Banded Snake Eel

Harlequin Eel

Family: Ophichthidae Picture of a Banded Snake EelMyrichthys colubrinusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
Latest Reader Comment - See More
My banded snake eel won't eat and I can't put the food front of home cause he is under the sand or swimming away from it  Lakeland

   Don't let this one get lost in the gravel!

The Banded Snake Eel or Harlequin Eel like to bury themselves in the gravel with only their head poking out so don't forget to seek it out and feed it every so often.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Marine Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Myrichthys colubrinus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Anguilliformes
  • Family: Ophichthidae
  • Genus: Myrichthys
  • Species: colubrinus
Banded Snake Eel

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Banded Snake Eel (Myrichthys columbrinus) displaying typical aquarium behavior.

While the Banded Snake Eel does like to bury itself in the sand, it does become quite active once it senses food. As you can see by the way the eel is "sniffing" around, their eye sight is not perfect. The aquarist is feeding the Banded Snake Eel, krill, which is one of the best foods. Feeding in the same spot in your tank is the best bet, since they will learn where to look. They are easy to feed and care for, with the usual demise being a way out of the tank and onto the floor. Please make sure your lid has no openings and feed your eel when you see him out. They generally come out when hungry and will look everywhere, including the carpet for food!

Maintenance difficulty:

   The Banded Snake Eel or Harlequin Eel is easy to keep. Most eels are very hardy and readily eat all kinds of live and meaty foods.


   Feed all kinds of live fish and meaty foods. Use a poker if necessary at first to place the food right in front of their mouth. Don't worry if it doesn't eat for a while at first, they can go for several weeks without food (and often do).

Habitat: Natural geographic location:

   Banded Snake Eel or Harlequin Eel are found in the Indo-Pacific.


   They feed mainly on small fishes in the wild with an occasional invertebrate. In captivity they have been observed by some to eat only dead fish.

Social Behaviors:

   Sociable and peaceful, can be considered a community fish as long as the tankmates are not small enough to eat!

Sex: Sexual differences:



   Not accomplished in captivity.

Light: Recommended light levels:

   No special requirements.


   No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 74 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

Length/Diameter of fish:

   Banded Snake Eel or Harlequin Eel adults can grow to 75 cm (30 inches).

Minimum Tank Length/Size:

   A minimum 60 gallon aquarium is recommended.

Water Movement: Weak, Moderate, Strong

   No special requirements.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom

   Will generally stay in the bottom of the aquarium. Will bury themselves in the gravel with only their heads sticking out.


   This fish is available from time to time.

Author: David Brough. CFS.
Lastest Animal Stories on Banded Snake Eel

Lakeland - 2011-10-11
My banded snake eel won't eat and I can't put the food front of home cause he is under the sand or swimming away from it

Carrie - 2011-08-25
I have owned Myrichthys maculosus. This eel is from the SAME genus. They do NOT like live items. They are carrion eaters and will be quite happy eating thawed silversides (feed according to their size) and any other thawed fish. They like thawed kill as well. The ONLY problem with these fish is they are escape artists. Gravel will harm them. They need a sand bed FREE of sharp objects like crushed coral. They stay under the sand for several days and come out to eat when hungry. If you must hand feed them, do it near the bottom of the tank so they do not associate the top of the tank with food.... which will lead to their escape. If you DO find yours on the ground, put it back in the tank for an hour or so, as they do go into hibernation if exposed to the air too long.

they WILL NOT eat live fish..... their sense of smell is only tuned into DEAD flesh. PERFECT snake eel for the reef!

    japs - 2008-04-08
    It's really a cool pet but I am a bit worried because he hasn't eaten yet. I tried to feed him but he ignores the food that I am giving, instead he tries to escape, pretty sneaky. He is already 20 inches long and one finger thick.

    • marco - 2010-04-05
      Yeah it really is cool but it's pretty should put a screen on it with tiny holes just small enough for the air to come in..thats what I their first day in the fish tank,they had managed to escape..I found the one under the cabinet and the other one on the floor..too lucky they didn't die.
    • ron - 2010-12-06
      I'm here in the philippines and I bought one of these eels for US$1.. I'm not sure if they were smuggled that's why they're so cheap.. and..... the vendor told me that they were a harmless banded eel and it was with a small fish together with the eel inside a sealed plastic bag with oxygen when I bought it... it was it's first day tonight.... in my open fish tank with 6 small fishes and 1 hammer head fish...
    eel-keeper - 2007-08-13
    We "inherited" one when a friend moved. He disappears for days at a time, then shows up early in the am. He moves very quickly and I have never been able to catch him to get him out of harms way when I clean the tank, so I just hope for the best. The family who had him before thought he was like an algae eater, but I think he tends to eat my smaller fish and debris on the bottom of the tank. I've never fed him, at least on purpose.

    bluecrabber - 2007-04-13
    Just got one a few days ago in VA, USA for $40. Thought he died or something as he just disappeared for several days. Then one morning I saw his head poking through sand in front of the tank.

    He has ended up in the sump cavity on the back of my tank once. I don't really have a way to cover most of the tank because of the refugium and powerheads so i hope he doesn't bail out. I may glue some googly eyes on him if he does, kek!

    These guys go pretty deep in the sand so they may disturb a deep sand bed if you depend on one.

    It's been a week and he hasn't eaten yet.


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