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Spotted Garden Eel

(Heteroconger hassi)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Expert   • Temperament: Semi-Aggressive   • Maximum Size: 16"
• Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons   • Water Conditions: 72-80° F, dKH 8-12, pH 8.1-8.4, sg 1.020-1.025
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Indo-Pacific, Red Sea
• Family: Congridae   • Species: Eels   • Aquarium Type: Fish Only

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Native Habitat and Species Information

Spotted Garden Eel native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Spotted Garden Eels (Heteroconger hassi) are an attractive and highly interesting species of eel that live in large colonies (commonly in the hundreds to thousands) that prefer to burrow into the substrate of sandy flats and slopes along the reefs throughout the tropical waters of the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific. Spotted Garden Eels are named for their colonies being mistaken for sea grass (at a distance), which would quickly disappear into the sand bed upon closer inspection.

They have long and slender bodies (even for an eel) and have a head which looks similar to that of a dartfish; they are designed to effectively feed upon plankton in the water column and will generally face the current and wait for dinner to head their way. Spotted Garden Eels can be quite entertaining to observe and make unique additions to a peaceful aquarium, although they have special needs and are a very timid species. Spotted Garden Eels are generally available through online retailers, but they may also be special ordered from local stores if not on hand.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Spotted Garden Eel in the home aquarium.

Spotted Garden Eels require an aquarium of at least 125 gallons in addition to a 6" to 10" deep, sand substrate for burrowing. Although they should also be provided with a sufficient amount of live rock (relative to tank size), they require plenty of open space among the substrate for burrowing. Provide quality biological and mechanical filtration in conjunction with an efficient protein skimmer and well colonized refugium with plenty of amphipods or copepods. They also require a low to moderate current provided by the filtration "return(s)" or the addition of submersible circulation pumps.

They are known jumpers and could end up outside of the aquarium if their system is not equipped with a sealed hood or tight-fitting top. Spotted Garden Eels are generally a peaceful and timid species, although conspecific males may fight with each other if they are forced to live in close proximity (180+ gallons is necessary for multiple specimens). Their tank mates should be chosen carefully and should not be a species that may harass or bully them; in the wild they are often attacked by heterospecific eels and the larger Triggerfish. They are reef compatible, but have been known to eat small fish species and small crustaceans in addition to their staple, planktonic diet. Their ideal setup would be a peaceful, community or "species only" reef or FOWL system with plenty of sandy real estate providing multiple choices for burrowing sites.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to feed and provide proper nutrition for Spotted Garden Eel.

Spotted Garden Eels eat copious amounts of plankton from the substrate and water column within their natural habitat. In an aquarium environment they should be provided with a constant supply of live amphipods, copepods, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, and the occasional, small "feeder" fish. They should also be offered a variety of fresh, frozen, prepared, and vitamin-enriched, meaty choices of brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, krill, silver sides, chopped crab meat, and other chopped, fresh seafoods. Feed two to three times a day.

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