Are you looking for a unique and elegant addition to your aquarium? The Snowflake Eel might be a perfect choice! Despite their intimidating appearance, these eels are very gentle creatures. The Snowflake Eel is typically an easy fish to keep as a pet. They need plenty of hiding places, such as rocks and caves, to feel safe, but they’re not aggressive toward other fish!

With care, the Snowflake Eel lives very long. As they are hard to breed, they are suitable for you if you have no interest in raising fry. They are not picky eaters and accept all treats you throw their way.

To help you, here is a guide to elaborate on the intricacies of getting a pet Snowflake Eel.

Species Delineation

Facts About The Snowflake Eel
Scientific Name Echidna nebulosa
Other Common Names Puhi-Kapa, Snowflake Moray, Clouded Moray, Starry Moray
Family Muraenidae
Origin  Indo-Pacific region, Eastern Central Pacific
Lifespan About 8 to 15 yrs
Size 50 cm (20 in)
Type Marine
Snowflake Eel: Complete Care Guide

Note – The Snowflake Eel can easily be confused with the Freshwater Snowflake Eel. The latter one is Gymnothorax tile or commonly called Indian Mud Moray.

Origin and habitat

The snowflake Moray eel finds its origin exclusively in the Indo-Pacific region. Their existence endows the Eastern coast of Africa, the Red Sea and the Hawaiian Islands, Micronesia, Polynesia, and Fiji. They are also abundant in the coasts of Japan, southern regions of Australia, and the ocean to the east of Mexico and Central American locations of Costa Rica to Colombia.

Snowflake Eels are bottom dwellers. They prefer to inhabit the seagrass beds, with many hiding spots like rock rubble, coral reefs, reef flats, and lagoons. The crevices of these rocks are home to the eel. They tend to live in shallow waters, from 1 meter to 50 meters deep.


The Snowflake Eel grows about 24 inches or 61 centimeters in size. They can grow to about 39 inches (100 inches) when living in the wild but do not exceed the limit of 24 inches in tanks and vivariums. Still, they make good fish to keep in your aquariums if you are looking for a long and slender tankmate. They tend to grow fast as juveniles, but their growth slows as they age. They can even grow about 6 inches in just one year.


The Snowflake Eel owes its name to the yellow, black, and white spots scattered throughout its body that look like snowflakes. These colorful fish have earned them titles like starry snowflakes because these patterns often resemble stars too. They are white with two dendritic black blotches and yellow spots. These patterns cover its body from top to bottom. The juveniles tend to have more solid white blotches with few or no yellow spots.

These fish have very large yellow eyes in comparison to their head. Even their head is smaller than other species of eels. They have a pale snout with a whitish tint and yellowish nostrils. When it comes to fins, they only have a dorsal fin that runs along the length of their body. Their body has a long and slender serpentine shape like other eels.

A unique feature about them is the Pharyngeal jaws, which are sets of secondary jaws in the throat. The wideness of their throat is because of this second set of jaws. The jaws of Snowflake Eels provide strong crushing and grinding power to their mouth that they use to crush the shells of their prey. The primary jaws grab the prey, and the secondary jaws pull them inside the gut.

Average Lifespan

The Snowflake Eel can be expected to live for 8 to 15 years and even more in captivity. If you do not provide a healthy setup to your eel, you can even expect your eel to bid farewell around 4 years of age. In domestic conditions, tank specifications, food, and other specifications play a vital role in deciding the lifespan of a fish. With proper care, Snowflake Eels can have a very long lifespan. These fish are preferred by hobbyists who want a fish pet for a long duration.

Price and Availability

Before getting a Snowflake Eel, you must decide upon the size of your fish. Snowflake Eels are available for sale in different sizes ranging from small to medium to large. Small fish is about 5 inches to 8 inches, medium ones are 9 inches to 12 inches, and above 12 inches, they are sold under the large category.

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The prices differ based on the size.

  • You can get a smaller one in the range of $60.
  • Mediums are priced at around $80 to $112
  • Large fish can be bought at around $200

Care Guidance

Taking care of a Snowflake Eel does not require extensive effort. These fish are hardy and adapt quickly to aquarium conditions.

