Zebra Moray Eel

Family: Muraenidae Picture of a Zebra Moray EelGymnomuraena zebraPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I bought my zebra Marie Eel about five days ago he sticking his head up out of the coral but he is not moving around the Tank he eats well when I put food into the... (more)  Sidney Bragg

   A very popular and beautiful eel. The Zebra Moray Eel are very suitable to the aquarium, with specimens known to have lived in captivity for more than 20 years!

  Though rather reclusive, the reef safe Zebra Moray Eel is very peaceful and slow moving. It needs lots of rock in order to conceal its entire body, but once comfortable in its environment, it will venture out for food. Though very docile and compatible with fish, even other species of eel, its natural diet are crustaceans and it will readily snack on ornamentals. They are generally a chocolate-black, but some specimens can be more golden brown than the eel pictured here.

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

Geographic Distribution
Gymnomuraena zebra
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Anguilliformes
  • Family: Muraenidae
  • Genus: Gymnomuraena
  • Species: zebra
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.

Fire Shrimp cleaning Zebra Moray Eel Inside Mouth Symbiosis (Gymnomuraena zebra)
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Zebra Moray getting a dental check up!

This captive Zebra Moray Eel and Fire Shrimp are a perfect example of symbiosis in the marine world. The Zebra Moray, as you can see from the video has several rows of teeth that are molar shaped and numbering 2 to 3 per linear row. They are the most docile eel that you can keep in captivity, but will require a tank that is at least 250 gallons or 1,000 liters. Any crustacean or mollusk is in danger, however, even the smallest fish will be left alone! Feed them a wide variety of crab, shrimp, urchins, scallops and even squid!

Zebra Moray Eel (Gymnomuraena zebra)
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Zebra Moray Eel out and about in the tank.

This is an example of a very comfortable Zebra Moray Eel! He has come out to explore, which they will do if they have several places to hide and feel comfortable enough. The Zebra Moray will eat 3.6 times their body weight per year! They can be lighter orangish brown, brown, dark brown and even black with narrow white to pale yellow vertical bars along the body. Juveniles may have spots and dashes on the head and face area and more dashes here and there that have not extended around the body yet. Juveniles will have a smaller girth and should not be housed with large groupers, soapfish or fish eating eels that are larger than they are!

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Habitat: Natural geographic location:    Zebra Moray Eels are found in the Indo-Pacific and the tropical eastern Pacific; they cover a wide range from the Red Sea and east coast of Africa across the Indian Ocean to the Philippines and north to the Hawaiian Islands, also found in the Gulf of California off Panama, Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. They inhabit seaward reefs at depths of 20 feet to 145 feet (6 - 44 meters), dwelling close to the bottom among corals and rubble.

Status:    These fish are not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Description:    True to its name, the beautiful Zebra Moray Eel is easily recognized by its zebra striping, narrow white bands on a chocolate or golden brown background. It is also readily distinguished from other eels by a blunt rounded snout.

Length/Diameter of fish:    Adults can grow to 144 cm (57 inches), but usually only attain about 90cm (36 inches) in captivity.

Maintenance difficulty:    The Zebra Moray Eel is easy to keep once they are established in the aquarium.

Foods:    The Zebra Moray Eels are carnivores. Having blunt teeth suitable for grinding, they primarily eat crustaceans in their natural habitat, such things as crabs, snails, urchins, and mollusks. For this eel a good choice is crab meat, blue crabs with their carapace cracked works well. Also fiddler crabs are readily available. They will also eat other meaty foods such as shrimp, clams, squid, scallops and fish flesh.
   Though a very docile fish they can become a bit more aggressive when feeding and they do have a very strong bite, so it is best to feed with a feeding stick. Juveniles will eat more readily than adults and will take a wider variety of foods, however most specimens that are available are already over 17 inches (43.2 cm). Use a feeding stick if necessary at first to place the food right in front of its mouth. You can gently tap the eel's snout with the food laden stick to encourage it to eat. Don't worry if it doesn't eat for a while at first, they can go for several weeks without food (and often do).

Maintenance:    These fish are generally very easy to care for and are hardy. Provide basic marine aquarium care with a 20% water change monthly or 10% twice a month.
   For more information see, Marine Aquarium Basics: Maintenance

Aquarium Parameters:
   A reclusive fish, it needs to have plenty of rock with holes for hiding its entire body in to feel comfortable.
Minimum Tank Length/Size:
   A minimum 75 gallon (284 liters) aquarium for an adult Zebra Moray Eel.
Light: Recommended light levels
   No special requirements.
   No special requirements. Normal temperatures for marine fish is between 74° and 79° Fahrenheit.
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.

Social Behaviors:    Sociable and peaceful, can be considered a community fish as long as the tank mates are not ornamental crustaceans, they will readily snack on those. Because of their need to retreat, they are best kept in a reef aquarium, or an aquarium with lots of rock.

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!

Availability:    The Zebra Moray Eel is available from time to time. Usually it can be acquired from your pet store or found on the internet.

Author: David Brough, CFS.
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CFS.
Lastest Animal Stories on Zebra Moray Eel

Sidney Bragg - 2019-07-27
I bought my zebra Marie Eel about five days ago he sticking his head up out of the coral but he is not moving around the Tank he eats well when I put food into the tank for him he comes up and eat some food so that’s not a problem how long do you think it will be before he starts moving around the tank I have a few fish in the tank I’ve got some angel fish and I have some tangs as well is that a problem what do you guys think

Fishnerd2000 - 2014-04-27
I need help! Today when I was getting prepared to feed my snowflake eel I caught him attempting to eat my clownfish. I stopped him. WHAT Should I Do?!?! I don't want to get rid of him but I don't want him to kill my pregnant clown.

  • sarah - 2015-03-23
    Take your clown out and put him in quarantine. I had a snowflake for awhile and if he tried to eat something in the tank sooner than later it would be dead. After him killing 10+ fish I bought a second snowflake eel, they were both around 16 inches long and my first eel ate my second. The water got contaminated with chunks of eel, I couldn't get it all cleaned out and my first eel died from the poisoned water.
Harry Friedman - 2016-12-19
I recently added a second zebra moray eel with my big eel and last night found them intertwined and mating. I can't find any information online for care of eggs and then babies. Please help. I have a video of them. Very beautiful

roy conner - 2016-08-06
I have a 65 gallon salt water aquarium I had a snowflake eel and one night he jumped out of the tank and I found him dead the next day. That weekend I purchased a new moray eel which I need help identifying. He is about 12-15 inches long at the present time, he has a chocolate brown head and his body is beige color with horizontal brown stripes running from his backbone to his belly. He regularly eats silver-sides I don't know what his species is can you help me please