Yellowhead Moray Eel

Dark-spotted Moray Eel ~ Fimbriated Moray Eel

Family: Muraenidae Picture of a Leopard Eel, Gymnothorax sp.Gymnothorax fimbriatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I currently have 12" Fimbriated Moray living in a reef tank. I have been very lucky to not have any major incidents. Make sure you have proper hiding places... (more)  mzinn

   We bought this eel as a "Leopard Eel" but have failed to find out exactly what kind of eel it really is. This eel has the coloring and looks of the Yellowhead Moray Eel, Dark-spotted Eel, or Fimbriated Moray Eel, Gymnothorax fimbriatus. It has connected spots in a less random manner than those we've seen in Atlases, however, the moray's are known to come in a variety of patterns!

   The Yellowhead Moray Eel, Dark-spotted Eel, or Fimbriated Moray Eel is like most other, being a hardy animal that likes holes to hide in and eats live, meaty foods. This species is commonly seen and will only grow only up to 30". It is a hardy and fairly peaceful species for the marine aquarium.

   The Leopard Moray Eel, Gymnothorax undulatus, is not a good choice for a marine aquarium as they grow upwards of 6 feet!

   If you find one that is called a Leopard Moray Eel, and it has the coloration and patterning of the one above, you most likely are looking at the Yellowhead Moray Eel, Dark-spotted Eel, or Fimbriated Moray Eel rather than a "Leopard Moray Eel".

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

Geographic Distribution
Gymnothorax fimbriatus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Anguilliformes
  • Family: Muraenidae
  • Genus: Gymnothorax
  • Species: fimbriatus
Yellow Edged Moray Eel
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Yellow Edged Moray Eel - Gymnothorax flavimarginatus

The yellow edged moray eel (Gymnothorax flavimarginatus) is a member of the family Muraenidae. The yellow-edged morays commonly inhabit drop-offs in coral or rocky areas of reef flats and protected shorelines to seaward reefs. The depth of the eel in the video is evident from the need for a light. They feed on cephalopods, fishes, and crustaceans. Their distribution includes the Indo-Pacific from the Red Sea and South Africa eastward to the Tuamotus and Austral islands, north to the Ryukyu and Hawaiian islands, south to New Caledonia, and in the eastern Pacific from Costa Rica, Panama and the Galapagos Islands. They can be found at depths as deep as 150 m (500 ft.). Yellow-edged morays can reach a length of up to 240 cm. (7.9 ft.) and are suitable only for very large aquariums.

Feeding juvenile Fimbriated Eels
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Perfect captive set up for 2 young Fimbriated Eels

This video is a great example of 2 young Fimbriated Moray Eels in the same tank. They still have their very yellow head, white body and there is more spotting than bars on the body that gives away their young age. The tank for 2 of these eels should be at least 250 gallons, but only 125 gallons for one. Provide a deeper tank that is at least 24," to help prevent them from being able to leverage the lid off. Otherwise, the lid should be weighted down, and there should be no escape holes in the lid. If the lid is solid, use an air pump to keep oxygen in the space between the lid and the surface of the water, otherwise carbon dioxide will build up, suppressing the pH and causing all kinds of health problems or death!

Yellow Head Eel Feeding, Fimbriated Moray Eel adult
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Adult colored Fimbriated Moray Eel

The name Yellowhead Moray Eel comes from the typical coloring of juveniles. As you can see this adult does not have the intense yellow head, and it is showing how reclusive their nature is. Juveniles tend to be more outgoing. This eel is highly sought after due to it's beautiful coloring. Teaching it to feed off of a feeder stick may help them to possibly not eat any fish tank mates. House with fish that are twice as deep as their open mouth and over 20% of the length of the eel. For example, an adult, who is typically 32" or more can eat a fish that is deep, yet under 7," not including the fish's tail.

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Maintenance difficulty:    The Yellowhead Moray Eel, Dark-spotted Eel, or Fimbriated Moray Eel is easy to keep. Most eels are very hardy and readily eat all kinds of live and meaty foods.

Maintenance:    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:    Yellowhead Moray Eel, Dark-spotted Eel, or Fimbriated Moray Eel are found in the Indo-Pacific.

Foods:    They feed mainly on small fishes in the wild with an occasional invertebrate.

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:    Unknown.

Breeding/Reproduction:    Probably not possible in the aquarium. See Breeding Marine Fish page for a description of how they reproduce in the wild.

   Several freshwater species of eels are known to lay their eggs in the ocean and die afterwards.

Light: Recommended light levels:    No special requirements.

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

Length/Diameter of fish:    Yellowhead Moray Eel, Dark-spotted Eel, or Fimbriated Moray Eel adults can grow to 80cm (32 inches), the eel pictured above is about 16 inches long.

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 find a cave or crawl under a rock and spend most of their time there with only their heads sticking out.

Availability:    This fish is available from time to time.

Author: David Brough. CFS.
Lastest Animal Stories on Yellowhead Moray Eel

mzinn - 2003-08-04
I currently have 12" Fimbriated Moray living in a reef tank. I have been very lucky to not have any major incidents.

Make sure you have proper hiding places in at least 2 in different parts of the tank.

Fish in my tank include: Sohal/Yellow/Kole/Naso Tangs, Cherry Grouper, Green Bird Wrasse, Speckled Hawkfish.

Also, the eel loves the cleaner shrimp station. Lets him go all over and inside his mouth.

I have only had him for a short time, but so far so good.

Ley - 2011-12-15
Hi ihave leopard eel about a meter long had it for about 2years always feeding fine 2months ago got in found it on the floor still alive put it back in the tank and started giving out this slimy stuff then went back to normal behaves well doesn't look any thinner but hasn't eaten in two months now tried all kinds of food live dead frozen fish shrimp don't now what to ddo can anyone help plz

Ryan M - 2007-03-23
I purchased a fimbriated moray a month ago. Tankmates: four 6 inch columbian sharks, a 5 inch sailfin tang, two yellow mimic tangs, and a volitans lionfish. Within 24 hours, one of the sharks was gone, and that solved the problem of what i was going to feed it ($3.98 each)... The lionfish and the moray seem to have a polite respect for eachother. And the mimics and the sailfin try to harrass the moray, competing for hiding places. I ran out of decent sized sharks and started feeding the eel medium rosys, 3 or 4 at a time, what a time I had trying to keep the lionfish from eating itself to death while the eel fed. The sailfin succumbed to the moray a short while after, and the larger columbians were rescued and put in a brackish water tank. The mimics continue to press their luck, so far this moray has cost me $70 in fish, and is gonna cost me another $120, but at least it will be well fed!!

  • Dez - 2010-10-20
    I have a yellow head and a stars and stripe puffer, Mr moray ripped him in half very evil fish!
mrussell - 2010-04-10
Our darn yellow-edged moray eel just ate the volitan lionfish that has been in the same tank with him for well over a year now! The eel is always well fed, so I don't know what his problem was today. It was a pretty large lion too! He left no evidence behind. We came home and the lion is nowhere to be found..... and Mr. Eel seems to not be hungry for his jumbo shrimp today.