Things to Know About the Snowflake Eel
Snowflake eels are one of the most gorgeous pet fish you can get. And, it may feel surprising given that they are carnivore eels, but they are actually pretty easy to look after too. As long as you have the space and resources for an extra-large fish tank you should have a relatively easy time looking after these beauties.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do quite a bit of research and preparation, however. When we say that snowflake eels are easy to take care of we don’t mean that they are simple to look after. There are dozens of important considerations you’ll need to make and we’ll try to cover all of them below.
So, what are the 23 crucial things to know about the snowflake eel?
The 12 things you should consider before buying a Snowflake Eel pet
Snowflake eels have as many names as they have unique characteristics. These fantastic fish are also known as snowflake morays, clouded moray eels, white and zebra moray eels, starry eels, floral eels, and Bosch’s eels. All these attempt to describe the gorgeous color pattern of the snowflake eel. We are partial to “Rorschach eel” but, that’s just us.
These carnivore eels come from the Indo-Pacific ocean, more specifically the reef waters between Hawaii and Australia, and westward through the Indian Ocean all the way to the East African coast. This should give you an idea as to what water and climate these eels are used to. Keep that in mind when we discuss the specifics about the aquarium and water you’ll need below.
Snowflake eels are bottom-dwellers. They like sticking to the bottom of their sea (and, respectively, their aquariums). This is important to note as you’ll have to adjust your aquarium’s interior design to the eel’s preferences.
Adult snowflake eels can grow up to 24 inches, i.e. 2 feet or 60 cm. This makes them quite long so they are not your everyday small aquarium fish. We’ll discuss the specifics below but suffice it to say that you’ll need a lot of space for this fish’s aquarium.
Snowflake eels live up to 4 years in captivity even with the best of care. This is quite a short lifespan for such a large fish so you should keep it in mind. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course – it all depends on how long you want your fish for. Given how much of an investment the aquarium is, however, you probably want such pets for the long term so you’ll need to get new eels or other fish from time to time.
These fish may look cute but don’t forget that they are vicious predators. They are not exactly “social” pets so things such as putting your hand in the tank or anything like it are absolutely unacceptable if you value your well-being. This may sound like a no-brainer but it should be said as it’s common for kids to play around with aquariums.
If you do have small children or if/when you have guests with kids over, it’s vital that you make sure no one plays with the snowflake eel’s aquarium in a dangerous manner. Looking from outside and tapping the glass is one thing but anything more can get people in trouble.
These fish are quite healthy overall so you shouldn’t have too much trouble with their well-being. Of course, this is only true if you take good care of them.
These moray eels can be a bit shy the first few weeks after putting them in a new environment. This is normal, to an extent, and shouldn’t worry you too much. As long as their aquarium is set up well and offers enough hiding places, they will adapt after a while and loosen up.
- If snowflake eels are aggressive predators does this mean they can only ever be alone in their aquarium? Not at all – snowflake eels are actually not that aggressive for a predator fish and are considered less aggressive than other saltwater morays. This means that you can house them together with other fish but it depends on what type of fish we’re talking about. The acceptable housemates of snowflake eels include:
Other snowflake eels provided that they were put in the aquarium at the same time, they are of a similar size, there is enough place and hiding spots for all of them, and there’s sufficient food.
Lionfish, wrasses, triggerfish, tangs, and other large aggressive fish. Snowflake moray eels’ roommates should typically be larger than them to discourage the eels from attacking.
Starfish, sea urchins, anemones, and other invertebrates also do well with snowflake eels as they are not a part of their diet.
- Corals do well with snowflake eels too as the large predators don’t bother them either.
As for the fish that should never be housed with snowflake moray eels, these include:
All smaller fish that the snowflake eel can attack and eat either intentionally or by mistake.
All crustasceans such as shrimp, lobsters, and crabs as these are the snowflake eel’s preferred diet.
Snowflake moray eels are messy eaters. That’s largely because of the way they like to crush and tear their victims apart with their needle-like teeth. Additionally, they don’t have the best eyesight and depend mostly on their sense of smell which can lead to accidents with their roommates. That’s why it’s important that their aquarium is larger if you have more fish and you give them plenty of food to go around.
Price-wise, snowflake moray eels are surprisingly affordable. Small eels usually cost less than $100 and can be as cheap as $50 or even less! Larger eels usually go above $100 but are rarely more expensive than $200 tops.
So, is this fish right for you and your home? As long as you have the resources to set up the eel’s tank and maintain the necessary environment, you can easily be the right owner for such a pet. As for whether you’d want a snowflake eel, that’s a matter of personal preference.
5 things you need to do to prepare for a Snowflake eel pet
The first and most important step is getting the right aquarium for your fish. Snowflake moray eels need a lot of space when they are adults but they can live in smaller aquariums when they are still tiny. The bare minimum for an adult 2-foot snowflake eel tank is listed in most places as 40-gallons but we definitely recommend something along the lines of 75 gallons.
