Aquarists like snowflake eels for their happy-go-lucky attitude. These eels are easy to manage and often seen in saltwater aquariums.
But are snowflake eels reef-safe?
Snowflake Eels and Reefs
Snowflake eels are reef-safe because they don’t nip at corals. In their natural habitat, these predatory eels prefer eating crustaceans like crabs, shrimp, and lobsters. However, anemones, starfish, sea urchins, and other invertebrates can live with them as they’re not part of snowflake eels’ diet.
Let’s now delve deeper into why snowflake eels are considered reef-safe.
4 Reasons Snowflake Eels Are Reef-Safe
Snowflake eels inhabit the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific reefs.
These eels are easy to handle as they can tolerate variations in water conditions.
These predatory eels won’t bother your corals.
They’re bottom dwellers that seek refuge inside the caves and crevices or under the soft sandy substrate.
Given below are some of the main reasons why snowflake eels are considered reef-safe.
1. They Inhabit Reefs in The Wild
The natural habitat of snowflake eels is the caves and the crevices of the coral reefs found in the warm, tropical oceans of the Indo-Pacific region.
The water conditions inside a reef tank are similar to their natural habitat.
As a result, these eels enjoy a captive environment that resembles the coral reefs in the wild.
Like in their natural environment, snowflake eels often stay hidden in the reef tank.
However, they emerge from hiding once they detect food and attack the unsuspecting prey.
2. They Don’t Harm Corals
Snowflake eels don’t feed on corals in their natural habitat. So they won’t bother the corals in your aquarium too.
These carnivorous eels feed mainly on meaty food.
They seek shelter or hide in the reef branches waiting for the unsuspecting prey.
3. They Can Cohabitate with Reef-Safe Fish Species
Snowflake eels are considered less aggressive than other saltwater morays.
However, they’re carnivorous and have teeth designed to rip off chunks of flesh from their prey.
These predatory eels have poor eyesight and depend on their sense of smell to detect prey.
They’re known to attack small fish in marine aquariums.
However, these eels are compatible with large, aggressive reef-safe fish like lionfish, tangs, wrasses, and triggerfish.
These fish can co-exist with snowflakes eels in a reef aquarium.
4. They Can Cohabitate with Reef-Safe Invertebrates
Snowflake eels are predatory eels that like to eat meaty food.
These carnivorous eels eat crustaceans like crabs, shrimp, and lobsters in the coral reef.
However, anemones, starfish, sea urchins, and other invertebrates aren’t threatened or attacked by these eels as they aren’t a part of the snowflake eel’s diet.
4 Problems in Keeping Snowflake Eels in A Reef Tank
Snowflake eels are reef-safe as they can get along with other reef inhabitants.
However, there are challenges in keeping them in marine aquariums.
Given below are a few problems that aquarists face while keeping snowflake eels in a reef tank.
1. They’re Messy Eaters
Snowflake eels are messy eaters.
These fish have needle-sharp teeth, which they use to crush and tear the victim apart.
As a result, the food can gets scattered all over the tank.
The uneaten food will start to rot, affecting the water quality inside the reef aquarium.
2. They’ve Poor Eyesight
Snowflake eels have poor vision but an excellent sense of smell.
So they stay motionless, waiting for unsuspecting prey to come within striking distance.
However, their poor eyesight can lead to accidents. When they smell food, they attack it with great force.
Their poor vision can accidentally injure their tankmates.
3. They Try to Escape from The Tank
Snowflake eels tend to escape from the tank.
To prevent snowflake eels from escaping their tanks, they must be kept in a completely secure environment.
They can try to escape their enclosures by sliding through the PVC piping into the tank sumps or filter bags.
Most snowflake eels get fatally injured while trying to escape from improperly-sealed tanks.
Even if their tank looks completely secured, open space at the top of the aquarium can become a problem as the eels can try to escape from there.
4. They’re Vicious Predators
Snowflake eels often look cute but are vicious predators. These eels aren’t social.
So putting your hand inside their tank can be dangerous.
Small children in the house shouldn’t be allowed to play around the aquarium.
Maintaining a safe distance from their tank is necessary to avoid any untoward incidents.
How to Prepare a Reef Aquarium for Snowflake Eels?
Snowflake eels inhabit the reef environment in the oceans.
So you must create a habitat that resembles their natural environment.
Besides a reef environment, a few other things must be factored in to ensure that the snowflake eels get suitable conditions to thrive in captivity.
Given below are ways to prepare a reef aquarium for snowflake eels.
1. Get a Large Aquarium
Snowflake eels need plenty of space when fully grown.
So the first thing you need to do is get the right size tank for your eels.
Many aquarists recommend a minimum tank size of 40 gallons for a 2-foot adult snowflake eel.
A large aquarium also provides sufficient space and resembles a reef environment, making the eels feel comfortable.
2. Provide More Horizontal Space in The Tank
Snowflake eels can grow up to 2 feet in length. They have an elongated body.
So they need more horizontal space than vertical.
A taller tank layout can obstruct their movements.
So you must provide enough horizontal space for them to move freely around the tank.
3. Unclutter the Tank Bottom
Snowflakes eel are bottom dwellers that hide under the sandy ocean floor in their natural habitat.
They also have poor vision.
So keeping an uncluttered tank bottom will allow them to move efficiently inside the reef tank.
4. Secure the Tank
Snowflake eels are known to sneak through poorly sealed tanks.
So you should ensure that your pet eel is kept in a secure environment.
Most eels in the aquarium hobby get fatally injured while trying to escape the aquarium.
Therefore, it’s essential to seal the aquarium securely.
5. Create Plenty of Hiding Spots
In the wild, snowflake eels live on the sand bed, which provides plenty of hiding spots.
So it’s important to replicate their natural environment in your aquarium.
You can use large caves, rock formations, coral, and seaweed decorations to create plenty of hiding places for snowflake eels.
7. Install a Robust Filtration System
A robust filtration system is a prerequisite for a snowflake eel reef tank.
As you know, these predatory eels bite-off chunks of their prey’s flesh.
So the food can scatter all over the place, severely impacting the water quality.
A robust filtration system is essential to maintain stable water parameters inside the reef tank.
8. Add a Protein Skimmer
Snowflake eels are known to create a lot of mess. This can damage the health of the corals in your reef aquarium.
A protein skimmer removes any dissolved organic matter from the aquarium before they decay and impact the water quality.
This improves the health of corals in the long run.
9. Keep Large Tankmates
Snowflake eels are predatory fish that consume small fish and crustaceans.
They have poor eyesight and rely mainly on their strong sense of smell to detect their prey.
However, due to their poor vision, snowflakes are known to attack tankmates and injure them.
So to ensure safety, it’s best to house large tankmates with these eels.