There are many varieties of freshwater fish that people include in their aquariums.
Whether you want a small or large fish, the combination choices you have are endless.
One unique choice for a pet fish owner is freshwater aquarium eels.
Like other fish, these come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. You can find the perfect freshwater eel to liven up your tank.
But, just like any other fish, eels require specific care to keep them happy and healthy.
Here’s a small guide to freshwater eels and how to care and provide for them.
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Types of Freshwater Eels for Aquariums
There are some eels that are just better equipped for tank life. They have adaptations that allow them to fit right in.
They’re also easy to manage and get along well with other fish. Here are some of the types of freshwater eels for your aquarium.
1. Tire Track Eel
One eel that’s a very popular choice among aquarists is the Tire Track Eel. This eel is both familiar, but unfamiliar to people at the same time.
Many people confuse the Tire Track eel with many other types of eels because of its similar markings.
The Tire Track eel has zigzagged markings along its fullback that go until the middle of its belly. An eel expert can tell you that these types of markings are found on many eels.
This is why it’s confusing for first-time eel buyers to see the differences between the eels. However, the markings are similar, but not exactly the same, and that’s what makes the Tire Track eel unique.
Aside from its markings, the Tire Track Eel is an all-around great eel to have. Like most eels, it lives a peaceful life and isn’t very aggressive around other fish.
The Tire Track eel tends to be a little elusive when you first add it to your tank but don’t worry. This is normal behavior among eels and gets better over time.
Just like many other eels, the Tire Track eel lives a mostly sedentary life. It likes to hide among the sand and other hard-to-see areas. For this reason, it’s a good idea to include rocks and other hiding places for your eel.
This eel can grow up to two and a half feet in a tank, so you need an aquarium with a large capacity to hold it comfortably. Of course, you want your eel to swim freely and easily, so you need a tank that’s quite large.
2. Zig Zag Eel
An eel that’s often confused with the Tire Track Eel is the Zig Zag eel. This eel looks similar to the Tire Track, which is why many new pet owners unknowingly purchase them.
However, there are some differences between the two that can help you identify them. For starters, the markings on the two are a tad different.
For the Tire Track Eel, these markings are less apparent than those of the Zig Zag eel. While both eels have these marks, the Zig Zag eels are more concentrated on the upper half of its body.
Another big difference between the two is their size. They both start off as a few inches. But as adults, there’s a big difference.
The Tire Track eel grows up to be around 28 inches long. That’s a pretty big size, but the Zig Zag eel is even bigger. It grows to be a massive 35 inches!
While this really isn’t an issue while the eels are young and small, they can quickly outgrow their tank. If you unknowingly buy the wrong eel, you’re going to have to change the tank pretty quickly to fit it.
The Zig Zag eel is an excellent option for someone who’s looking for a lifelong pet. They live for up to 18 years, making them a perfect part of the family.
3. Black Spotted Eel
First up is the Black Spotted Eel. The Black Spotted Eel is an excellent starter freshwater eel because it’s very easy going.
These eels grow up to be 20 inches in length and have long lifespans. They can live between 8-18 years, sometimes even longer with excellent care and diet.
The Black Spotted Eel is named so because of its black spots. These are found all over the eel in horizontal lines. Smaller eels have fewer dots, but they’re larger in size compared to larger eels.
The Black Spotted Eel is a friendly type, but they’re a little shy. You need to include places for it to retreat and hide in your tank, especially when you first get it. They’re shy, but they still make great additions to your tank.
4. Electric Eel
Next is the classic electric eel. An Electric Eel is another great option for aquarium enthusiasts.
However, because they produce large amounts of electricity, they’re better for experienced handlers.
As far as general specifications for this freshwater eel go, it can grow up to be quite large, even in a tank. You can expect it to grow up to almost five feet long. They also live for around 15 years, making them a great lifelong pet.
Electric Eels are one of the more dangerous options because they can stun inexperienced handlers. They are recommended for experienced aquarium owners, specifically with eel types.
Aside from that, these eels come up for air every once in a while. They need to have around six inches of empty space between the water and the lid of the tank. Sand is an excellent option for substrate as they can burrow in it.
