-identified. This is a common name that is used for 3, sometimes 4 different species. Besides being used for M. armatus and M. favus, it is also a common name used for the Half-banded Spiny EelMacrognathus circumcinctus, and occasionally for the Black Spotted EelMastacembelus dayi.
The two popular two spiny eels M. armatus and M. favus, are also often ms-identified because they are so similar looking when offered for sale as juveniles. But despite their very similar appearances, they do have some recognizable differences. Overall their coloration is quite similar, but the placement of the reticulated patterning on the body is the most distinguishing element.
The Zig Zag Eel M. armatus discussed here has a series of irregular dark markings along the entire length of its body. But the reticulated patterning is strong on the upper two thirds of its body, leaving the lower belly portion mostly plain. Its relative M. favus is also marked along the entire length of its body, but its patterning is more extreme. The irregular markings on M. favus reach from the top of its back down through its belly.
Of these two Spiny Eels, the Tire Track Eel M. favus is perhaps the more frequently imported. Though it's difficult to tell them apart, it is important to know which of these two Spiny Eels you are getting so you can prepare for their long term care. Besides patterning discussed above, there is another primary difference between these two that is not readily apparent when purchasing. That is their adult size. The Tire Track Eel can get up to about 28 inches (70 cm) long while this eel, the Zig Zag Eel M. armatus, will ultimately be quite a bit larger. It can reach up to 35 inches (90 cm) in length, though in the aquarium they usually won't grow much more than 20 inches (51 cm).
The Zig Zag Eel Mastacembelus armatus was described by Lacepède in 1800. They are found in Asia: Pakistan to Viet Nam and Indonesia.This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as least concern (LC) because it is widely distributed, although harvested by fisheries and for the aquarium trade, there is no significant threats identified at present. They are used as a food fish in their native countries. Other common names they are known by are Tire Track Eel, Spiny Eel, White-Spotted Spiny Eel, Marbled Spiny Eel, White Spot Spiny Eel, Leopard Spiny Eel, Giant Spiny Eel, Car Track Spiny Eel, and White-spotted Car-track Eel.
They are found in moving waters, such as rivers and streams with sandy to pebbly bottoms, normally with dense with vegetation. They also inhabit still waters in coastal marshes and may migrate during the dry season into canals, lakes and floodplain areas. They are nocturnal and will sometimes partially bury themselves in the substrate during the day, coming out at night to feed on at night on benthic insect larvae, worms and some submerged plant material.
Scientific Name: Mastacembelus armatus
Social Grouping: Solitary
IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern
The body of the Zig Zag Eel is elongated with a long snout. Both the dorsal and anal fins are extended and joined to the caudal fin. These fish can reach just over 35 inches (90 cm) in length in the wild, though they will not generally exceed about 20 inches" (51 cm) in captivity. Spiny eels have a lifespan of 8-18 years.
Its background coloration is a tan to light brown and it has a dark horizontal stripe running through the eye. Along the entire length of its body, reaching vertically from its back to its belly, it is patterned with a series of irregular dark markings. These markings generally have a 'tire track' or 'zig zag' appearance which has been used as a common name for this fish as well as several other species of spiny eel.
This fish should not be confused with its very similar looking relative, the Track Eel M. favus, which is smaller reaching only 26 inches (70 cm) in length. These two are often confused as juveniles because they are so similar looking. But despite their very similar appearances, there are recognizable differences. Overall their coloration is quite similar and they both have a series of irregular dark markings along the entire length of its body. But on this eel, the Zig Zag Eel M. armatus, these markings are strongest on the upper two thirds with the belly portion mostly plain. On this eel, the Track Eel M. favus, they are more extreme irregular markings reaching from the top of its back down through its belly.
Size of fish - inches: 35.4 inches (89.99 cm) - This fish should not be confused with its very similar looking relative the Track Eel M. favus which is smaller, reaching only 26 inches (70 cm) in length.
Lifespan: 18 years - Spiny eels have a lifespan of 8-18 years.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
Eels are generally suggested for an aquarist with some experience rather than the beginner fish keeper. Zig Zag Eels are sensitive to being moved around, it is best to purchase a specimen that has been at the fish store for at least a week or else the accumulated stress or two moves will leave this fish very week. Once introduced to its new aquarium it usually takes awhile for it to get over its shyness. The first few weeks can be extremely difficult getting them to eat.
