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Eating Habits of Different Species of Eels

Nicks J
What do you think eels eat? Actually, the diet will vary depending upon the species under consideration. However, eels are usually predators and require meat for survival. Here's more...

Did You Know?

Eels are known to have a highly developed sense of smell. On the flip-side, they tend to have poor vision too.
The term 'eel' refers to a species of fish known for their elongated body. Their length may vary depending upon the species, but most eels have one thing in common as far as their eating habits are concerned - they are carnivores and experts at hunting down their prey. They use their acute sense of smell to track prey.
Although their habitat may vary from oceans, and rivers, to lakes, most prefer to live at the shallow depths of the water. Nevertheless, as of now, we're concerned with what they eat! Other things related to them beckon another article on another day.
So moving onto what we've specifically come to this page for, the following are the eating habits of some of the most important species of eels.

Electric Eels

Electric eels, known for their ability to give fatal shocks to their prey, prefer to live in the swampy, muddy waters of river floodplains, coastal plains, and creeks.
The diet of electric eels will vary according to their age. For instance, baby eels feed on insects, whereas, juveniles usually prey on crustaceans such as crabs and shrimp. Sometimes, they prefer to eat younger eels belonging to their own species too. Grown up eels prefer small mammals and fish. Adult eels have also been noticed feeding on birds.
Well-known for their ferocious appearance, wolf eels are fierce predators.
Wolf Eels
Weighing around 40 lb, and having a body length of around 200 cm, they might look menacing, but on the contrary, they are found to be very friendly. These are generally shallow-water species, and their habitat is usually stony bottom shelves, rocky reefs, and dens.
A wolf eel's diet varies as it grows, with the younger ones eating plankton, while the older ones preferring hard-shelled animals like crabs, sea urchins, sand dollars, snails, clams, and mussels. Wolf eels, with their strong jaws and spiky front teeth, can crush hard objects. The jaws act like nutcrackers, which enables them to have a crunchy treat of hard-shelled animals too.
Moray eels are a large species of eels and look very similar to a snake.
Moray Eels
This species is represented by more than 200 different types, chief among them being the giant moray eel and the snowflake moray eel. They are essentially ambush predators, and hide in rock and reef crevices, as well as in caves at the bottom of the sea.
Moray eels can be as long as 3 m, whereas, snowflake eels are around 24 inches in length.
Snowflake eels are extremely gently towards humans, hence, are common in house aquariums. In general, moray eels mainly prey on mollusks that include cuttlefish, squid, and even octopus. In fact, octopus is their favorite food. They also like to eat crustaceans like lobsters and crabs. They also love to eat small species of eels.
Often preyed by seabirds, sand eels are small and slender, and live in shallow water close to the bottom.
Sand Eels
They hide from their predators by burrowing into the sand. Sand eels are omnivores, as they eat both plant matter and meat. They feed on polychaetes, worms, crustaceans such as euphausians, copepods, lobsters, crabs, and amphipods.
Copepods are shrimp-like creatures that form an important part of their diet. They also don't hesitate to prey on larvae and eggs of other fish, particularly those that are members of their own species. However, they all love to graze on a variety of plankton, such as zooplankton and phytoplankton.

Peacock Eels

Known for their spiny elongated structure, peacock eels are indeed beautiful, as they are adorned with 3 to 6 decorative 'eye spots' at the rear part of the body. Peacock eels are around 12 inches long, and show a light-brown color. Moreover, an attractive thin yellow line runs from the eye to the length of the body, terminating at the base of the tail.
Peacock eels are shallow water species, and prefer to live in slow moving rivers and streams, where there is thick vegetation. They are nocturnal species, which means that they hunt for food only at night. The staple food of peacock eels consists of worms and crustaceans. They love to eat shrimp, bloodworms, earthworms, and blackworms.

American Eels

American eels are opportunistic feeders, and will consume any food that they can access at that moment of time. This means that they can even eat carrion (dead animals), but their prey primarily on crustaceans and small fish.
The larvae of American eels feed on plankton, but the younger and older ones eat aquatic insects, frogs, worms, clams, toads, and other invertebrates. However, due to their opportunistic nature, there is a wide variation in their eating habits. This can be gauged from the fact that they don't even spare their own family, at times.

Fire Eels

These eels show red lateral stripes all over the body, hence, the name. Found in river environment, they spend much of their time living buried in the riverbeds.
They are voracious predators, and will reach to maximum depths to catch their prey. Fire eels are exceedingly elongated, with most species having a length of around 1.2 m. Bloodworms, tubifex, small fish, night crawlers, shrimp, mussels, and insect larvae are the primary sources of their food.

Short-finned Eels

Commonly found in the coastal areas of rivers, lakes, and dams, short-finned eels have a tubular structure, appear like snakes, and are around 90 cm long.
Like most other species of eels, short-finned eels also hunt at night. They feed on a variety of animals, including frogs, shrimp, water snails, earthworms, amphipods, and small species of fish such as perch and trout.

Tire Track Eels

Belonging to the family of ray-finned species of eels, they are known for their nocturnal eating habits. Also referred to as spiny eels, they can grow up to 2.5 feet long. Their staple food primarily consists of blackworms, earthworms, and benthic insect larvae. In captivity, they need live food such as tubifex worms, mosquito larvae, cyclops, etc.
Although different species of eels have varying eating habits, they will eat almost any meat in an aquarium setting. So, in captivity, if you can't provide live food, there is no harm in feeding them frozen food.