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Tropical Diver presented by Southwest

Spotted garden eel

Spotted garden eel

(Heteroconger hassi)

The spotted garden eel can be found in tropical waters in the Indo-Pacific region from Africa to Japan and Australia. It occurs most commonly on protected sandy bottom slopes that are exposed to current. This species is most often seen in dense colonies of up to several hundred individuals with only about one-quarter of their 16- to 24-inch bodies extending above the surface of the sand.

This fish uses its pointed tail to burrow into the sandy bottom and then secretes mucus to bind the sand grains along the burrow walls to prevent its collapse. Individuals rarely leave their burrow and even reproduce by leaning over to intertwine with an adjacent mate.

See the spotted garden eels in the Tropical Diver gallery at the Georgia Aquarium.

Fun Facts

  • All garden eels in a colony will face into the current so they can pick plankton out of the passing water.
  • Garden eels occur in dense patches giving the illusion of swaying plant stems as they feed.
  • They quickly retreat below the surface of the sand at the approach of a predator.
  • The spotted garden eel was only discovered when SCUBA diving became popular.
  • Adults have a whitish body with black spots. Juveniles are all black.
  • Download full fact sheet

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