They do require extremely pristine water. They have very small scales protecting their body so are prone to fungus and parasites and very sensitive to medications. These fish respond poorly to copper based medications, so these should be avoided. If cared for properly, these eels get fairly large and can live for a long time.
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Difficult
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate
Foods and Feeding
In nature these fish are omnivorous. They feed at night on benthic insect larvae, worms, and other aquatic invertebrates, but they will also eat some plant matter. Like all spiny eels they prefer a diet of live and fresh frozen foods such as brine shrimp, black worms, earthworms or bloodworms.
Some Zig Zag Eels can be trained to eat freeze dried brine shrimp or bloodworms but this is not something that can be counted on. They will also eat small fishes so make sure their tank mates are too large to be able to fit into their mouths. Even half grown specimens can make a quick snack out of small goldfish and livebearers like platies without much trouble.
Eels only need to be fed a couple of times a week and some may refuse food offered more than that, then often eating only once every two or three weeks. These eels are normally nocturnal feeders so make sure they are getting their share of the food. The middle and top inhabitants will often eat all the food before it sinks.
Diet Type: Omnivore
Flake Food: No
Tablet / Pellet: Occasionally - Not all specimens will accept processed foods.
Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
Vegetable Food: Some of Diet - Some Zig Zag Eels will accept vegetable matter, but this is fairly rare.
Meaty Food: Most of Diet
Feeding Frequency: Weekly - Eels only need to be fed a couple of times a week, and sometimes will eat even less.
The most important thing for these eels is that they always have clean and well-oxygenated water. Frequent water changes of about 30% a week are needed for this eel. With your weekly water change make sure to vacuum the gravel to remove all excess food and waster. but It's best not to remove any bio film on rocks and decor. A magnet algae cleaner normally does a great job in keeping the viewing pane clear.
It is also helps to add efficient bottom cleaning tank mates to keep the bottom free from decaying foods in between cleanings. Be careful however, to add bottom cleaners after your eel is adjusted to its tank and is eating.
Water Changes: Weekly - Water changes of about 30% weekly.
Zig Zag Eels will spend most of their time on the bottom of the aquarium. This species of spiny eel can eventually grow to be quite large so plan accordingly. That cute little 4 inch fish may eventually grow to over 2 feet long! Keep small specimens up to 6 inches in a tank that is at least 36 inches long and about 35 gallons. Larger specimens will needing an even bigger area, tanks that are 48 inches in length or longer and 55 gallons up to 100 gallons will be necessary as they grow.
They do best in a soft to medium water with good water movement that provides plenty of oxygenation. These fish require pristine water. The tank water should turnover at least 10-15 times per hour. An undergravel filter is a great choice for these fish as it creates high oxygen through out the tank as well as reducing the waste. A canister filter or powerheads and airstones can be introduced to achieve proper flow and oxygenation. This fish will also devise many creative escape attempts if given the opportunity, therefore the aquarium should have a tightly fitted hood.
They like a dimly lit aquarium or one with floating plants to help subdue the light. If their tank has a sand or fine gravel substrate, they may burrow into it. Make sure they have plenty of hiding places so they will feel secure in their new home. Provide other decor such as rocks, caves, and roots to give it some dark areas to retreat. PCV tubing also makes great caves for these long eels. Be sure to place heavy decor firmly on the bottom. These fish are not actively destructive, but because of their size and burrowing nature, they can dislodge anything that gets in their way, including plants. Multiple hiding places need to be made for the eel to feel safe in the tank.
These eels are primarily freshwater eels in the wild, but they can tolerate slightly brackish conditions. For their long term health however, the specific gravity should be kept at 1.005 or less. They are not suited for the types of brackish aquariums that the truly brackish water fish, like Mono's and Scats, do well in.
Minimum Tank Size: 100 gal (379 L) - This fish needs a tank long enough for it to stretch out in. Juveniles will be fine started in about 35 gallons, but 100 gallons is the minimum size needed for an adult.
Suitable for Nano Tank: No
Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix - Provide a sand or fine gravel substrate so they can burrow.
Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting - In moderately lit tanks, provide floating plants to help subdue the light.
Temperature: 72.0 to 82.0° F (22.2 to 27.8° C)
Range ph: 6.5-7.5
Hardness Range: 5 - 15 dGH
Brackish: Sometimes - Primarily freshwater fish, but they can tolerate slightly brackish conditions.
Water Movement: Moderate
Water Region: Bottom - Zig Zag Eels will spend most of their time on the bottom of the aquarium.
