African Spiny Eel – the attractiveness of this eel lies in its unusual color pattern and interesting behavior. They are quite durable, peaceful and do well in community tanks if provided hiding spaces. Adult size: 15 cm. Min tank size 130 litres.
Also known as Ocellated Spiny Eel (Mastacembelus vanderwaali). Although not considered to be true eels, the body shapes of all members of the spiny eel family are definitely eel-like. This African Spiny Eel has an elongated with a long snout. It is a fairly small spiny eel, reaching about 30 cm in the wild. In the aquarium they rarely get this big however, usually attaining a length of about 15 cm.
This Eel is a very attractive fish. It is also quite durable once established, but is a rather shy fish when first acquired. It gets along well in a community tank but does need hiding places for retreat. It is peaceful with its tank mates as long as they are about the same size. Spiny eels are best kept singly however, as they will also generally fight with others of their own kind. Over time, as spiny eels become comfortable they become more secure. Some will even eventually take food from their keepers hand.
Spiny Eels will spend most of their time on the bottom of the aquarium. It is advisable to keep them in a tank that is at least 1 meter long and about 130 litres. These fish require pristine water. They do best in a soft to medium water with good water movement that provides plenty of oxygenation. The tank water should turnover at least 10-15 times per hour. An undergravel filter is a great choice for these fish as it creates high oxygen through out the tank as well as reducing the waste. A canister filter or powerheads and airstones can be introduced to achieve proper flow and oxygenation.
They like a dimly lit aquarium or one with floating plants to help subdue the light. Provide a tank with a sand or fine gravel substrate as they may burrow into it. Make sure they have plenty of hiding places among roots, rocks, or other decor so they will feel secure in their new home. Floating plant cover is great but plants buried in the substrate may get uprooted. Provide a tight fitting lid as spiny eels are escape artists.
They are a nocturnal species but are generally peaceful and shy. Small fish are part of their natural diet in the wild so fish under about 5 cm are at risk, however they mostly ignore other tankmates. Some species of spiny eels can get territorial and aggressive with their own kind so a general rule of thumb is to keep them singly unless you plan to breed.
The African Spiny Eel is carnivores. In nature they feed at night on insect larvae, worms, and other benthic organisms. Like all spiny eels they prefer a diet of live and fresh frozen foods such as brine shrimp, black worms, earthworms or bloodworms. Fish food for Carnivores is a good choice. Some can be trained to eat freeze dried brine shrimp or bloodworms but this is not something that can be counted on. They will also eat small fishes so make sure their tank mates are too large to be able to fit into their mouths.
Tablet / Pellet: Occasionally – Not all specimens will accept processed foods.
Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
Meaty Food: All of Diet
These eels should only be fed a couple of times a week, and sometimes they will eat even less often.
They are very shy when first introduced to a new environment and often die of starvation. It is best to feed these fish at night and make sure food makes it to the bottom. Do not house with other aggressive feeding bottom dwelling fish until the eel has become comfortable with its environment.
Eels are generally suggested for an aquarist with some experience rather than the beginner fish keeper. This eel can be a bit sensitive to change and usually takes awhile to get over its shyness. The first few weeks can be extremely difficult getting them to eat.
They do require extremely pristine water. They have very small scales protecting their body so are prone to fungus and parasites and very sensitive to medications. These fish respond poorly to copper based medications, so these should be avoided. If cared for properly, these eels can live for a long time.
See Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment at Rebel Pets for help with diagnosing and treating diseases.
|Adult Size:||up to 18 cm|
|Aquarist Experience Level:||Intermediate|
|Minimum Tank Size:||130 litres|
|Temperament:||Peaceful to same size fish|
|Tank Level:||Bottom dweller|
|Aquarium Hardiness:||Moderately Hardy|
|Lifespan:||8 – 18 Years|
|Temperature:||23 to 28°C|
|pH:||7.4 – 8.4|
|Hardness:||5 – 15 dGH (soft)|