Behavior and Temperament

Snowflake Eels are very pacific fish. You will only find them aggressive at the time of feeding. Else, they will timidly hide in the crevices of the bedrocks and corals with their heads sticking out to look for prey.

They are known for crushing their prey with their strong jaws or wrapping it around them until it is small enough to be edible.

Their interaction with humans only poses the threat of a bite. If it feels threatened, Snowflake Eel can inflict a painful bite. There is a risk of infection at the site. Thus, immediate cleaning and medication are required.

Snowflake Eels are hardy and can adapt to tank conditions easily. However, these eels are very smart at escaping. Even a slight gap in your tank lid can give them a chance to jump out. And, believe it, they will. You should not be surprised to see your eels on the floor any morning. They can survive out of the water for several hours, but it still endangers their life.

FACT – Moray eels produce a toxin called Ciguatoxin. This makes them inedible to humans.

Food Habits

Snowflake Eels are carnivores. They feast upon crustaceans in the wild. They tend to ambush their prey by hiding in the crevices of rocks and attacking them unguarded. These fish have a very keen sense of smell but poor eyesight. As soon as they sense the scent of food, they rush out of their hiding to feed. They hide and ambush their predators. They attack their prey by feeling vibrations of its movement in the water and their strong ability to smell.

While feeding them, you can shake the food in the water, and they will come dashing toward it.

They do not like to eat dried foods. Fresh or frozen food should be preferred. Feeding them once a day is enough. You should not feed them any freshwater foods. While feeding them, you should use tongs as they can inflict painful bites. You can give them large chunks of food, and they will manage to tear the food up with their powerful jaws. You can also enjoy seeing them jump out of the water to grab food as they have been seen coming out of the water to grab food.

While feeding them in a tank, you should go for diced crustaceans. Some of the food you should pick for your Snowflake Eel is as follows:

  • Frozen krills
  • Diced crabs
  • Shrimps
  • Clamps
  • Mussels
  • Octopus
  • Scallops
  • Live Ghost Shrimps

Author’s Note – Snowflake Moray Eels make quite a mess while eating. You can expect a lot of food chunks floating around in the tank. These chunks decay and raise the nitrate levels of the water. One specific thing to keep in mind is to use protein skimmers. Protein skimmers maintain the nitrate level and prevent health issues due to nitrates.


Snowflake Eels are resistant to a lot of diseases. Thanks to their protective layer of mucus. It protects them from a variety of parasites like Ich and velvets. They can even survive temperatures out of their comfortable range. Though, they are susceptible to the internal parasite.

Observing them to look for symptoms of internal parasites is quite hard. The common symptoms of such parasites are loss of appetite and hiding. These behaviors are pervasive in snowflakes.

Checking the poo for signs of parasite infection is also impossible as it does not hang around like other fish. Thus, it becomes challenging to figure out an infestation of internal parasites. It is recommended to treat your water columns regularly to prevent infestations.

They are also susceptible to common marine life health issues like oxygen starvation, ammonia, and nitrate toxicity.

Breeding Guide

Breeding Snowflake Eels is not easy. The issue starts with their sexing as they are hermaphrodites and can change their sex. This has been discussed in the article later. They take a long time to change sex, thus, breeding them is a test of patience. But some hobbyists tend to be patient and go along with their long breeding process.

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Differentiating Male and Female

Snowflake Eels Male and Female Differentiating

Sexing of males and females of Snowflake Eels is very difficult. This is because they are androgynous and protogynous. Androgyny is the feature of having characteristics of both sexes in the same individual. Protogyny, on the other hand, explains that the female organs start developing before the male ones.

In Snowflake Eels, all individuals exhibit female features at first. In similar conditions of an aquarium, a more dominant female will change to a male. This transition, however, is unidirectional from females to males, making them protogynous. If all the eels are peaceful towards each other, the sex change can take a very long time, even years. This situation makes it hard to differentiate males from females.

