Gary’s Fish Blog – Moray Eel

Moray Eel  – (muraenidae)



There are approximately 200 species of moray eel, almost all of which live in tropical saltwater, some in brackish water, and a small few in freshwater.


These shy creatures are usually found living in small holes, with just their heads protruding.  They open and close their mouths, drawing water in to their mouths and out through their gills to oxygenate their blood.  Contrary to popular belief, if bitten, a human is supposed to wait until the eel feels the need to breathe again, before attempting to free oneself.  However, the eel cannot release its grip, even in death, and must therefore be manually pried off.  So, don’t mess with the moray!!!

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Large morays can seriously injure humans, although only attack in self-defence as they are very shy creatures.  However a few instances of mistaken identity have been recorded when divers attempt to hand-feed them, and have subsequently lost fingers.


Most species have teeth designed to tear flesh or grip slippery prey, but some have molar-like teeth used for grinding and crushing crustaceans.  They have a second set of teethed jaws in their throat which aids in swallowing their prey.  They are carnivorous, generally eating other fish, and choosing to hunt at night.  They have very small eyes and therefore rely on a great sense of smell.


The only known instance of interspecies cooperative hunting among fish is seen between moray eels and coral groupers, initiated by a shaking of their heads.


They are preyed upon by barracuda, large groupers and sea snakes.


Females, from the age of 3, deposit eggs in a well hidden place and give off an odour for the males to find them.  The males then deposit sperm and 30-45 days later the young appear, ready, and capable of fending for themselves.  A large percentage will, however, form prey for other fish.

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The smallest known moray, the Snyder’s moray measures just 11.5cm at maturity, whilst the longest is the slender giant moray at 4m.  The largest, however, is the giant moray, whilst only 3m, weighs in at 30kg. It is snakelike in its movement as the dorsal, anal and caudal fins are connected giving it one long fin along its back.


Some species are venomous.


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