We say, “Variety is the spice of life” likewise, Peacock Eel can be an exotic one and live as the Symbol of Diversity in your aquarium. But, before the rush, let’s understand some vital information because they are rarely kept in Home Aquarium, and most people have never heard about them.

Peacock Eel is usually found in the tropical regions and endemic to South-East Asian countries-Inhabitants with equatorial climates. They are not considered rare in these regions. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed them under Least Concerned Category for their abundant populations.

Peacock Eel is not related to a bird or an Eel as we might have initially felt from the name. Still, they are so-called because it often reminds us of peacocks and eels at first instance when we look at them. We shall surely find out the reasons as we go on to learn more about them.

Quick Reference
Scientific Name Macrognathus siamensis
Common Names Peacock Eel, Spotfin Spring Eel
Family Mastacembelidae
Origin Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand
Lifespan In Situ-Unknown Ex-situ- 8 to 18 Years Approx.
Size   30 cm Max.
Type   Freshwater Fish

About the Species

Physical Characteristics of Peacock Eel

Peacock Eels are elongated and slender fish with compressed spiny tails making them quite mobile and flexible. In nature, their size variation study needs more research; however, in captivity, they can grow up to a maximum length of 30 cm depending on optimal environmental conditions.

Morphology and Identification

A distinguishing feature is the presence of Ocelli (eye-like spots) in the dorsal region near the lower 2/3rd of the body length. These spots may vary from 3 to 6 in numbers. Caudal and Anal Fins are independently placed. They occur in stripes of brownish to yellowish colors.

Expert Tip: In adults, Male and Female cannot be differentiated morphologically except during the spawning period when the female exhibit Urogenital Papillae

Habitat and Environment

Naturally, they are found in rivers, lakes, and mangroves with a tendency to enter the flooded forest. Peacock Eel dwells in slow-moving or standing water as they like to settle down at the bottom and hide under silt/sand deposits or behind rocks on the floor.

Availability

Abundantly available around Asia, but finding Peacock eels on other continents might need some effort because it will depend on the seekers’ location.

One can be optimistic about their availability on almost every Continent as the Ornamental Fish Trade is well expanding.

Price

Peacock Eel is expected to cost around $6-10 USD in Asia, and it will vary to some extent in the rest of the world.

Authors Note: Your nearest Aquarium store will be the best source of information on this

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Care Guide

Quick Reference
Maintenance Cost Minimal
Food Habits Carnivorous
Feeding Frequency 2-3/Week
Temperament Shy
Breeding Season Autumn
Hatching Period 2 days
Weaning Age 13 Days

Food and Diet

In the Wild, Peacock Eels are predatory fish, and they can hunt most preys that can fit into the cavity of their mouth.

Their snout is mobile and sensory, which aids them in hunting for food.

Juvenile hunts and feeds on smaller water insects and annelids, whereas adults forage on larger prey.

At home, the best way to provide them with a properly balanced diet is to try mimicking their natural food habits as far as possible.

The reason is simple, ‘Nature Knows Best,’ so give it a try by feeding them live crabs, lobsters, smaller fishes, and shrimps.

If it is not possible to get live prey, one can move ahead with a frozen one after making sure it is fresh and within the preservation period.

A high protein content commercial diet can be introduced gradually over some time if getting a live feed poses a challenge. This may not be an easy step, especially when unless they are acclimatized to it at a young age.

General Behaviour

Like most tertiary consumers of the animal kingdom, they have an affinity toward their territory and are night hunters. Apart from their natural prey, they are harmless to humans and bigger fishes.

Peacock Eel might get aggressive if other fish with similar habitats (for example, bottom-dwelling species such as Catfish) invade their territory.

Their head often protrudes out from the sands when they are in hiding. Overall, they are shy and spend most of their time burrowing on the floor.

Reproduction

Peacock Eel breed before the winter season. In other words, colder water is likely to discourage them from reproducing. They usually undergo a long period of courtship before mating.

Breeding in Tanks

Experimental data indicate that the maximum hatchability of laid eggs is obtained at a temperature range of 29°-30° Celcius. The female appears to be more dominant, with a sex ratio is 1.6:1.0 (Male: Female)

Pro Tip: To successfully breed 10 Females, an optimum of 16 Males are needed!

Trying to Breed them in an aquarium setup will be a difficult task, but one can always give it a go.

Few essential parameters have to be ensured to increase the chances of inducing them to court, mate and spawn in your tank.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

  • You will require more number of them, which means you must have plenty of tank spaces.
  •  The irony is that their sexes are unknown since sexual dimorphism is not distinct. We can use the power of numbers to increase the probability.
  • Their habitat has to be simulated, like the natural environment of freshwater rivers and lakes. This includes hideouts, optimum temperature, fresh foods, good quality water, fresh oxygen supply, and the list goes on.
  • Minimum interference to avoid unnecessary stress.
  • Floating grasses in tanks for the female to lay.
  • Be patient and check for egg deposits
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Author’s Note- If the sexes of the fish are already known, spaces requirement can be reduced

Spawning till Juveniles Stages

Once eggs are laid by the female, hatching occurs briskly in a matter of 2 days. The hatchlings/larva will grow through the stages of Fry within a duration of 20 days.

The next stage of the life cycle is followed by Fingerlings. During these stages, feed particle sizes are to be tiny. Young ones can be well adjusted to a commercial diet from the initial stages.

By the end of the Second week of hatching, their digestive system will be fully developed, and they can be weaned to another smaller tank. And voila! Your new stock of fingerlings’ journey to adulthood starts.

