Animal Stories - Zig Zag Eel

Animal-World Information about: Zig Zag Eel

The Zig Zag Eel is a long time aquarium favorite, and it has been known for over 200 years!
Latest Animal Stories
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.

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  • 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
  • Thinus - 2017-08-13
    hi i bought 2 zig zag eels last week and this morning when i woke there is alot of round puffy balls in my tank is that eggs?
  • Anonymous - 2022-03-07
    Why wont my zig zag eel eat anything
Clifton Tobin - 2015-11-24
I would like to buy some zig zag eels or tire track eels really any would be cool would really love to find a rubber eel

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?

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  • 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.
Kate - 2012-03-25
My daughter has an eel, when is a good time to feed them since they hide all day? I haven not seen he/she eat yet. We were told to feed it either blood worms or flake food. Have been feeding it flake food because that is what the other fish eat.

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  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-03-25
    I would also try some brine shrimp. Doubt they will thrive or even eat flake.
  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-03-25
    Early morning before lights go on or at night. It will learn to eat around your schedule eventually.
  • Anonymous - 2013-08-22
    Drop bloodworms wherever it hides at dusk. These Eels won't accept flakes I have had spiny eels and never once have they accepted anything but bloodworms and tubifex worms.
Anonymous - 2013-07-01
Quick question. Can you put plecos with mastacembelus? I have a mastacembelus liberiensis in a 75 gallon tank with electric blue jack dempsey, salvini, and a firemouth. I was looking to get a bulldog pleco or a small pleco but can't find a solid answer on their compatibility with mastacembelus.

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  • Anonymous - 2013-07-02
    I was more worried about the eel. Since the eels are so sensitive and I want to know if they could harm my eel.
Amp Lacasse - 2013-03-15
Hi there I have a zig zag eel I purchased about 2 months ago, I was told it was a fire eel by the fish store at purchase but soon realized I was misinformed! Regardless of that point my eel is about 5' in length and I am looking to relocate my family and am wondering the best way to transport the eel. The drive will be at least 17 hours up to about 30 hours depending on the destination my job takes me. So would it be best to transport my tank with my family and I in our vehicle so I can keep everything plugged into a powerful adapter to keep everything running or will the eel survive the drive in a trailer? To be honest I have become quite attached to the eel and would hate for anything to happen on the drive! P.S the eel is currently in a 20g tank so it would be quite easy to transport in my family vehicle but will be moving him to a 55g tank once moved.

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  • Jeremy Roche - 2013-03-16
    I would use a bucket in car to stay warm and get a battery powered pump with airstones.
  • Amp Lacasse - 2013-03-16
    Thank you ill try that
Anonymous - 2013-01-25
It's 45 inches it ate my tiger fish.

anonymous - 2012-12-07
I bought 2 Zig zags and introduced them to the tank along with: neon tetras(5 new 3 were some of the 1st i got), ghost shrimp, angle fish, ruby barbs(some of the 1st fish i had) and a snail i know they might eat the G-shrimp but anything else i should watch out for? (eels attacking/eating anyone else)

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  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-12-08
    Normal best to only have one zigzag depending on the size of tank.  Your biggest problem may be them being territorial towards each other.   Make sure to have enough hiding areas so each can have their own space. As far as the other fish, these eels are normally peaceful but will sometimes grab a fish small enough to fit in their mouth.The ghost shrimp will most likely be eaten as they spend time on the bottom.  The others are really to fast moving and tend to stay out of the eels territory anyways.

Tavo - 2012-11-29
Hi, I got a zigzag eel 2 weeks ago and the pet shop told me it will live with my other fish. I have molly and blue sharkfish in my tank. Today I found one of my mollys dead with its eyes and tail missing. Would that be from the eel? Should I take the eel back? Thanks

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  • Jeremy Roche - 2012-11-29
    These eels are normally peaceful.  They will eat fish that will fit in their mouth though.  So it is possible.  It could be your shark though.