What Do Eels Eat?

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Aquarium eels are a group of long worm-like fish with similar protein diets. The American eel and the European eel are types of freshwater eels that are true eels. The moray eel species is also a true eel but live in saltwater. However, many creatures commonly called eels are not actually eels, such as the spiny eel and surprisingly, the electric eel, which is actually a naked-backed knifefish. Eels and eel-like fish are carnivorous bottom feeders consuming primarily smaller creatures.

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Many creatures commonly called eels are not actually eels.

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What is eel food?

Eels generally won't bother fish of a similar size, but do actively hunt smaller fish. Eels also eat invertebrates — crustaceans, shrimp, crabs and sea urchins make good eel food. Eels kept in captivity will consume protein sources such as brine shrimp, worms, crickets, bloodworms, glass worms, and saltwater or freshwater shrimp. Most eels don't eat other eels, but some will.

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Some eels move back and forth between fresh water and ocean environments. In these varying environments, eels may select from a wider range of food items, including mosquito larvae and worms. While eels prefer to eat live prey, spiny and freshwater eels will eat carrion and will accept frozen bloodworms and tubifex worms as food if that is the eel food in the tank.

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Eel food by species

Striped peacock eels consume crickets, fish, crustaceans, brine shrimp, plankton, earthworms, mealworms, blood worms, glass worms, and tubifex worms. Short finned eels will also eat frogs, mollusks, insects, fish, and shrimp. Dragon eels consume fish, but also eat squid and octopus.

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Garden eels eat meat, live shrimp, and feeder fish. Moray eels eat fish, mollusks, and other eels. They hunt through smell and hide and ambush their prey. Juvenile electric eels eat invertebrates such as shrimp and crabs, while adults eat fish, crustaceans, and amphibians.

Eel food and teeth

The type of teeth specific eel species have dictate the type of eel food they can consume. For instance, snowflake eels have blunt teeth made to grind prey with shells, such as mollusks, crabs, and shrimp. Moray eels have sharp, pointed teeth made for catching and holding live prey. They eat crustaceans, invertebrates, small fish, and smaller eels. In captivity, moray may eat fresh or frozen squid, crustaceans, feeder fish, or other meats. Moray eel species have been observed by researchers cooperatively hunting for food with grouper fish.

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The gulper eel, also called the pelican eel or umbrella mouth gulper, eats fish, seaweed, small crustaceans and invertebrates, shrimp and plankton, octopus and squid. These eels eat by scooping up prey in their large, open mouths. Because they have very small teeth, these eels generally feed on smaller prey, but they can consume larger creatures if necessary.

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Commercial eel food

Commercially produced eel food raised in tanks or ponds include high protein pellets and pastes. These may contain ingredients such as beef livers, tubifex worms, and fish meal. Eel feed may also contain ingredients such as binders, wheat, starch, soybean meal, corn, vegetable or animal fat, minerals and vitamins. Tubifex worms, chopped clam, and fish meal are used as a starter diet for young eels, called elvers.

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People continue to experiment with locally available ingredients to reduce the cost of feeding eels without compromising eel health and condition. Some of the foods tried include sheep livers and spleens, fish canning by-products, carp viscera and livers, and trash fish, minus their heads and gills. Usually producers remove the connective tissues and hard parts of these meat and fish products so that they can be ground find enough for eels to eat.

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