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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Eels



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Traits & behavior

Instead of plants, these fish eat aquatic crustaceans, worms and aquatic insect larvae.

You will find that your eel is most active at night.

Bottom dwellers
You will see your eel swimming at the bottom of your aquarium. To create a beautiful environment, be sure to add some middle and top swimmers as well. Ask a PetSmart associate to help you choose.

Non-aggressive Freshwater spiny eels are mostly peaceful as long as they are kept with fish that are the same size or larger. However, it is best to keep only one eel per aquarium. Most eels are not tolerant of members of their own species.

Escape artists
Be sure your aquarium has a tight-fitting cover, as freshwater eels are known for escaping their aquariums.

Things to remember

Adding fish
Whether you're just starting your aquarium or introducing new fish into your tank, don't forget to add only 1-3 at a time.

Safety & cleanliness
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit disease to humans. Keep your pet's home clean and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home. Infants, young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the infirm or elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat. Consult your doctor for more information.


Staple diet
Choose live, freeze-dried or frozen foods such as bloodworms, tubifex worms, glass worms, earthworms, mosquito larvae, daphnia, cyclops and brine shrimp. Feed according to the directions on the packaging. Always remember to thaw frozen foods before feeding.

Night feedings
Because freshwater eels are nocturnal, they should be fed during nighttime hours with the lights turned off. Feed as much food as they will consume within five minutes.


Signs your freshwater eel is healthy:

  • Clear eyes, smooth, clean skin and fins free from any lesions or inconsistent colorations
  • Calm, steady gill movements

Things to watch for:

  • Poor growth or weight loss
  • Inflamed gills, skin or fins

If you notice any of the signs described above, check your aquarium water quality and consult a PetSmart Aquatics Specialist.


Freshwater eels require a long or large aquarium. Minimum aquarium size should be 29 gallons, but preferably 55 gallons or more. A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water for every one inch of full-grown fish.

These fish prefer fine gravel or sand substrate on the bottom of the aquarium, as eels often burrow into the sand. They are predominantly secretive rock dwellers in nature so be sure your aquarium has plenty of hiding places such as large stones and rockwork. Since eels love to dig, use potted live plants to prevent uprooting.

Fish compatibility
Freshwater eels can share their aquarium with other fish that are the same size or larger, but do not get along with other eels.

Because eels like diffused light, we suggest placing a layer of floating plants in the aquarium.

Water changes
Test water weekly to assess water quality. It is recommended that 10% of your aquarium water be changed per week. At the very least, 25% of your aquarium water should be changed per month.

Water temperature
Freshwater eels require a tropical community aquarium with water temperatures ranging between 74-84° F. Use an aquarium heater to maintain water temperature.

Aquarium placement
Place your aquarium in a low-traffic area, away from direct sunlight and drafts.

Aquarium stand
An aquarium stand will safely support the weight of your filled aquarium.

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