They are a nocturnal species but are generally peaceful and shy. They mostly ignore other tank mates although they may eat fish that are small enough to fit into their mouths. Some species of spiny eels can get territorial and aggressive with their own kind. A general rule of thumb is to keep them singly unless you plan to breed. Also their large size as adults makes it difficult to keep more than one in an aquarium. It takes a very large tank with many hiding areas to keep multiple specimens.
Temperament: Semi-aggressive - This fish is generally shy although it will be highly aggressive with its own kind and is for this reason generally kept singly.
Same species - conspecifics: Sometimes - Only keep more than one if you intend to breed, or if the tank is very large with enough room for each eel to have undisturbed territories.
Peaceful fish (): Monitor - Tank mates need to be large enough to not be eaten.
Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
Aggressive (): Monitor
Large Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Monitor
Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
Plants: Monitor - hese eels will uproot most planted plants.
Sex: Sexual differences
Sexual differences are unknown and it is almost impossible to identify the sexes, though a mature female may be more full bodied.
Breeding / Reproduction
The Zig Zag Eel has not been bred in captivity. Only a few spiny eels have been bred in the aquarium, possibly because they are generally kept singly rather than in a group where a male and female can find each other. Though it is not documented what makes them spawn, trying to emulate the bounty of the flood season can help stimulate breeding behavior. Feed more and higher quality food than you normally would and providing an influx of clean water. Their courtship lasts for several hours, where they chase each other and swim in circles.
The eggs are deposited among floating plants. They are sticky so will adhere to the plants and then hatch in 3 to 4 days. The fry becoming free swimming a few more days after that and should be fed nauplii. The fry are something of a challenge to raise as they are susceptible to fungal infections. Regular water changes and the use of an antifungal water treatment can help.
Ease of Breeding: Unknown - This fish has not been bred in the home aquarium, however it is presumed that their breeding process is similar to other Spiny Eels.
Eels are prone to diseases caused by parasites and fungus, so take caution when introducing these fish to an established tank. Eels are also very sensitive to medications used to treat many diseases; a separate hospital tank is needed. Very low water temperatures and condition changes can also cause stress to this fish which makes them even more prone to disease. Take great care when netting eels as they have very delicate and scraps can make them even more prone to disease.
The most common disease that an eel is susceptible to is Ich. Ich is short for Ichthyophthirius, also known as "white spot disease". It is a parasite that can attack nearly all aquarium fishes, but you'll find that Eels are often the first to be attacked. Take great care in treating ick as eels are very sensitive to the medications used to treat it. Often the dose is half of what is normally used. If nervous or unsure about medications, use Reef safe medications.
An outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. When keeping these sensitive types of fish, it is common to catch deteriorating water conditions and disease before other fish are affected. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Zig Zag Eel the proper environment and give them a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease.
Anything you add to your tank can bring disease to your tank. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so not to upset the balance. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.
The Zig Zag Eel M. armatus is commonly available and reasonably priced. Be aware when purchasing as this eel is often misidentified as the Tire Track Eel M. favus. These two similar looking eels attain a much different adult size it is important to know which eel you are purchasing. The Zig Zag Eel can grow to about 36" in length while the Tire Track Eel can reach up to 28".
Christina Migala DeMott - 2015-10-01 Thank you for this information! It turns out my eel is a Zig Zag and not a Tire Track, which I doubt I would have learned anytime soon. Considering there are differences in the optimal conditions for keeping each type of eel, I can begin slowly making any necessary changes. As mentioned, I bought mine when she (?) was much smaller, and the marks were not as distinct.
I also wanted to add a piece of advice for those who have extremely shy Zig Zag Eels, don't give up! I've had mine for over a year, and I ended up naming her Agora, short for 'Agoraphobia,' because she NEVER came out. When I had a problem with my large tank, I had to split everyone between 4 (10) gallon tanks for the last several weeks. During that time, I started hand feeding her using freeze dried food, including tiny whole shrimp and brine shrimp cubes (which could be broken into smaller pieces).
To start there are a few things which I believe contributed to my success that should be taken into account. When I moved Agora to the smaller tank, I had already had her for over eight months. She was eating in the larger tank, but she never came out. I then let her settle into the new tank for a few weeks before I begin working with her. I also feel it's important to do this while they're small for two main reasons. The first is that, like with most animals, it's easier to train younger pets. The second has to do with the possible biting issue that could arise from hand feeding, which I will go into after I explain how I worked up to hand feeding in the open.
