Are you considering keeping a peacock eel in your aquarium but wonder if it is a good idea?
A peacock eel has an intermediate level of difficulty to keep. Its elongated body requires a large aquarium and specific water conditions to thrive. However, once the aquarium is properly set up, it is relatively easy to care for.
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about peacock eels and how to keep and care for them. Read on!
About Peacock Eel
The peacock eel is a medium-sized fish that is edible and also commonly kept in aquariums.
It is also known as Siamese spiny eel, spot-finned spiny eel, or stripped peacock eel.
The peacock eel belongs to the spiny eel family. Its scientific name is Macrognathus siamensis. It is a freshwater fish native to Southeast Asia. It can be found in slow-flowing rivers in Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia, and Thailand.
Like most fish in the Spiny eel family, the peacock eel has a slim, elongated body. It has a pointed snout and subtly separated dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. Those found in rivers can grow up to 12 inches long, while those found in aquariums grow up to 6-9 inches long.
Their body color ranges from dark green, yellow, yellowish-green, to tan. They have darker areas at the back, light brown flanks, and a lighter belly. They have yellow lines that run along the length of their body.
There are several dark eyespots with a yellow or white ring around them near the caudal fin. The spots help the peacock eels to camouflage and confuse predators. The peacock eels, like other spiny eels, have sharp spines on the dorsal fins.
The male and female peacock eels have a slight difference. The females are plumper than the male. Their colors and patterns vary from one to another, depending on the place of origin.
Natural Habitat, behavior, and feeding habits
The peacock eel prefers to stay at the bottom, hiding in silt, gravel, and sand of densely grown, slow-moving rivers. It is rather shy and stays hidden during the day. It comes out to forage for food in the dark. During the day, it hides by burying its body in the sand and leaving the snout on top of the sand.
They are peaceful fish, although they are aggressive on smaller fish that they prey on. They feed on smaller tropical fish and small invertebrates. For example, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, brine shrimps, and mosquitoes. The peacock eels are not venomous and are slow swimmers.
A peacock eel can live up to 18 years. Their lifespan differs according to conditions such as the habitat, genetics, and presence of predators. The lifespan of a domesticated peacock eel depends on the quality of care you provide it with. It requires clean, well-aerated water, and a proper diet to live long.
How to Keep a Peacock Eel
- Expertise level: Intermediate
- Size: 6 -12 inches
- Temperature: 72 to 82F
- PH range: 6-8
- Water hardness: 6-25
- Personality: Shy and peaceful
- Recommended aquarium tank size: 40 Gallon
- Lifespan: Up to 8 years
- Diet: Carnivore
- Necessary aquarium tank accessories: Substrate, water filter, floating planks, water conditioner, etc.
Setting up the aquarium tank
When domesticating a peacock eel, you want to set up the aquarium to mimic its natural habitat. The water should be slow-moving within a 6-8 PH range. As they are tropical fish, they prefer warm waters within a temperature range of 72 to 82F. Peacock eels are nocturnal; therefore, they prefer dimly lit aquariums.
The aquarium should be at least 24 inches long with a capacity for 30-40 gallons. As the fish grows larger, you may need to switch to a bigger aquarium to accommodate its increasing body length.
Peacock eels thrive in well-aerated waters. They prefer slow-moving calm waters rather than turbulence. Set up the water filter output to minimize output. The filter should have a water turnover of 10-15 times per hour.
An under-gravel filter is a great option for this type of fish as it provides high oxygen levels in the tank. You can opt to use a canister filter, air stones, or powerhead filters. If you install an under-gravel filter, always keep the lid tightly closed to prevent the fish from escaping.
Alternatively, you could attach the filter to the side of the tank with the outflow at the surface of the water. This installation position is safer for peacock eels as it will not interfere with their burrowing tendencies. If you notice the water is constantly becoming foggy, investigate if the filter is faulty and repair or replace it.
To keep the aquarium in pristine condition, regularly monitor the water PH, hardness, and temperature. Change at least 30% of the water every week to maintain low ammonia and nitrate levels. With each change, vacuum the gravel to get rid of any waste foods.
If you notice algae growing on the aquarium’s viewing pane, use a magnet algae cleaner to get rid of it. Once the eel is well adjusted, consider adding bottom cleaning tank mates that consume decayed food between cleanings.
Ensure to use a water conditioner to remove any chlorine or chloramine present in the water. Although they are freshwater fish, peacock eels prefer a tiny bit of salt in the water. Add a teaspoon of aquarium salt per gallon of water to keep them healthy.
