Yellow-Head Moray Eel

Gymnothorax fimbriatus

DifficultyEasy
Minimum Tank Size125 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionSemi-Aggressive
Size2' 6"

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel is one of the smaller moray eels we can bring to the home aquarium. They are not too difficult to care for and help create an interesting display tank.

As their name would suggest they have bright yellow heads, with a long white body covered with black splotches. Their dorsal fin runs from the top of their head to their tail, giving them a flowing fin atop their muscular body.

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel has razor teeth and can actively hunt tank mates, meaning this eel should not be kept with fish you cannot afford to lose. Depending on how the eel is cared for, they can be peaceful enough to keep with many other fish. We will go over this more in depth later in the aggression section.

Moray eels are intelligent and despite common beliefs can see people that are a few feet away from the tank. They will identify between different people, what the people are holding and the time of day. Feeding tongs during their feeding hours will excite them. Those same tongs won’t even get their attention other times.

Combining all these features shows why eels tanks are my all time favorite. They are extremely interactive, easy enough to keep and beautiful to watch.

Growth Rate

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel will often be sold at a very small size, often under a foot in length, which can be very misleading to newer aquarist. These eels will reach at least two and a half feet, often times getting bigger than that.

When starting out the Yellow-Head Moray Eel can be placed in a smaller tank, but do not plan on keeping them in anything under 100 gallons for long. Eels will grow in just a couple of months, both in length and width. Make sure their final tank will be ready to accept them before they out grow any temporary tanks. Eels are very hardy and should not be too bothered by changing tanks, so don’t worry too much about a short term tank.

While a two and a half foot eel does not sound too big, they get surprisingly thick, making them very strong fish. This means they can move around rocks while trying to wriggle through them or push off lids to escape the tank.

Note: Always keep their tanks sealed with heavy lids and absolutely no small holes. Eels will find any exit they can and won’t think twice about hopping out of the tank. In the ocean they would just roll into more water, so their is no built in fear of death when exiting their aquarium.

Diet & Feeding

Right away I want to clearly state do not feed an eel by hand. Even smooth teeth eels like the snowflake eel can do some damage if they get a good bite on our hands. Unlike a pebble tooth eel, the Yellow-Head Moray Eel has extremely sharp teeth which will have no trouble cutting you and causing infections.

This eel will be happy eating shrimp, mussels, silversides, crabs, both frozen and live fish as well as squid. They will eat two or three times a week when fed large meals, more often when fed smaller meals.

While moray Eels have bad eye sight they will usually notice the food you put in the tank right away. Here are some tips when it comes to feeding eels:

  • Use tongs or a non sharp skewer to feed
  • Hold the food in front of the eel, shaking the food occasionally
  • Do not simply drop food in the tank
  • Avoid live feeder fish if possible
  • Feed just before or after the lights go out

Wooden tongs are the best tool, as they can hurt their teeth if they bite into metal. As eels use their heightened sense of smell to find food, keeping close and shaking occasionally makes it very easy to pinpoint the foods location. If you drop the food into the tank it may go unnoticed for a long time, leaving the eel hungry and contaminating the tank. Feeding at night will have a higher success rate as they are nocturnal hunters. Feeder fish will entice the eel to hunt any free swimming fish, endangering any tankmates you have or may add in the future.

Feeding slowly often leads to more calm eels, which can coexist with other fish.

Eels are messy eaters and will require strong filtration. A powerful protein skimmer is also recommended, as they can remove debris from the tank before they have a chance to break down.

Aggression

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel is semi-aggressive, which really means it can vary wildly just how aggressive the eel is. Those who are fed frozen foods in a calm manner are much more likely to sit idly by and let fish swim past them undisturbed. On the opposite end eels fed more erratically, like tug of war with the feeding tong, or live fish will view moving fish as targets and can strike whenever they are hungry enough.

This brings me to my second point. An eels aggression is tied directly to how well fed they are. The hungrier an eel is the more likely they are to strike for food. Try to feed your eel on a schedule to avoid any unwanted aggression.

Breeding & Gender

Moray eels cannot be bred in the home aquarium realistically. Likewise there is no real way to tell the gender of the Yellow-Head Moray Eel. Many eels will change gender while aging, so this is likely a moot point anyways as they will change to whichever gender is appropriate if there are multiple eels.

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