To begin, I always turn off the tank light when I hand feed her so that she's more comfortable. I then gently lift the lid and hold it at an angle during feeding. At first, I used long tweezers to hold the food right in front of or just in wherever she was hiding. I was lucky since she immediately accepted the foods. Over time, I moved the tweezers closer to the surface, but I still fed her in a place with a large ornament she could continue to hide in or next to.
Once she was comfortable, I started varying use of the tweezers and my fingers. It took over two months to get to where she would comfortably eat from my fingers. She even got to where she would pop her head out of the water when the food got close to the water!
At this point, I slowly started moving where I put the food into a more open area, going a little further every few days. I only did a few bites out in the open per feeding so that she wasn't stressed by being forced to go out for food. Again, I was lucky in that Agora was quick to realize she wasn't in danger. Now she will take food anywhere!
In order to prevent her from biting me every time I stuck my hand or fingers in the tank, I also worked to train her to only go after food. The reason I said it's best to do this when they're small, is because I basically let her nip to me countless times until she learned that unless she smells food, there won't be any. Since Agora and other eels of the type don't have teeth, it barely even felt like a pinch when she got me. However if I were trying to train a much larger email, their jaw would likely be powerful enough for a bite to be painful.
Next I'm going to work on her letting me pet her, but I haven't quite figured out how yet. I don't want to put my whole hand or arm in the tank, mostly to prevent introducing anything harmful to the tank, but also because I would like to teach her to come to me. Since she's going to go back into a 55 gallon tank, teaching her to come to me for rewards seems a much better goal then only been able to pet her when she's on the bottom of the tank. If I succeed, I'll share how I did it!
Anonymous - 2012-10-09 My zig zag has been in a new tank for 3 weeks. The tank has devoloped brown alge and I came home tonight to find him dying. He is covered in a light fuzz and has what look like red discolouring on half his body. He is still alive(just) but limp. What could have happened?
Jeremy Roche - 2012-10-10 Tank changes are tough on any fish. Was the tank cycled? Try doing a really good cleaning. Maybe even set up a medicated hospital tank.
Anonymous - 2012-10-10 He died last night not long after my question Jeremy. My young son is heartbroken. My new tank has been up for over 3 weeks and he had been in there for around 15 days. He was fine until yesterday as the day before he had eaten blood worms. The tank is cycled and I cleaned the glass, plants and hoovered the gravel and changed about 10 % water last night. The brown alge is still covering everthing. I have 10 other fish in there and they seem fine. Any ideas what I can do. Thanks
Jeremy Roche - 2012-10-10 Sorry to hear that you lost the fish. Usually caused by Inadequate lighting , low oxygen, or excess silicates and nitrates, all common on a tank of this age. All will clear its self out as tank ages. Adding a pleco will help. Add more lighting and some air stones. Probably new tank conditions rather then algae. eels can be sensitive. The tank will be fine as it cycles more as it sounds like you are doing the right things!
Anonymous - 2012-10-12 Jeremy My sucker fish died yesterday as well. Its awful and dread getting up to look in the mornings. All fish are well today but I cleaned the tank again as the alge is still there. I hope I get the hang of this soon as its bloody upsetting. Thanks
Anonymous - 2015-04-12 Your tank needed salt, the slime was coat to protect itself from the bacteria in the water.
Samantha T - 2008-01-27 I have bred zig zag eels, though it happened quite by accident. They had four sessions or so of babies within a month and a half period or so. The female was rounder in the mid section but definately shorter then my male. They are very caring and were seen teaching their young to hunt blood worms in the substrate. Some of the pieces of the puzzle to help them along was an Indian almond leaf added, and the blue light to make it seem like moonlight (the IAL was added to start conditioning my halfmoon betta male also in the tank). Also, I had gone against a lot of people's advice and had bought the second zig zag with too small a tank, the lack of space turned out to never be an issue, and the fry and parents thrived. Unfortunately my female died a few months ago (she was having some issues, almost looked like she was laboring and got something stuck, no other signs of injury or sickness, plus the tank was/is healthy). Her young and mate protected her body as I tried to remove it. They noticed her gone, as well as the fry as I had to start selling them off as they got bigger. The tank is only a 30 gallon... I thought I'd share my beginner's luck.
Kevin Satterfield - 2014-10-02 I have a few eels in my tank and have been putting together accounts of eels breeding. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org