5. Peacock Eel
Another beautiful option for freshwater aquarium eels is the peacock eel. This eel has unique markings that slightly resemble a peacock’s plumage. There are usually three to six of these types of spots.
The Peacock Eel is one of the smaller eels available for aquariums. They grow up to be just under a foot long so you don’t need a huge tank. A tank that’s 36 inches long and can hold 35 gallons is a good starting point.
These types of eels make great pets because they get along well with their fish neighbors. They also eat very well, so it’s a good option for first-timers as they’re not picky.
One thing to remember with Peacock Eels is that they’re very good at escaping. It’s important to ensure you have a very secure lid on top of them. You don’t want your eel to slither away!
6. Half-Banded Spiny Eel
If you’re looking for an even smaller eel, the Half-banded Spiny eel is an excellent option. This eel is perfect for those owners who are looking for a space-saving option when it comes to buying a tank.
The Half-banded spiny eel only grows to be a few inches long, at most eight! This means you can easily make their home in a 10-gallon tank without having to worry about a cramped space for them.
This is a nocturnal animal, so you may not see it throughout the day. It also likes to bury in the sand and other substrates, so it’s important to include that in the environment.
The Half-banded spiny eel makes a good neighbor. They live well with fish that are bigger than them.
Just be careful with placing them with fish two inches or smaller, as they may think they’re food.
7. Pink Paddletail Eel
If you like to keep exotic and hard-to-get pets, the Pink Paddletail eel is the way to go. This eel is one of the rarest eels available for aquarium living. It’s a great pet to splurge on!
The Pink Paddletail eel is also endearingly known as the ‘Purple Spaghetti Eel’. This is because this eel has a beautiful rosy purplish tint to its skin. It’s also quite long and skinny like a piece of spaghetti.
This eel is very elusive because even though it lives in a tiny area in your tank, it loves to hide!
These eels need a good amount of fine sand as the substrate in their tank. They spend most of the day hidden in this sand and very rarely come out.
Although the Pink Paddletail eel is a good hider, when you do catch a glimpse of it, it’s absolutely stunning. They’re a great pet for aquarists that love all things exotic.
8. African Spiny Eel
The African Spiny eel is an excellent choice for aquarists that have darker tanks. These eels fit right into their surroundings and can easily hide among the foliage.
An African Spiny eel is a dark eel. They’re usually brown and black in color and have markings across their backs. This can include spots or lines of black color.
The African Spiny eel grows up to around six inches in length. They’re perfect for smaller tanks. They’re even great if you have smaller fish because they don’t take up much space.
The only thing to be wary of with smaller fish is that, just like other eels, they can mistake them for food. Slightly larger fish or slightly smaller fish are fine, just keep them away from very small fish.
A unique quality for this eel is that even though they’re shy when you first add them to your tank, they quickly warm up. Some have even been known to eat food from their owner’s hands!
How to Care for Freshwater Eels?
When it comes to caring for freshwater eels, luckily they require similar environments. All eels need mostly the same things, except for the size of the tank.
When creating a good environment for your eel, remember that they like to hide. You need to include a sandy or fine gravel substrate for them to do this. It’s also a good idea to create naturally hidden places they can retreat into.
Your eel also needs soft to medium water that has plenty of oxygenation. This means you need a great filter and maintenance is required to keep it up to speed at all times.
Your eel also loves dimmer light. You can either get an LED light with dimming capabilities or just put them in a naturally dimly lit area.
What to Feed Freshwater Eels?
No matter which eel you get, you need a good supply of ‘meat’ for it. Although they’re technically omnivores, they love to eat a variety of meats.
Eels enjoy eating meats like brine shrimp, bloodworms, earthworms, and black worms. You can give them both fresh and freeze-dried foods.
They also enjoy the occasional live food, as long as it’s small enough to fit in their mouth. Your eel might even eat smaller fish in your tank, so be wary of placing them with tiny fish.
Even though eels seem intimidating, it’s very easy to care for them once you know-how. Not only that, but they can provide an excellent exotic touch to your tank.
With good care, they can live for many years and become a lifelong friend.