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Tire Track Eel

(Mastacembelus armatus)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Semi-aggressive   • Maximum Size: 30"
• Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons   • Water Conditions: 72-82° F, KH 10-16, pH 6.8-7.2
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Southeast Asia   • Family: Mastacembelidae
• Species: Eels   • Aquarium Type: Large-Bottom-Dweller

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Species Information

Tire Track Eel native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Tire Track Eel (Mastacembelus armatus) is a species of ray-finned spiny eel that is native to many parts of Southeast Asia ranging from India and Pakistan to Thailand and Vietnam. Like many other fish species the Tire Track Eel goes by a variety of common names including: spiny eel, Zigzag Eel, White-spotted Spiny Eel and Leopard Eel. Like many freshwater eel species the Tire Track Eel is not a true "Eel" but rather a species of elongated freshwater fish that closely resemble the appearance of a true eel.

Many freshwater aquarium hobbyists prize this species for their size, coloration and snake like appearance that many find very interesting. Their appearance includes anal and dorsal fins that are elongated and connected to the caudal fin. Their eyes have brown stripes running laterally through them, with their backs having a dark tan color and a head that is a light beige color. Their body color is a dull brown with the brown coloration fading to a tan on their belly. The body also has one to three darker longitudinal zigzag lines that connect to form a distinct reticulated pattern that is restricted to the rear two-thirds of the body.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Tire Track Eel in the home aquarium.

Due to their large adult size of nearly 30 inches in length, Tire Track Eels need a larger aquarium to be housed properly. While smaller tanks can be used during the grow out phase, the Tire Track Eel will eventually need a 75 gallon or preferably larger aquarium to comfortably house an adult specimen.

Tire Track Eels also need an aquarium setup with a deep soft substrate consisting of sand or a sand gravel mix that will allow them to burrow and forage in the substrate. As this species is known to both forage in the substrate and bury itself within the substrate, the aquarium decor should be designed with this in mind. Tire Track Eels should be housed with medium to large semi-aggressive species like large loaches, Gouramis, Knifefish, Geophagus, Acara or similar species that will both not harm the Eel or be seen as food to the Eel.

They will see smaller fish species as prey items, thus are not suitable for aquariums with small tropical community fish like barbs and tetras. They are territorial towards their own kind, thus should not be kept with other Tire Track Eels unless within a very large aquarium capable of supporting multiple territories within the tank.

Being a substrate dweller, the Tire Track Eel should have plenty of space to roam about the bottom of the aquarium and should be provided with caves, tunnels, rock crevices or similar aquarium decor to provide them shelter. Tire Track Eels do well in both freshwater and brackish water conditions; therefore, 2 teaspoons of sea salt can be added per 3 gallons of water to create brackish conditions if desired.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Tire Track Eel and provide a healthy diet.

Tire Track Eels are nocturnal carnivores in nature, where they forage for insects, insect larvae, various species of worms and other similar meaty fare. In the aquarium the Tire Track Eel will adjust to eating during periods with full aquarium lighting or in partial lighting conditions after some acclimation to the aquarium environment.

They should be fed a varied diet of foods ranging from live earthworms or black worms to frozen or pellet foods ranging from krill, plankton, tubifex worms, brine shrimp, frozen bloodworms, cyclopeeze or krill. They are also likely to forage in the substrate for plant roots or in search of insect larvae, so this should be taken into consideration when designing an appropriate aquarium setup.

Ideally you will want to feed the Tire Track Eel at least once a day as much as they will consume within a few minutes or multiple times if an increased growth rate is desired. They can easily go a few days without eating from time to time if necessary.

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