Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Dragon Sensory Hours: The dragons will be asleep from 2 to 4:30 p.m. daily.

Spotted Garden Eel

Heteroconger hassi

The spotted garden eel resembles a worm in shape and length of up to 6 inches (40cm), and its body is whitish yellow with 3 large black patches and numerous spots. This eel has a large upturned mouth and large yellow eyes with excellent eyesight used for hunting and protection.

Range & Habitat

Indian and Pacific Oceans and Red Sea.  This species lives on sandy flats and slopes in warm waters near coral reefs and sea grass, which it uses as camouflage.  Found at depths of 23 –150 feet, the Spotted Garden Eel lives in a burrow, which it digs by driving its pointed tail into the sand and using its dorsal fins to push the sand out. Once the hole is deep enough, slime from the eel's skin firms the burrow’s walls to prevent cave-ins.

Conservation Status: Common, Not Endangered


In the Wild:  zooplankton 

In Human Care:  flake fish food and brine shrimp

Life Span

In the Wild: 35 to 40 years
In Human Care: 35 to 40 years

Fun Facts about the Spotted Garden Eel

  •  This species is a pelagic spawner: it releases fertilized eggs into water; the eggs float near the surface until hatched. 
  •  To escape predators, the spotted garden eel slides tail-first into its burrow.
  •  Garden eels spend most of their lives in their burrows with their heads protruding out of the sand to catch passing zooplankton.
  •  Spotted garden eels rise two-thirds out of their burrows when they feed.

  •  Several hundred spotted garden eels live together in a colony and retreat back into their holes when disturbed.

  •  This species was not discovered until SCUBA diving became popular.


The Dallas World Aquarium, Spotted Garden Eel:

Dallas World Aquarium spotted garden eel

Spotted Garden Eel, Georgia Aquarium:

Updated June 13, 2023
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