Under order: Anguilloidei
Approx. Price: R50
Not only is the Purple Spaghetti-eel rare in the aquarium trade, this curiosity is also rarely viewed once it’s added to the aquarium. It is very shy so it will keep itself hidden and spend most of its time burrowed in a fine sand substrate. When you do have a chance to glimpse it, it will be a source of pleasure and wonder. This is a species that is truly worth keeping if you are an exotic aquarist with a love of the unusual. Frank Schaefer from Germany, in a notation about this species on his website aqualog.de, reports only 5 face to face viewings of this eel in two years of keeping it, but it brought him great joy!
Though the Purple Spaghetti-eel can attain up to 17 inches in length, being thin and ‘spaghetti’-like it is thought of as a small fish. It is a ‘true’ eel and a member of the Moringuidae family; worms and spaghetti eels. The members of this family are carnivores, and the majority of the species are saltwater fish. This eel is a carnivore too but due to its small head and mouth, is no threat to most tankmates in a community aquarium. Primarily Inhabiting estuaries (the tidal mouths of rivers flowing into the ocean) it will do well in a brackish aquarium and probably in a freshwater environment as well.
Distribution: The Purple Spaghetti-eel was described by Hamilton in 1822. They are found in the Eastern Indian Ocean: Gangetic estuary (West Bengal) in India, Matla and Bidyadhari river, and probably Bangladesh; Indonesia and the Philippines; where they inhabit the underflow of the rivers.
Status: The species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.
Description: The Purple Spaghetti-eel is a ‘true’ eel, a member of the Moringuidae family of ‘worms and spaghetti eels’. True to its name its body is long, thin, and ‘spaghetti’-like and is a pink to light purplish-brown color. The head is very small and inconspicuous from the rest of the body and its small eyes are covered with skin. The dorsal and anal fins are more like folds towards the back end of the eel and are joined with the caudal fin.
Size – Weight: These eel can grow to just over 17 inches (44 cm) in length.
Care and feeding: The Purple Spaghetti-eels are carnivores. They are likened to an “insect larvae eating version of a moray eel “, and will eat live worms like Tubifex as well as frozen brineshrimp. Their mouths are very small, but being carnivorous they may also eat small fishes like neons or guppies if given the chance, so make sure their tank mates are too large to be able to fit into their mouths.
Due to their length it is advisable to keep them in a tank that is at least 30 gallons. As they are very shy and like to burrow, the tank should have a fine sand substrate for them to bury themselves in. Plenty of hiding places provided with rocks, roots, and plants may also help them feel secure in their new home. These eels can fit through very small openings, so be sure to have a tight fitting lid. Also to prevent any injuries, make sure the intakes to pumps and powerheads are covered with either netting or sponge material.
You may be able to keep the Purple Spaghetti-eel in freshwater, but a brackish environment is preferable and can be created by adding 2 – 3 teaspoons of salt for each 2 1/2 gallons of water. An entry for this species in Schaefer’s Aqualog book also suggests that brackish water helps prevent fungus, though that may not be significant with this eel. Eels respond poorly to copper based medications, so these should be avoided.
Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom: Purple Spaghetti-eels with spend most of their time burrowed in the substrate at the bottom of the aquarium.
Acceptable Water Conditions: These are suggested water conditions, based on recommendations for this eel’s saltwater relative the Spaghetti Eel Moringa microchir.
Temp: 72 – 78° F (22 – 28° C)
Hardness: 8 – 12 dGH
pH: 8.1 – 8.4
Social Behaviors: This eel is extremely shy and will spend most of its time buried head first in the soft substrate. Due to its small head and mouth, it is no threat to most tankmates in a community aquarium. However as it is a predator of benthic invertebrates (insect larvae, worms, etc.), it could snack on fish small enough to fit in its mouth. You may want to avoid small species such as neons or guppies. Also do not house them with larger more aggressive eels.
Author: Clarice Brough, CFS