40 gallons may be all right for a lone eel but a) it won’t be happy and b) you can really add any tankmates with the eel in such a small space or there will be accidents. For a small eel that hasn’t reached full size yet, a 20-gallon tank can suffice. However, you will need to move the eel into a larger place soon. Snowflake eels usually reach full size in just 6 months so you should have a large tank ready before that point.
The tank of a snowflake moray eel should have a wide floor space rather than being needlessly tall. That’s because these eels are bottom-dwellers and like to keep to the ocean’s floor. This brings up the point of the aquarium’s interior design. A good snowflake moray eel’s tank should include:
At least a couple of large and suitably-sized caves which the eel will call home. Three or more caves are preferable and there should be at least one more for every other eel or fish you add.
Plenty of rock formations for the eel to swim around. This will stimulate the appearance of an ocean’s floor and will help the eel feel comfortable. Remember that these fish are pretty strong and powerful so any decoration should be sturdy and well-stacked so that it doesn’t fall over.
Additional cave-like decoration such as tunnels is also recommended as it would give your eel more things to do and have fun with.
Over-the-floor decorations such as corals and seaweeds will make your tank look and feel much better for both you and your eel.
Snowflake eels are notorious escape artists so you should make sure your tank is 100% safe and fool-proof. This includes the cover of the tank as a snowflake eel can easily escape from there too. Most eels that die in hobbyist tanks do so by escaping from poorly sealed tanks. Any hole in the tank’s canopy or even just a not-fully-sealed edge that the eel can turn into a whole can be a problem. Snowflake eels are also known to slide out through the PVC plumbing into the aquarium sump or filter bags.
As we said, snowflake moray eels are very messy eaters so your aquarium’s filtration system should be top-notch. The exact type and brand is up to you and we won’t advertise any specific product but do make sure that your system is well set up and of high enough quality. To add to that point, if you have corals in your tank you should also have a good protein skimmer. This will aid the coral’s long-term health as the mess after the eel’s meals can be damaging to the corals.
- If you want to look after fish you’ll need a good vet with experience with fish in your vicinity. If this is your first fish you may be surprised at the notion of a fish vet. However, not only do these exist but it’s perfectly normal and recommended that you take your fish to the vet when you see something out of the ordinary. If you don’t have a fish-friendly vet near you, you may have to accept that you won’t be able to help your fish when need be.
The 6 keys to success for any Snowflake Eel owner
Snowflake eels are both carnivores and nocturnal so you’ll need to feed your pet in the evening. The easiest and best meals to offer your eel include frozen or freeze-dried fish, shrimp, krill, squid, octopus, clams, krill feeder fish, and scallops.
Some other meaty foods can work too and should be enriched with vitamins. However, in the first few weeks of owning a snowflake moray eel, you should probably feed it with fresh and live ghost shrimps. That’s because eels need time to get accustomed to frozen food. Here’s a cool video guide on how to safely and easily feed snowflake eels.
Whatever you do, do not feed your eel freshwaters feeder fish such as rosy reds or goldfish. These are not part of a saltwater eel’s diet and can easily cause liver disease.
Snowflake moray eels should be fed several times a week, depending on the size of the meal. Don’t be too worried if they don’t seem too hungry at times as that’s normal. Snowflake eels can even go into hibernation at times and not eat food for several weeks. Still, calling your vet is advisable if that happens.
These saltwater fish need a water pH of 8.1 to 8.4. Anything above or below that can be disastrous for their health.
The water hardness you’ll need to maintain for snowflake eels can range between 8 and 12 dGH.
Next, you should make sure that you maintain aquarium temperatures of between 72 to 80o F (22 to 27o C) at all times.
If you want to breed your snowflake eels you should note that there aren’t actually any noticeable physical differences between the two sexes of these animals. This can make breeding them surprisingly complicated. Assuming you’ve got the right sexes, snowflake eels reproduce by scattering their eggs all over the place. They often engage in fun midwater mating dances too.
They are pretty difficult to propagate in a hobbyist tank so it’s usually advised to just not bother unless you’re a professional breeder.
- If you see any change in the eel’s behavior or visual appearance, you should take it to the vet immediately. This
may sound complicated if you haven’t owned fish before but it’s actually pretty simple – all you need is a good net
to catch the eel with and a smaller temporary tank to drop it in and transport it with. As long as that secondary
tank is fully sealed and secure, there should be no accidents. You can even use plastic bags if they are sturdy and
secure enough but you’ll probably need a small tank for an adult
eel. Here’s a nice video to give you an idea as to how that’s done.
The changes in behavior we mean can include a decreased interest in food, buoyancy issues (not swimming normally), atypical position in the tank, and so on. Any change in the physical appearance of the eel or physical harm due to an altercation with another fish should also be obvious immediate signs of trouble.