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MASTACEMBELIDAE (SPINY EEL) FAMILY


Spiny eels are eel-shaped fish which inhabit brackish and freshwater habitats usually having a soft bottom. Spiny eels come from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In Africa, there are some 43 species and two genera of Spiny eels; Aethiomastacembelus (19 species) and Afromastacembelus (24 species). Spiny Eels from Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, China, and India are from the genera; Macrognathus and Mastacembelus .


Spiny Eel [Pictures]
Macrognathus aculeatus
SYN: Macrognathus maculatus
PD: An elongated fish with a long snout. The back and flanks are dark brown in color, while the belly is light brown to white. A fine yellow line extends from the tip of the snout, through the eye, and to the rear of the fish. The upper parts may be marked with faint bars. The upper part of the dorsal fin has three obvious eye-spots.
SIZE: To 14" (36 cm), although not usually larger than 8" (20 cm) in captivity.
SS: Other Mastacembelus and Aethiomastacembelus species.
HAB: Southeast Asia; fresh and brackish waters in Borneo, Java, Sumatra, Thailand
S: bottom
TANK: A tank measuring 24" (61 cm) with a volume of 20 gallons (75 L) is adequate for fish up to 5" (13 cm) in length. Specimen longer than this must be kept in larger tanks. Follow recommendations for M. circumcinctus .
WATER: pH 6-8 (7.0), 6-35 dH (10), 73-79°F (23-26°C), some salt can be added if desired
SB: A peaceful fish ideal for a community tank containing fish over the length of 3" (7.5 cm). Often shy when first introduced, but may become friendly once acclimated. Gets along well with own species as long as they are similar in size.
SC: Large Gouramis, Knifefish, Giant Danios, large Loaches, Loricarids, Eartheaters, Acaras, Cichlasomines, Asian Catfish
FOOD: Live; Tubifex, fish fry, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, Cyclops.
SEX: Only distinguishable when mature-females plumper
B: This eel has been bred in captivity. Use water with the following values: a pH of 7.2, water hardness from 35-40 dH, and a water temperature of 77-81°F (25-27°C). Use a large tank and condition the pair well on a varied diet. Make biweekly water changes and keep the tank very clean. About 1000 clear eggs are laid around the base of plants and rocks. They hatch in 3 days and the fry are free swimming after 3 more. Start feeding with small nauplii. Later the young can be fed with white worms and chopped Tubifex worms. The fry, under the right conditions, will grow very quickly.
BP: 9. Breeding is very difficult.
R: Several color variants exist. The peacock and the striped peacock are some of the more common. Macrognathus species can be differentiated from Mastacembelus by its characteristic bumpy or ruffled area on the lower part of the fleshy snout. These two genera can also be distinguished by the distinct separation of the dorsal, caudal, and anal fins of Macrognathus . Keeping spiny eels at a high temperature proves to be detrimental to their health.
DC: 4. A robust fish that requires live foods.

Tire track Eel, Spiny Eel, White-spotted Spiny Eel
[Pictures]
Mastacembelus armatus
SYN: Macrognathus armatus
PD: An elongated fish with a snake-like body shape. No pelvic fins are present and the anal and dorsal fins are elongated and joined to the caudal fin. The back is dark beige and the head is silver-beige. The body color is beige and the belly is lighter in color. The body is marked with brown circular patterns. The eye always has a brown stripe running laterally through it.
SIZE: To 36" (91 cm) in nature, although usually this species does not exceed 20" (51 cm) in captivity.
SS: Other Mastacembelus and Aethiomastacembelus species.
HAB: Rivers with sandy riverbeds and heavy vegetation in India and Southeast Asia; Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Thailand.
S: bottom
TANK: A tank measuring 36" (91 cm) with a capacity of 35 gallons (132 L) is sufficient for fish to 6" (15 cm). Larger fish require at least a 48" (122 cm) or 55 gallon (209 L) tank. For tank set-up, follow suggestions for M. circumcinctus .
WATER: pH 6-8 (7.0), 6-25 dH (10), 73-81°F (23-27°C), a little salt is welcomed
SB: Do not combine this species with small fish, as they will treated as prey. A good candidate for a community tank with medium to large fish. Will often not get along with others of the same species. A nocturnal species.
SC: Large Gouramis, Knifefish, Giant Danios, large Loaches, Loricarids, Eartheaters, Acaras, Cichlasomines, Asian Catfish
FOOD: Live; Tubifex, fish, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, Cyclops.
SEX: Only distinguishable when mature-females plumper
B: Unsuccessful in captivity; probably similar to other Mastacembelus species.
BP: 10. This species has not been bred in captivity.
R: Will occasionally burrow in substrate while young. Extremely hardy once acclimated. This species is eaten in its native countries. May become friendly around owner.
DC: 5. A large, hardy fish that requires live foods in its diet.

