General Information:

Snake Eels burrow into soft substrate, remaining hidden during the day and then come out at night to hunt. They will bury themselves into the substrate with just their heads sticking out. They can burrow very fast and do it with the tips of their tails.

The Banded Snake Eel is yellowish white to white with 25 to 32 narrow black rings. Black spots may appear between the rings as the eel ages.

Banded or Harlequin Snake Eel, Myrichthys colubrinus

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Newly purchased snake eel

The Banded Snake Eel, also referred to as the Harlequin Snake Eel will grow to just shy of 3 feet. They each have their own tastes when it comes to food, so you need to use trial and error. Some like the thawed krill, some like silversides, some like squid… you get my point. They need to be in a tank that is at least 4 feet long and 24″ high so they cannot leverage themselves out of a shallower tank. If you are keeping them in a quarantine tank that is not as deep, keep a rock on the lid so they cannot escape. If you pinky fits, so will their body!

Scientific/Common Names

The scientific name for the Banded Snake Eel is Myrichthys colubrinus. Banded Snake Eels are a member of the Ophichthidae Family, the Snake Eels. There are more than 500 species of eels (fresh and saltwater) belonging to 20 families. The moray eels (Family Muraenidae) are the most common and the ones usually found in the home aquaria trade. They are in the Order Anguilliformes (eels and morays) and the Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes).

Other common names for the Myrichthys colubrinus are:

  • Banded snake eel, Limwaremwarebuul (Micronesia)
  • Broadnose worm eel (US)
  • Gatamea (Samoa)
  • Geringde-slangpaling, Ringed snake-eel (South Africa)
  • Hagman-lisadso (Marshall Island)
  • Harlequin snake eel (Australia and Papua N. Guin)
  • Korallankerias (Finland)
  • Murène serpent annelée (Maldives)
  • Puhi popooru (Tahiti)
  • Shima-umihebi (Japan)

In The Wild

The Banded Snake Eel is native to the Indo-Pacific region. They are found from the Red Sea south to Delagoa Bay of Mozambique and east to the Society Islands of French Polynesia.

In nature, they are found in shallow sandy flats and seagrass beds and are considered reef-associated. They feed on small fishes and sometimes invertebrates.

Home Aquaria

These eels will usually stay near the bottom of your tank, burying themselves into your tank’s substrate (make sure you’ve got a thick substrate!). Remember, the eel will bury itself with only it’s head sticking out so make sure you know where the eel is before going into your tank and make sure you remember to feed your buried friend!

Food is found mostly through their sense of smell. Their eyesight is poor (but they are not blind) so watch your fingers! You must give them plenty of room, a place to hide and plenty of food. The Banded Snake Eel will get along with other tankmates as long as they aren’t small enough for it to eat.

This eel doesn’t require anything special as far as lighting, water movement, and temperature – normal saltwater tank parameters should be maintained. Adult Banded Snake Eels can grow to 30 inches (75 cm). Because of their potential size, a 60 gallon tank is the minimum size recommended.

In the April 1999 issue of Fish ‘N’ Chips (, I published an article called Unsuitable Marine Fish For Captivity by Mark T. Taber. This article contained a list composed by Frank M. Greco, Aquarium System Operator of a marine fish forum on the Microsoft Network. The Banded Snake Eel is listed as unsuitable by Mr. Greco. I have emailed Mr. Greco requesting information on why the Banded Snake Eel is listed as unsuitable. If I receive a response from Mr. Greco, I will let everyone know via an update in a future issue. Taking an educated guess, based on the research I’ve done for this article, the only reason this fish would be listed as unsuitable would be it’s potential size. But, I could be wrong, and only Mr. Greco knows why he listed the fish as unsuitable.

Foods & Feeding

An easy critter to keep, most eels are hardy and will eat all kinds of live and meat foods (shrimp, squid, and chopped fish). Offer your eel squid as a treat, in the wild, squid is a delicacy. In captivity, they have been observed by some to only eat only dead fish, so can be completely reef safe.

It may be necessary to offer foods to your eel with a poker. Place the food right in front of the eel’s mouth. It is possible for the eel to go for several weeks without food. I found research that says they often do.


I found nothing in my research on sexing or breeding the Banded Snake Eel.

Moray Eels are not usually bred in captivity. They do not breed until they have grown very large, by then, they’ve outgrown most aquariums. Female morays will spawn with one male or several smaller ones. The eggs are released at dusk and are pelagic. The larval stage of the eel lasts for six to ten months. Remember, the Moray Eel and the Banded Snake Eel are from the same Order, but not the same Family and the reproduction information here may or may not provide similarities to the Banded Snake Eels’ breeding behavior.


Store: My local fish store (Queens, NY, USA) doesn’t have any eels for sale so I could not get a pet store price for you.
US Dollars: From $22.00 to $50.00. Prices mostly depend on the size of the eel.
Canadian Dollars: I found no Canadian sites selling this eel.
This fish is only sometimes available for purchase.

A word of caution for those considering purchasing this fish (online or otherwise), I found that most sites listed this eel with varying common and scientific names. The true Banded Snake Eel is Myrichthys colubrinus and it should not be listed as a Moray. There is a Banded Moray (also called Ringed Moray or Girdled Moray), but it’s scientific name is Echidna polyzona (another reference says Echidna pozyzona). Most of the sites selling a “Banded Eel” listed it with a scientific name of Echidna polyzona or pozyzona, so buyer beware!

 Banded snake eel (Image Credit: Nhobgood, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)