Eels belong to the Anguilliforme order, which consists of eight suborders, 19 families, 111 genera, and about 800 species. That said, species encountered by marine aquarist usually come from familes within either the Muraenoidei (Moray Eels for example) or Congroidei (Conger Eels) suborders. These fish undergo considerable development from the early larval stage to the eventual adult stage, and most are predatory. The term “eel” is used for many other eel-shaped fish, such as certain Blennioid and Pseudochromid species, electric eels, and deep-sea spiny eels (family Notacanthidae). These other groups, however, evolved their eel-like shapes independently from the true eels. Eels live both in salt water and fresh water and some species migrate on a regular basis.
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Echidna genus – this genus is just one of 16 that constitute the Muraenidae family and there are 11 species within the genus. These species lack the canine teeth of certain other Moray genera and instead have relatively blunt, crushing dentition that allows them to tackle crustaceans.
Enchelycore genus – this is another genus in the family Muraenidae. These 13 species of “Dragon and Longfang Morays” are generally small to medium-sized eels, most ranging from 60 to 90cm in length. The largest is the Mosaic Moray (E. ramosa), which reaches a length of 180cm. Members of the genus feature distinctive curved jaws that prevent them from fully closing their mouth and which aid them in catching, and holding on to prey such as fishes and Cephalopods. Enchelycore species can also exhibit extremely bright colors and ornate markings and this makes certain individuals highly prized and very valuable.
Gymnomuraena genus – the zebra moray, Gymnomuraena zebra, is the sole member of this genus. It is sometimes offered in the trade although it has the potential to reach well over 100cm in length. Sharing many traits and behaviours with the species in the Echidna genus, it has previously been classified in that genus.
Gymnothorax genus – this genus of “Sharp-toothed Morays” is the most speciose in the subfamily with more than 120 species. They are represented in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and are ubiquitous to coral reefs. Members are characterised by the possession of some canine teeth, and some have molar teeth also. They also have one or more depressable fangs in the mid-upper jaw and usually a single row of vomerine teeth.
Heteroconger genus – species in this genus are not Moray Eels, but rather “Garden Eels” that are part of the Heterogongridae family. These fish sometimes form large colonies with each individual living in a vertical sand burrow. In order to feed, they expose the upper part of their bodies to snatch zooplankton prey items as they passed on the current. They are always ready to retreat into their burrows at any hint of danger. They are generally only suitable for captive care in extremely specialised systems, such as public aquaria.
Pseudechidna genus – introduction coming soon.
Rhinomuraena genus – introduction coming soon.
Uropterygius genus – introduction coming soon.