Zig Zag Eel [Pictures]
Mastacembelus circumcinctus
SYN: None
PD: An elongated, snake-like fish. The snout is long, fleshy, and pointed snout. No pelvic fins are present, and the anal and dorsal fins are highly elongated. The caudal fin is very small. The back and body area yellow-brown, as are the fins. The body is marked with many irregular, brown transverse bands.
SIZE: To 16" (41 cm) in the wild, not usually more than 6" (15 cm) in captivity
SS: M. zebrinus
HAB: Vegetation choked rivers in Southeast Asia; Burma, Thailand, Sumatra.
S: bottom
TANK: A tank measuring 20" (51 cm) with a capacity of 10 gallons (38 L) is only sufficient for fish to 3" (7.5 cm) in length. Larger fish should be moved to a tank measuring 36" (91 cm) with a volume of 35 gallons (132 L). The tank should have densely planted thickets with a cover of floating plants to diffuse the lighting. Provide hiding places with pipes, wood, roots, and rocks. Have a tight-fitting cover, this fish may jump. Use fine gravel or preferably, sand, because the Zig Zag Eel has a tendency to burrow.
WATER: pH 6-8 (7.0), 6-25 dH (10), 75-81°F (24-27°C), some salt can be added if desired.
SB: A good community fish if kept with fish over 2" in length. This fish will burrow and may uproot plants.
SC: Large Gouramis, Knifefish, Giant Danios, large Loaches, Loricarids, Eartheaters, Acaras, Cichlasomines, Asian Catfish
FOOD: Live; Tubifex, fish fry, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, Cyclops.
SEX: Only distinguishable when mature; females are plumper.
B: Unsuccessful in captivity.
BP: 10. Breeding has not been accomplished in aquaria.
R: Will burrow in substrate and disappear for days, even weeks. Nocturnal.
DC: 5. A hardy species that requires a diet of live foods.

Fire Eel [Pictures]
Mastacembelus erythrotaenia
SYN: Macrognathus erythrotaenia
PD: An elongated fish with a pointed snout. The body is dark brown, while the belly is light gray-brown. The pattern varies from fish to fish. Usually several bright red lateral stripes and spots mark the body. These vary in intensity depending on the age and condition of the specimen. Usually the markings are yellow with juvenile fish, changing to red in larger ones. Often the anal, pectoral, and dorsal fins have a red edging.
SIZE: To 40" (100 cm) in nature, rarely exceeds 20" (51 cm) in captivity.
SS: None
HAB: Southeast Asia; moving water with a soft riverbed in Borneo, India, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Sumatra, Thailand.
S: bottom
TANK: A tank measuring 36" (91 cm) with a capacity of 35 gallons (132 L) is sufficient for fish to 6" (15 cm). Larger fish require larger tanks. For tank set-up, follow suggestions for M. circumcinctus .
WATER: pH 6-7.5 (7.0), 6-20 dH (10), 75-81°F (24-27°C), a little salt is welcomed
SB: Do not keep with small fish, they will be eaten. A good candidate for a community tank with medium to large fish such as cichlids. Will often not get along with others of the same species.
FOOD: Live; Tubifex, fish, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, Cyclops.
SEX: Only distinguishable when mature-females plumper.
B: Spawning with mature fish (over 20") has been reported. Use a large tank with a pH around 7.0, a water hardness from 10-15 dH, and a temperature from 81-84°F (27-29°C). They are plant spawners that lay 800-1200 eggs in floating plants. The eggs are clear and measure 1/20" (12-13 mm) in diameter. Feed fry small live foods, but be sure not to overfeed them, for the fry will over-consume the food and likely expire. The young grow very quickly.
BP: 9. Breeding is rare and extremely difficult.
R: Will burrow in substrate, but not as often as other Mastacembelus species. Is more prone to-parasites, injuries, and shock. The Fire Eel can become affectionate towards its owner, often taking foods from the hand.
DC: 6. This nocturnal species requires a diet including live foods.

