Peacock Eels

Peacock Eels

The Peacock eel is also known as the Siamese Spiny Eel, and its scientific name is Macrognathus siamensis. It belongs to the Family Mastacembelidae, the Spiny eel family. Just like many other eels, the Peacock eel has an elongated body. Wild specimens often grow up to 30 centimeters long (12 inches), but in captivity the will often stay around 15 centimeters (6 inches). The Peacock eel has a dark brown back and light brown flanks, while they belly is much lighter. You can see a fine yellow line that runs from the snout and all the way to the caudal fin. At the dorsal and caudal fins the Peacock eel is decorated with five eye-spots. The colors and patterns will vary between geographically separated populations.

The native environment for the Peacock eel is slow flowing and densely grown rivers and streams in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Sumatra and Malaysia. It is a bottom living creature that likes to bury itself in silt, sand or fine gravel, and only display a small part of its head. It prefers to forage for food at dusk. Wild Peacock eel will eat worms, crustaceans and larvae and keeping them on a similar diet of live food in the aquarium is recommended. Live brine shrimp, blood worms, mosquito larvae and cyclops are all good suggestions.

A small Peacock eel needs to be housed in an aquarium that is at least 61 centimeters long (24 inches) and has a volume of 75 liters (20 gallons). If your Peacock eel grows larger, you must move it to a bigger aquarium. The water conditions in the aquarium should resemble those found in slow flowing Southeast Asian rivers. You can add some salt to the water. The ideal pH is 7.0 and the ideal dH is 10, but the Peacock eel will tolerate a pH between 6 and 8 and a dH in the 6 to 25 range. This fish like warm waters so make sure that the temperature stays between 23 and 28° C (73 and 82° F).

The Peacock eel is commonly kept in community aquariums since it is a quite peaceful fish. Avoid keeping it with small fishes, since they will be considered food. Similarly sized and peaceful fish that appreciates the same water conditions as the Peacock eel are much better companions.

When the Peacock eel has been introduced to a new home, it is usually very shy and prefers to stay hidden most of the time. If you provide it with an aquarium environment that makes it feel safe, it can become very friendly over time. As mentioned above, the Peacock eel inhabits densely grown waters, and keeping this fish in an aquarium with plenty of plants is therefore recommended. Your Peacock eel will also appreciate PVC pipes that it can hide inside, and sheltered spots created by rocks, roots and wood.

picture of peacock eels
A number of peacock eels hiding in the same spot.

As of 2006, there are no recorded instances of Peacock eel reproduction in aquariums. Distinguishing between male and female Peacock eels can be a bit difficult, but the mature female will have a plumper body.

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