Diseases

Reports of specific diseases in Peacock Eel are rarely documented in their natural habitat. This doesn’t mean they are resistant to infections. Instead, their health research work is limited in the current context as they are unknown to many people.

Author Note: Peacock Eel is considered a delicacy in many Asian countries. They are caught using nets from water bodies for supplies in the fish market.

Nature has a way of maintaining everything in harmony if it is not disturbed artificially, which is why we might not have noticed many significant diseases in them in the wild.

From a medical and scientific perspective, they can be susceptible to common, occurring fish diseases viz, fungi, Bacteria, Parasites, and Viruses, especially if they are away from their natural habitat, which is why we need them to have an anticipatory approach for mitigation when the situation arises.

Diagnosis

The thumb rule to determine signs of illness in Peacock eels is closely monitoring their routine behavior. Any deviation from that should arouse the curiosity of ‘Is Everything Okay.’

Decreased feeding and lethargic activity could be a symptom of an underlying sickness.

Apart from behavioral changes, unusual discoloration in the skin, bulging of any part of the body, and protruding eyes can be taken as unmistakable signs of abnormality.

Treatment

It is advisable to seek advice from a Veterinarian or an Aquatic Specialist. In the absence of such an arrangement, one can opt for home remedies.

Adding 1 teaspoon of Epson Salt per 4 liters of water should have some remedial effects. If the situation seems out of control, as a last resort, usage of water-soluble broad-spectrum antibiotics at a minimum dosage for 3-4 days might help.

Awareness is Prevention

A tertiary consumer requires a higher amount of proteins in the diet, so one can expect nutritional deficiency (specifically amino acids) if their diet is not nutritious like their natural diet.

Also, they are expected to be under stress when introduced to a new environment which can further weaken their immune system against many infections.

Tank Management

Quick Reference
Min. Tank Size 112 L
Water Temperature 25°C to 27°C
Lighting Optional
Water pH level 6.5-8.5

Parameters

Plants

Live green aquatic varieties of both submerging and floating species will make your aquarium lively besides supplying Oxygen and Purifying your Aquarium. Water tolerant branches of trees can be placed obliquely across the tank to deliver more hiding spots and mangroves niche.

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Lighting

 It can be used to provide moderate illumination to your aquarium while keeping in mind that Peacock Eels are nocturnal night foragers. A brightly lit tank is not recommended.

Substrate

A layer of fine sand silt or gravel is necessary for them to burrow and camouflage. A depth of at least thrice their body thickness should work well. Bigger smooth boulders and PVC pipes can be included to provide more cover.

Air Pump

High Capacity Oxygen pump is required. Freshwater fishes need an ample amount of Oxygen Supply continuously.

Décor

Artificial realistic plastic plants of all colors are easily accessible in the market. This addition will represent the rich tropical diversity in your tank.

Tankmates

Peacock Eel can have teammates except for bottom-dwelling and smaller fishes. The reason for this is simple; Smaller fishes are likely to be hunted down by them while other fishes with similar lifestyles will result in competition for food, territory, and space.

Water Quality Care

For a moment, imagine water as our atmosphere. No organism on Earth would like to live or eat in a place where the environment is suffocating.

Similarly, water represents the air to them. We would want fresh air to breathe every moment, don’t we? So let’s take steps!

Peacock Eelexcrete waste in the form of molecular Ammonia and ammonium ion. These substrates are bound to accumulate overtime on the tank.

Taking note that Ammonia is an irritating, pungent gas, we can get an idea of how it will feel to breathe them.

Changing water at regular intervals and a well-aerated tank should keep the Peacock Eel from experiencing those nightmares.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Peacock Eel give an electric shock?

The answer is ‘No.’ Peacock Eels are from the Taxonomical Order: Synbranchiformes, whereas Electric Eel belongs to the Order Gymnotiformes, which means there is at least 4 level of difference in their scientific classification.

Can 2 Peacock Eels live together?

Yes, but they will become aggressive if there is a scarcity of food. They will also fight for dominance over the area because of their predatory behavior.

Can you breed Peacock Eel?

Yes, breeding Peacock Eel is often done for Scientific Research. One can also do it at home by providing their natural environmental conditions, but this will need some effort and patience.

Does Peacock Eel eat Shrimp Pellets?

Yes, they can eat shrimp pellets if they are used to an artificial diet from a young age. The size of the pellet should fit the size of their mouth.

Can Peacock Eel dig burrow?

Yes, they have a well-developed proboscis used for sensory, burrowing, and gathering food.

Finally, Should You Get Them Home?

Peacock Eels are budget-friendly to maintain in the long term though they are going to take up a lot of spaces in the house.

Their food habits are simple- any smaller aquatic fauna with a protein-rich body and earthworms.

They are rarely kept at home, which gives them more Exotic characteristics.

Breeding them will be a hurdle, but even if you keep one as a showpiece, they can become your lifelong friend with their longevity!

About the Author

Dr. Vituotsolie Kiso

Vituo Kiso is a budding Veterinarian and marine species enthusiast. He did most of his internships in several Pet Clinics, Wildlife centers, and Farms across India. He has a passion for learning new things and writings besides giving consultations and treating pets.

Career Highlights:

  • Almost 3 years of experience as a Veterinary Practitioner
  • Online Pet Health Consultant
  • Verified Tutor @studypool.com

Educational Highlights:

  • Attended Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Veterinary Education and Research
  • Currently learning Geography, History, Polity, Economics, Ethics, and International Relations.

Writing Experience

  • Wrote a White Paper on ‘The Aura of Pets and Humans’ for MaxCare Pets Inc.
  • Awarded the Best Article Writing on World Environmental Day 2020 on the topic, ‘Biodiversity.’

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