Siamese Spiny Eel [Pictures]
Mastacembelus siamensis
SYN: Macrognathus siamensis
SIZE: To 16" (40 cm) in the wild, not usually more than 6" (15 cm) in captivity
PD: A fish with a "typical" eel-shape. The back is dark brown while the flanks are light brown. The belly is lighter and there is a fine yellow line extending from the snout to the caudal fin. Five eye-spots can be found on the dorsal and caudal fins.
SS: Other Mastacembelus and Aethiomastacembelus species.
HAB: Vegetation choked rivers in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Sumatra.
S: bottom
TANK: A tank measuring 24" (61 cm) with a volume of 20 gallons (75 L) is suggested for small fish. Follow recommendations under M. circumcinctus .
WATER: pH 6-8 (7.0), 6-25 dH (10), 73-82°F (23-28°C), some salt can be added if desired
SB: A peaceful fish ideal for a community tank having medium to large sized fishes. Often shy when first introduced, but becomes friendly once acclimated. Gets along well with own species as long as they are similar in size.
SC: Large Gouramis, Knifefish, Giant Danios, large Loaches, Loricarids, Eartheaters, Acaras, Cichlasomines, Asian Catfish
FOOD: Live; Tubifex, fish, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, Cyclops.
SEX: Only distinguishable when mature-females plumper
B: Unsuccessful in captivity
BP: 10. Breeding has not been accomplished in aquaria.
R: This species has different color and pattern forms depending on its geographical population.
DC: 5. This species requires a diet of live foods.

Zebra Spiny Eel, Short-Finned Spiny Eel [Pictures]
Mastacembelus zebrinus
SYN: Macrognathus zebrinus
PD: The back is light yellow-brown. The flanks are a little darker and the belly is yellowish white. A fine golden line extends from the eye, back to the rear area of the fish. Just below this line is a broader, dark stripe that follows the golden stripe until the midsection. The body is marked with many transverse brown-black stripes.
SIZE: To 6" (15 cm) in captivity, 18" (45 cm) in nature.
SS: Other Mastacembelus and Aethiomastacembelus species.
HAB: Found in streams with heavy vegetation and water falls in Eastern India.
S: bottom
TANK: A tank measuring 24" (61 cm) with a volume of 20 gallons (75 L) is recommended for small fish, under 4" (10 cm). Follow suggestions under M. circumcinctus.
WATER: pH 6-8 (7.0), 6-25 dH (10), 75-82°F (24-28°C), some salt can be added if desired
SB: A peaceful fish ideal for a community tank. Gets along well with own species as long as they are similar in size.
SC: Large Gouramis, Knifefish, Giant Danios, large Loaches, Loricarids, Eartheaters, Acaras, Cichlasomines, Asian Catfish
FOOD: Live; Tubifex, fish, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, Cyclops.
SEX: Only distinguishable when mature-females plumper
B: Unsuccessful in captivity
BP: 10. This species has not be bred in captivity.
R: Will burrow in substrate and disappear for days, even weeks. Spends most of the day buried with its snout sticking just out of the gravel.
DC: 5. A robust fish, more suited to community tanks than other eels. This species diet must include live foods.


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