Types Of Eels – Explanation & Visual Guide

There are 19 main types of eels. Each type of eel can be categorized as freshwater or saltwater eels.

Eels are ray-finned fish that belong to the order Anguilliformes. In this order, there are 4 suborders, 20 families, 111 genera, and 800 species.

An eel is any ray-finned fish belonging to the order Anguilliformes, which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera, and about 800 species. Eels undergo considerable development from the early larval stage to the eventual adult stage, and most are predators.

Freshwater and Saltwater Eels

Freshwater eels have long snake-like bodies with a merged elongated ridge-like fin. These types of eels live in freshwater for most of their lives. However, they migrate to saltwater habitats to mate/breed.

On the other hand, saltwater eels are longer and more cylinder-like than freshwater eels. These kinds of eels also have a more defined set of gills.

All eels travel to the Sargasso see to mate. Read, why do eels migrate? for more information on their long journey which ends with their death.

Moray and Conger Eels

The moray eel ranges from 5 inches to 13 feet in length. They are also carnivorous eels. If you ever had a doubt whether eels are dangerous or not, then the moray eel will definitely let you know (hint, they are).

Moray eels, or Muraenidae (/ˈmɒreɪ, məˈreɪ/), are a family of eels whose members are found worldwide.

There are approximately 200 species in 15 genera which are almost exclusively marine, but several species are regularly seen in brackish water, and a few are found in fresh water.

Congers are scaleless eels with large heads, large gill slits, wide mouths, and strong teeth. They are usually grayish to blackish, with paler bellies and black-edged fins. They too are carnivorous eels. 

Conger is a genus of marine congrid eels. It includes some of the largest types of eels, ranging up to 3 m (10 ft) in length, in the case of the European conger.

I keep mentioning that eels are carnivorous for a reason. They are not like guppies where you can just play with them or swim alongside them. If they feel provoked, much like random octopus attacks, they will attack a human. Nonetheless, you can buy these fish online as pets.

Beach Conger

Beach conger eels live in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean and reach lengths of up to 4 feet (see where do eels live? for more info). And, don’t worry they don’t usually crawl up on the shoreline of the beach but they are usually pretty close to it in the shallow waters.

beach conger eel.
Beach Conger.

Black Spotted Eel

The black-spotted eel is one of the types of eel that belong to the spiny eel family. They can grow up to 20 inches in length. Other common names for the black-spotted eel are the polka dot eel or spotted spiny eel.

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Electric Eel

The electric eel is probably the most famous eel and the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the word eel. This is an honorable mention as they aren’t really eels.

It’s the only animal on the planet that can paralyze its prey using an electrical current. Their electrical current is potent enough to paralyze even mammals as large as cows.

Electric eels also need to breathe air which means that they must frequently surface to take in oxygen or they will drown.

The electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) is a South American electric fish and the only species in its genus. Despite the name, it is not an eel, but rather a knifefish.

Fimbriated Moray

These species of eel grow to about 2.5 feet in length. Fimbriated Moray eels have a yellowish-greenish color with black spots spread over its body. They eat mainly small fish. Read what do eels eat? for more information.

The fimbriated moray (Gymnothorax fimbriatus) also known as darkspotted moray or spot-face morayis a moray eel of the family Muraenidae.

Giant Moray

These types of eels are found in reefs in the indo-pacific region. At maturity, giant morays have leopard-like specks on their bodies. They feed mostly on fish but also small crustaceans.

The giant moray (Gymnothorax javanicus) is a species of moray eel and a species of marine fish. In terms of body mass, it is the largest moray eel (the slender giant moray is longer).

Grey Conger

The grey conger lives in the Atlantic ocean and feeds mostly on finfish. It can grow up to 62 inches, however, the normal length is 35 inches.

It’s also known as the Antillean conger or the conger eel. It’s a marine eel and can be found in the oceans surrounding Cuba, Jamaica, Saint Vincent, and throughout northern South America.

Longfin African Conger

The Longfin African Conger is a type of eel that grows over 4 feet in length and lives down to 262 feet below the water’s surface.

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It is also known as the blackfin conger. It’s mostly found in the Indo-Pacific oceans from the Red Sea and East Africa to the Marquesas and Easter islands, north to southern Japan and the Ogasawara Islands, south to northern Australia and Lord Howe Island

Half-Banded Spiny Eel

This eel grows up to 8 inches and has vertical bands around its body, hence the name. They’re nocturnal creatures and make for good pets so long as the other fish in the tank are too big to fit in its mouth.

It’s one of the smaller kinds of eels and it has a long pointy snout at the end of its long body.

Whitespotted Conger

This type of eel gets its name because of the long line of white dot-like spots along its snakelike body. Whitespotted congers can grow up to 36 inches in length.

The white-spotted conger is a marine conger eel that’s found mainly near the Japanese coast, the East China Sea and Korean Peninsula. It mostly inhabits shallow ocean floors in the sand or mud.

The white-spotted conger is eaten in Japan and is a common food choice on many menus.

Snyder’s Moray

Snyder’s Moray is also known as the fine spot moray. These are the smallest types of eels and they measure just about 4 inches in length. It has a long reddish-brown body that’s covered in fine brown and white spots.

Zebra Moray

These eels have zebra-like stripes over their body, hence the name zebra moray. They eat mainly crustaceans, mollusks, and sea urchins.

Snowflake Moray

These eel types eat mainly small fish and crustaceans. They are also known as clouded moray and can grow up to 20 inches in length.

The snowflake moray is found in abundance off the eastern coast of Africa throughout Micronesia.

Slender Giant Moray

At a recorded 13 feet in length, the slender giant moray is the longest species of moray to exist. You can tell them apart from other different types of eels by their grayish-brown dorsal fin that fades to white on the ventral.

Slender Giant Moray.

Slender giant moray eels (Gangetic Moray, Stophidon Sathete) are the longest kinds of eels in the moray family. In 1927, a Gangetic moray found in the Maroochy River, Queensland measured 12.9 feet

Ophichthidae

Ophichthidae are also known as snake eels and they inhabit tropical to warm temperate waters. They are also known to move to rivers.

Many species lack fins. This helps them to burrow into the ocean floor in search of food like worms. Most are often spotted or striped in color, imitating the look of venomous sea snakes to dissuade predators.

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Cutthroat Eel

Cutthroat eels live in tropical and temperate waters all around the world. These eel types grow between 9.1 to 63.0 inches. They are found at depths of 12,100 ft.

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Sawtooth Eel

Sawtooth eels get their name from the human-like arrangement of their inward-slanting teeth attached to the vomer bone in the roof of the mouth.

Types Of Eels - Explanation & Visual Guide 5

Snipe Eel

Snipe eels are found in every ocean, mostly at depths of 300–600 meters. These types of eels can grow to lengths between 39–79 inches. The jaws look like the beak of the bird called the snipe.

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References

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