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The zebra moray eel (Gymnomuraena zebra) is a species of moray eel known for its striped, zebra-like patterning. These eels are most commonly found living in tropical coral reefs and in ocean beds in the Indo-Pacific region and are quite shy in nature. They can grow to be quite large in body size and are prolific predators, hunting down and trapping their prey using their two sets of sharp, angled jaws. Despite this, they are not very aggressive and only attack if provoked.
These ray-finned fish are sometimes kept in aquariums and make for quite interesting pets. Their body length can measure up to 5 ft (1.5 m), becoming quite large in size despite being described as medium-sized fish. They are found quite commonly in tropical coral reefs where they rest during the day before coming out in groups to hunt at night.
The zebra moray eel (Gymnomuraena zebra) is a type of striped eel.
The zebra moray eel belongs to the class Actinopterygii, a class of ray-finned fishes.
The number of zebra moray eels currently residing in the oceans is unknown. However, they are present in great numbers and often hide in reefs and in rocky ocean beds, making it difficult to ascertain their true population. However, since their official status is Least Concern there is no fear of this species becoming endangered currently.
Most of the zebra moray eel distribution can be found living in the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific region and can be observed in abundance from shallow coral reefs all the way down to deep waters of 131 ft (40 m) along the sandy ocean floors. They are found in places from the eastern coast of Africa to the western coasts of the Americas.
Zebra moray eel fish prefer warm, temperate marine waters. They make their homes among coral reefs and among the warm ocean depths, hiding in the sandy beds to protect themselves from predators.
Zebra moray eels, like most other eels, are solitary creatures and spend their lives hiding in reefs and under rocks. They may group together to look for prey at night, otherwise, they spend their time alone. They are shy, non-aggressive creatures and get along quite well with other fish, even hunting together.
This species of eel is known to live from 10 to up to 20 years.
The breeding process for this fish occurs in the spring and summer months in the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, when males and females pair up to mate. They perform a lengthy mating ritual in the water which involves opening their mouths at each other and wrapping their bodies together for hours. After the female lays a clutch of around 10,000 eggs, the male will spawn over them and the pair will separate. These eggs will then fertilize and float up to the surface, developing for around eight months until they are grown enough to join the other fish and eels down in the reef.
The official status of the zebra moray eel according to the IUCN Red List is Least Concern.
These fish are known for the zebra-like patterning on their thick, dark, tube-like bodies which is where their name comes from. Their long, ribbon-like bodies are covered with interspacing black and whitish-yellow stripes, like a zebra. They have a number of short fins along their bodies which help them to swim and a thick layer of mucous to protect them due to their lack of scales.
They have numerous sharp, backward-facing teeth in their cavernous mouth which helps them when hunting and swallowing small prey whole.
This large size eel may look scary to most people due to its long, snake-like body. Their teeth look quite menacing and are usually on full display when they are breathing, taking in huge gulps of water to run over their gills with their open mouths. However, their striped coloring can make them quite attractive and desirable to pet lovers.
Zebra moray eels communicate with each other by releasing and picking up on various chemical signals to relay the presence of predators or by touch.
These eels can grow up to a length of 5 ft (1.5 m). This is as much as an average pony which sums up how long these eels are in length.
Though the exact speed of the zebra moray eel fish is unknown, it is a quite fast swimmer, using its small fins to propel itself through the water and can be found snaking around its habitat at high speed with its long body.
Though the weight of this species is unknown, moray eels, in general, are known to weigh around 66 lb (30 kg). With this estimate, we can assume that zebra moray eels weigh around the same.
There are no specific names for either sex of this species.
Baby zebra moray eels are called elvers. In the larvae stage, they are called leptocephalus while they are floating on the surface of the water.
Zebra moray eels are purely carnivorous in nature, eating crustaceans and fish. They use their wide mouths to capture small fish, sea urchins, squid, crustaceans, and mollusks which are unable to escape due to the convenient angling of the eels' teeth and the presence of their second jaws. Their sharp, backward-facing teeth are quite flat and help them to contain their prey like sea urchins inside their mouths as well as break down the shells of crab and shrimp quite easily. This makes them easy to eat and digest.
These eels are usually peaceful in temperament and spend most of the day hiding among the coral reef, only coming out to hunt at night. If left alone, they will keep to themselves, however, if felt threatened they will attack and bite intruders with their sharp, angled teeth. Due to the nature of their tightly clamping jaws, these eels need to be pried off and the resulting wounds can be very deep. Despite this eel not being toxic, the wounds caused can get infected very quickly and must be taken good care of while healing.
As these marine eels are used to living in their natural habitat of coral reefs and deep oceans, it is best to leave them be as they usually cannot adjust to artificial environments. If kept as pets, it must be ensured that they are kept in large tanks with adequate rocks, warm water, and dense vegetation provided for them to hide in. They must be fed shrimp, krill, or cut up crustaceans for eating every two to three days. They are known to grow quite large and owners must be prepared to provide a tank that gives them plenty of space to swim in. Zebra moray eel care must be done carefully in order to make sure these large eels are able to adjust and thrive well in their tanks.
These eels possess a second set of jaws called pharyngeal jaws which clamp down when the eel bites in order to trap and eat their prey.
They have two to three rows of teeth per jaw which helps to crush the shells of crabs and shrimp to make them easier to eat.
They hunt alongside other species of fish, bringing out prey from deep crevices with the help of their ribbon-like bodies. The group then divides up the prey.
A zebra moray eel reef tank must be kept quite large as these eels are known to grow very large in length at times. The price of these eels starts from $275.
No, these marine eels may bite humans, but the bite is not toxic enough to kill humans. Their bite may contain a small amount of toxins due to the presence of toxic algae which enters the eel's mouth while feeding which may cause infections but not death. However, the zebra moray eel has a very strong bite and can cause deep wounds which can be quite painful, so it is best to stay wary if encountered.
Yes, zebra moray eel reefs are perfectly safe. These reefs are teeming with coexisting wildlife and can be observed from a distance. If encroached upon or the reef is attacked, a number of marine eel and large fish species may attack and cause harm to the intruder.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our electric eel interesting facts and moray eel surprising facts pages.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable zebra moray eel coloring pages.
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