Substrate and decorations
Since the peacock eel likes to bury its body, use a thick layer of sand substrate, at least 4-inches, to give it ample space for burrowing. Incorporate items such as PVC pipes, plants, roots, faux rock caves, and driftwoods in the aquarium. These simulate densely grown waters and provide areas where the fish can hide. Do not incorporate rocks, gravels, and pebbles, as they could cause harm to the fish’s body.
The only challenge with incorporating plants is that the eels uproot them when burrowing. To resolve this issue, position the plants in the areas where the fish is not likely to hide. You might also want to incorporate floating plants to encourage peacock eel to hide there instead of in the substrate. Do not incorporate rocks, gravels, and pebbles, as they could cause harm to the fish’s body.
If you notice your fish hides too much, it might be a sign they are stressed. If you recently brought them home, this is expected, and they should hide less as they get accustomed to the new environment. If there are other fish in the aquarium, check to see if they might be attacking the peacock eel.
The peacock eel does well with other fish of the same size, such as rainbow fish, hatchet fish, rasboras, and swordtail fish. Since the fish feeds on other small fish, avoid putting it with smaller fish in the aquarium, such as shrimps, snails, neon tetras, and crabs.
Also, do not keep it in the same tank with catfishes and loaches. These types of fish eat any food offered too fast and the peacock eel may never get to feed. Although it generally ignores other larger fish, the peacock eel is quite territorial if put in the same tank as other peacock eels.
Since Peacock eels are slow, picky eaters and nocturnal, the best time to feed them is at night. Besides, if there are other fish in the aquarium, they are likely to be asleep or inactive at this time. In most cases, they eat 2-3 times per week. Therefore, offer them food every other night just before you go to bed.
Employ target feeding by using a syringe or pipette to deliver food directly to the fish’s mouth. This feeding method is particularly important if other fish in the tank compete for food with the peacock eel.
Include both processed foods and small live invertebrates in their diet. Offer an assortment of dried, frozen, and live foods. For example, bloodworms, feeder fish, mosquito larvae, earthworms, blackworms, etc. Do not offer flake foods. Some peacock eels will occasionally eat fish pellets and tablets, while others will not consume them at all.
If giving live foods such as worms, keep in mind that they may fall on the substrate and establish their own colonies. This would be a good thing as the eels would have plenty to eat. However, if the worms die and begin to rot, they may cause harmful bacteria or fungi.
Peacock eel behavior in an aquarium
The peacock eel is shy and becomes even shyer when introduced to a new home. As such, you may not see it most of the time the first time you bring it home as it stays hidden. Over time, as it becomes accustomed to the new habitat, it becomes friendlier. When handling the peacock eel, be mindful of the sharp spines on the dorsal fins that can cut through your skin.
The peacock eels’ long bodies make them powerful jumpers. They use any open areas, including crevices, drain pipes, and filters to escape. Cover the aquarium with a secure lid and regularly check to see if it is still in place. Once a day, check to see that your eel is still in the tank.
Breeding and reproduction
Peacock eels do not breed in captivity. They are kept singly rather than in groups. As a result, the males and females do not have easy access to each other.
Some aquarists have attempted to breed peacock eels with hardly any success. They first create an environment that encourages spawning. They then bring a male and female to the aquarium for several hours. The two chase and swim in circles for a few hours as part of the courtship process before mating.
After mating, the female deposits eggs among the floating plants. Since the eggs are sticky, they adhere to the plants and hatch within 3-4 days.
When attempting to breed and reproduce peacock eels, the main challenge is that their eggs are highly susceptible to fungal infections. As such, they end up dying before they hatch.
Common peacock eel diseases
The two most common peacock eel diseases are ich and fungal infections. Keeping the aquarium water in pristine condition is crucial to prevent both diseases.
This is a common condition in peacock eels characterized by white spots all over the fish’s body. It is also known as the white spot disease. It is caused by parasitic ciliate in the water. If left untreated, it can be fatal.
It is easy to treat when caught early. Put the infected fish in quarantine. Then, use an over-the-counter medicine to ease symptoms. Keep in mind that peacock eels do not respond well to copper-based medication.
- Fungal infections.
They manifest as wool-like growths on the fish’s mouth, gills, or skin. Since the peacock eel has small scales, they are susceptible to fungal infections. Like the white spot disease, it can become fatal if left untreated. Give antifungal medicine to the fish.
The peacock eel adds biodiversity and beauty to your aquarium. It is available on both online and physical pet stores at reasonable prices. Keeping a peacock eel in an aquarium is not difficult. You need intermediate-level skills aquarium maintenance skills.
You should also have patience and a clear understating of the needs and behavior of the peacock eel. These will able to take care of it well and keep the aquarium in pristine condition. You can keep it alone or with suitable tank mates.