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The Fire Eel: Care Information

Discussion in 'Freshwater' started by groovitudedude, Jul 29, 2008.

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  1. groovitudedude

    groovitudedude Teen Runner

    Feb 22, 2008
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    Mastacembelus erythrotaenia

    Common Name: Fire Eel

    Scientific Name: Mastacembelus erythrotaenia

    Maximum Size: 39 inches/ 99 cm

    Minimum Tank Size: 180 Gallons

    Suggested Temperature: 72-81°F/ 22-28°C

    Suggested pH: 6- 7.5

    Diet: Bloodworms and Tubifex as Juveniles, Nightcrawlers and other larger food as adults. Will eat fish small enough to fit into its mouth, so choose tankmates wisely. Will also take insect larvae, beef heart, and prawns.

    Overview: The fire eel is a moderately advanced species to keep. It belongs to the spiny eel family, and is extra sensitive to medicines in the aquarium. Due to the large adult size of this fish, larger aquaria are mandatory. A couple of things I feel I should mention are:
    • Tank (inside): Fire Eels are very sensitive to the substrate in tanks, and can be easily scratched by gravel or sharp rocks. A sand substrate is preferred, as this is a burrowing fish. Although it is possible to keep one in a gravel-bottom tank, it will get scratched constantly and might get seriously hurt due to bacterial infections or other skin openings. Keep in mind that any and all plants might be uprooted when it is burrowing, so it is very difficult to keep this fish in a planted tank. Try to provide your fire eel with plenty of hiding places so it has a house and a place to go if it becomes stressed or scared.
    • Tank (outside): Fire Eels are well known for hopping the border. Be sure that you have your whole tank covered, including the filter(s) intake(s)/output(s) if possible. If you have a bigger specimen, you will need to compensate for its strength by re-enforcing the top. Many valuable eels are lost due to un-educated owners.
    • Tankmates and Temperament: This fish does not do very well with other spiny eels, especially as adults. Although it has been tried, very few have had success keeping Fire Eels with other eels and conspecifics. A fire eel will do well in a community tank with fish about the same size or slightly larger/smaller than it is. It is generally not a good idea to mix fire eels with larger aggressive cichlids due to aggression issues and battles for food. Although usually a shy fish at first, it is not uncommon to find to find your fire eel swimming around, especially at night.
    • Physical Description: The fire eel is an eel-like fish, but is not truly an eel. They are usually brown, and have either red dots or red lines running on both sides of their body and, can be anywhere from ¼ an inch to several inches thick. Yellow fire eels also occur, although it is more of a faded red.
    • Special Care: The fire eel is a very unique fish. It is a mainly nocturnal fish and usually only comes out at night to feed. When first introduced into an aquarium, a fire eel may not eat for several days or usually weeks. This is not uncommon. It is best to try and get it to feed at night when the tank lights are off at first, and then slowly adjust it to your feeding schedule. In addition to a large, well-covered tank with a soft substrate, one must not overfeed this fish; it could very well pass away due to gluttony.
    • Breeding: Breeding of Fire Eels has been achieved before, but due to large adult size, a tank size of several hundred gallons is needed, and it is usually only achieved by advanced breeders or extremely dedicated hobbyists.
    Final Words

    The Fire Eel is a great fish that would make an excellent addition to certain tanks. If provided with a large enough tank and proper covering and tankmates, this fish will grow to be a large, breathtaking specimen. It is a fish with a very unique personality, and many owners feed their fire eels by hand. A true oddball fish, it does require certain tank specifics and is very hardy once rooted in a healthy, well kept aquarium.

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    #1 groovitudedude, Jul 29, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 30, 2008
  2. msjinkzd

    msjinkzd AC Members

    Feb 11, 2007
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    Real Name:
    Rachel O'Leary
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