However, one way to differentiate the male from the female is to examine their teeth. The teeth of a male are longer at the front and have serrated with saw-like edges.


Snowflake Eels are oviparous. The female releases eggs in the water, and the sperm released in the water fertilize them. Females release about 10,000 eggs at a time. They show metamorphosis several times from juveniles to adults.

Mating and Spawning

The female Snowflake Eels release eggs while they dance slowly in their mating ritual. Their mating ritual starts from gaping at each other to wrapping themselves around one another. The female releases their eggs in the water column. These eggs drift as zooplanktons and settle on the coral reefs waiting to hatch out of the eggs.


The eggs that settle on the coral reefs are vulnerable to predators. If they survive, they hatch into thousands of fry. These fry drift with water currents in their larvae form or hide in the crevices of the reefs to find food.

Did you know? – The snowflakes come under the category of non-guarders, who do not guard their eggs and fry. Their eggs drift through the ocean, and after hatching, they take care of their protection and food.

Aquarium Care and Maintenance

Putting a Snowflake Eel in an aquarium require maintenance of proper conditions inside the aquarium. These conditions include maintaining pH levels, lighting, decoration, feeding, etc. This section is about understanding the integration of handling and caring for a Snowflake Eel.

Tank Requirements
Tank Size 50 to 75 gallons
pH 8.1 to 8.4
Temperature 72F to 80F (22- 27degrees C)
Hardness 8 to 12 dGH
Salinity 1.020
Nitrate Levels 0 – 40 ppm
Ammonia Levels 0 ppm or undetectable
Snowflake Eels Aquarium Care and Maintenance

Tank Size

Snowflake Eels can grow quite large to fit in small aquariums. Juveniles can survive comfortably in smaller tanks of 45 – 50 gallons. As the eels grow, they will need larger tanks of about 75 gallons to thrive. Many hobbyists tend to put juveniles in smaller tanks first and then shift them to the larger ones as they grow. If you do not have the luxury of two different-sized tanks, you should go for a larger tank size to keep your Snowflake Eel.

While setting a tank up for your eel, you will need to take care of a very peculiar habit that Snowflake Eels have. Since they might escape, you should ensure that you cover all the pipes of filtration and other equipment in the tank with a sponge or net. Also, lock the lid with a strong latch, as these fish can move it.

Random fact – The Snowflake Eels frequently move their mouth to keep the water running through their gills.

Aquarium Arrangement


Snowflake Eels are nocturnal in the wild. They actively hunt their prey at night. To keep the environmental conditions similar to the wild, you should keep the lighting dull and low. They do not have a strong sight. They use their sense of smell to attack their prey. So, putting up a lot of lighting would not help them in any way. Instead, it will make them hide in the cracks and crevices of the rocks more.

So keep the lighting of the tank low. With dark lighting, you can also find these fish coming out of their hiding spots and exploring the tank for food. Thus, low lighting also helps in providing better opportunities for sighting their behavior.


In the wild, eels find their home in coral reefs. Snowflake Eels are reef-safe and hide in their formations to ambush prey. Being carnivorous, plants do not provide them any food, so such aquatic plants are a need for them. But you can always add general plants like java ferns to decorate your tank. You might find them hiding behind these plants too. But you must go for a reef-like setup in the tank, so they can feel at home and enjoy their favorite hiding spots. For a 75-gallon tank, 3 to 4 cave-like structures of live rocks can be added. Arrange them so the fish can explore your whole tank without exposing itself.

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Eels do not prefer fine or sandy substrate. They are dwellers of rocky bottoms with ample hiding spots. While choosing a substrate for their abode, you should go for one with large gravels and rocks. It is suggested to put base rocks in the tank. But be sure to keep them firmly held to the base. Snowflake Eels are brawny fishes and can topple and mess up the arrangement of your tank in case you do not attach everything firmly.


As you will need to keep an eye on the tank water, you will need the proper equipment. A pH meter and a thermometer are a must. Your aquarium should be fitted with a heater and filters to maintain optimal conditions.

You should regularly test the ammonia and nitrate levels with test kits to ensure healthy conditions for your fish.


