The family of the Morays.

Moray eels are members of the Muraenidae family. The family includes 15 genera and more than 200 individual species that fall under the collective name Moray eels. They are most common in the tropical regions of the world, but populations also exist in the subtropical regions. This scaleless, snake-like hunter grows to anywhere from 12 inches to 15 feet in length, depending on the species involved. Slender giant moray eels are the longest. Giant moray eels are stockier in body, reaching only 3 meters in length but can easily tip the scales at 40 kilos. Some species have been shown to live beyond 30 years. They were often referred to as sea monsters in days gone by due to their size and terrifying appearance.

Gymnothorax meleagris – Parelmurene
Gymnothorax favagineus 1


Moray eels have incredibly long dorsal fins. They start at the back of their heads and run the length of their bodies, merging seamlessly into their caudal and anal fins. Most species lack the pectoral and pelvic fins. This further contributes to the slenderness of their bodies and snake-like appearance. Moray eels are typically camouflaged. This pattern is even reflected in the inside of their mouths, which camouflages them well for their next victim. Their eyes are relatively small and beady, much like the reptiles they so closely resemble.

Moray eels are fierce hunters. They don’t just swallow their dinner whole like most fish. Their rear-facing teeth are designed for one purpose only, tearing off flesh. They do not chew or hold their victim. They tear their way in. Their teeth combined with not one but two sets of jaws make it a deadly combination. The jaws of the moray eel open wide to handle large prey. A second jaw, called a pharyngeal jaw, is located in their throat. This pharyngeal jaw also contains teeth. Moray eels are the only species on this planet that use a pharyngeal jaw to subdue their prey and prevent further combat.

Moray eels have poor vision and hearing. They are nocturnal hunters and therefore do not benefit much from good eyesight. Their very well developed sense of smell helps them in low to no light environments. They spend most of their time hidden in cracks and crevices patiently awaiting the arrival of their dinner. When the time is right, they strike with the speed and precision of a snake.

Moray eels glide through the water more than they swim. The undulation of their bodies gives them a movement similar to a snake gliding across the land. Because of their huge size, predatory appearance and the many characteristics they share with some of the most feared reptiles on land, it’s no wonder that the seafarers used to tell stories of gigantic man-eating sea monsters.

It is quite normal to confuse hunting instinct with aggressive behavior. Moray eels are not bad. They simply try to survive like everything else in nature. Moray eel prefers to hide from human intrusion rather than attack. Most bites during human contact are accidental or during what the moray eel sees as self-defense. A giant moray eel can easily bite off a human finger. Bite wounds often become infected. Whether in the wild or in the aquarium, always take great care when dealing with these creatures.


Most moray eels are simply too large to keep in a home aquarium. They are more suitable for commercial aquariums. Depending on the size of the tank, there are roughly a dozen species to consider. Among the smaller species are the Gymnothorax margaritophorus, Gymnothorax richardsonii and the Enchelycore carychoa. These moray eels reach a length of about 30 to 35 centimeters when fully grown.

Moray eels are not particularly aggressive, but their hunting instinct makes them unsuitable for marine reef aquariums. If kept in a mixed aquarium, a moray eel should only be kept with fish that are aggressive enough to compete with a fellow hunter. Lionfish, Angelfish, Boxfish and Groupers fall into this category. If you want to raise a moray eel you have to take into account that they can squeeze through cracks and crevices just like a snake does. So they can easily escape from anything except a very tightly closed aquarium.


They are pure carnivores. They may refuse to eat when first introduced to their new environment. Feeding them with live food such as brine shrimp for the smaller specimens and shrimp or fish for the larger moray eels will help them acclimate to their new environment. They can eventually be weaned to non-live foods.

Author: Exotic-Aquariums

Showing the single result