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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Garden Eels Habitat (Tropical Diver)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in tropical Indo-Pacific waters near Maldives, Philippines and Indonesia; possibly as far south as Fiji.
  • Found along sandy slopes at depths of 59 to 264 feet (18-75 m), usually in depths of more than 98 feet (30 m).
  • Lives in a sandy burrow that it digs tail-first. The garden eel then coats the sand walls with mucus from its body to cement the sand grains together to prevent collapse.

Physical Characteristics

  • Has a whitish, snake-like body covered with yellow to orange colored stripes.
  • Can grow to about 16 inches (40 cm) in length.
  • Body diameter to about 0.4 inches (1 cm).
  • Has large eyes and a small pectoral fin.

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet consists of zooplankton it picks from the current as it flows past. For this reason, all the eels in a colony generally face the same direction: into the current.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Male and female move burrows to increase proximity during mating season.
  • Will stretch from adjacent burrows and intertwine bodies to spawn.
  • The male will display protective behaviors toward his female mate, keeping other competitors away. It may bite rivals.
  • Pelagic spawner: after mating, female will release fertilized eggs into the current.
  • After eggs hatch in current, larvae continue to float until reaching a size threshold. At that point, the juvenile garden eel will dig its own burrow.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Also known as the orangebarred garden eel.
  • Lives in colonies which can consist of thousands of individuals each occupying its own burrow.
  • Most commonly seen with just its head and upper body extended out of the burrow, swaying in the current like a blade of seagrass in order to feed on passing plankton.
  • Easily disturbed and quickly retracts itself, tail first, into its burrow.
  • Rarely leaves its sand burrow, even to spawn.
  • Discovered when SCUBA diving became popular.

Reef Fishes
, Michael, Scott W., pg. 287-288, 292