Snowflake Eels do not have any preference or objections to tank decors. As long as they can find hiding spots, they will not bother with other items present in the tank. You can use a variety of tank decors, like artificial caves, shells, plants, and ornaments, to make your tank look attractive.

Tank Water Specifications

Their body lacks scales like all eels. Instead, they produce mucus to protect the skin. The texture of the mucus is very sensitive to the conditions of the environment the fish resides in. Thus, acute control of water pH, nitrate amounts, ammonia levels, etc., should be maintained.

Though these fish are hardy, you should keep an eye on the pH, Hardness, nitrate, and ammonia levels. Unoptimized levels of nitrates and ammonia can cause harm to the fish as they are toxic. A slightly basic pH of 8.1 to 8.4 is optimal. The nitrate levels should be less than 40 ppm. If they go over 80 ppm, fish might suffer from nitrate toxicity. The ammonia levels should be undetectable. Ammonia is highly toxic to fish. If the ammonia level reaches even two ppm, your fish might die.

Suitable Tank Mates

Picking tankmates for eels is easy, yet there are a lot of things that need to be considered. A tank mate should be something that does not bother the fish and is neither seen as food by the eel. Fishes that are large enough not to be engulfed by the eels are suitable. Generally, snowflakes are not known to poke any other tankmates. If fed regularly, they would not eye the tiny shrimps either. Similar temperament and tank requirements must be checked.

Some fishes that Snowflake Eel show compatibility with are as follows:

  • Lionfish
  • Yellow Tang
  • Blue Tang
  • Emperor Angelfish
  • Marine Betta
  • Porcupine Triggerfish
  • Triggerfish
  • Yellow Longnose Butterflyfish
  • Wrasses

Comparison with other Moray Eels

The family of Moray Eels houses 200 species of freshwater and marine eels, including the Snowflake Eel. The popular choices for aquariums are the few species of docile and not-that-large individuals. Some of the popular pets and their comparison to Snowflake Eels are as follows:

  Snowflake Eels Zebra Moray Dragon Moray Dwarf Moray
Size 39 inches in the wild. Larger than snowflakes. About 60 inches They are smaller than snowflakes and About 36 inches Dwarf Morays are shorter than Snowflake Eels are About 10 inches
Color Black, white, and yellow blotches Black and white zebra-like stripes Red, orange, yellow, and white spots Golden, white and yellow body color
Price And Availability Easily available @ $60 to $200 Easily available @ $160 to $300 Rare to find @ $350 to $400 Rare to find @400

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Engineer Goby compatible with Snowflake Eel?

Engineer Goby and Snowflake Eels show a lot of incompatibilities which is generally due to the behavioral differences that are as follows:

  • Snowflake Eels prefer coral reefs, but the engineer goby seems to spray substrate on corals and often bury them. This can harm the corals.
  • The Snowflake Eels are more aggressive than Engineer Goby while feeding. The snowflake can steal the Goby’s food.

How to treat Snowflake Eel’s bite?

If your snowflake bites you, immediately follow the following steps to avoid infection:

  • Wash the wound with soap and water.
  • Stop the bleeding by applying pressure.
  • Treat it with antibacterial ointments and apply a sterile bandage.
  • See a doctor at the earliest and get the wound examined.

What is Thiamine deficiency in Snowflakes?

Thiamine is a vitamin of the B complex. If your fish eats a lot of frozen food without vitamin supplements, that can cause thiamine deficiency in fish. It also happens if the food contains thiaminase, which breaks down the thiamine in the body. Such foods can be clams, shellfish, etc. To prevent the deficiency, you should include vitamin supplements in the diet of your snowflake eel.


The Snowflake Eel is an elegant and exotic species of fish that is particularly popular among aquarium enthusiasts. This species is easy to take care of and amusing to watch. However, like any other fish, taking care of the Snowflake Eel requires sincere efforts. This guide gives readers a perception of what it takes to parent a Snowflake Eel.

If you decide to keep one as a pet, take good care of it and keep us posted on your adventures with your new companion.

Read here –

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets. Career Highlights:…

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