Guide Care Rating: 3 Stars
Scientific Name: Enchelycore pardalis, formerly Muraena pardalis (Temminck & Schlegel, 1946).
Identification: Upon browsing the Bishop Museum's Ichthyology Images section, we emailed Richard L. Pyle, Ph.D., Associate Zoologist, and Database Coordinator of the Hawai'i Biological Survey Ichthyology Department, and asked him about to the difference in the name Enchelycore pardalis he shows on his Dragon Eel photo page, compared to the Muraena pardalis name that publications, such as "Fishes of Hawai'i", the official State of Hawai'i fish collections report, and Web resources refer to it as.
Richard told us that this eel used to be grouped in the Mureana genus, but that it was changed in about 1988 to the Enchelycore genus. Other names that appear in books for this eel include Muraena lampra (Jenkins, 1903), M. kailuae (Jordan & Evermann, 1903), and M. kauila (Jenkins, 1903), all of which Richard says are incorrect.
This is an eel that goes through different color and pattern changes as it grows into maturity, but primarily with its bright yellow, orange-red, black and white colorations, unusual patterns on the body, sharp pointed head and distinctive horns above the eyes, it is without a doubt an eel that cannot be mistaken for any other. (Click on the picture shown to view more photos of this eel in various phases.)
Distribution: Extends from Hawai'i to southern Japan, and southward to central Polynesia, or the Indo-Pacific region.
Average Size: To three feet (36 inches).
Minimum Tank Size Suggested: No less than 75 gallons, 100 is better, because even though you may have a smaller specimen, this eel can outgrow a tank rather quickly.
Habitat: Predatory bottom-dweller that requires plenty of shelter for hiding.
Characteristics & Compatibility: The Dragon Eel is a very aggressive species with a mouth full of large sharp teeth, and a bottom jaw that cannot close because it is curved. Due to this eel's aggressive and predatory nature it is often difficult to keep it with other marine life, included other eels. It is best kept singly, and in an aggressive species tank community with other larger predatory fish, such as Triggers, Groupers, Puffers, Snappers, Hawks, and Lionfishes.
Although this species has an aggressive nature, it is a shy creature. It is not unusual for this eel to hide at first, and you may not see it very often, but once adapted to its surroundings it will usually stick its head out of its hiding place during daylight hours. Specimens that have become comfortable with their surroundings have been reported to even lay out in the open in full view at times, but be careful. It is an escape artist that is prone to getting out of aquariums with open tops.
Diet & Feeding: A carnivore, this eel will try to eat anything it can get its mouth around. It is a hunter and prefers to dine on live foods, such as small fish, crabs, shrimps, and squids. In captivity it may be difficult to get this eel to eat at first, with larger specimens sometimes not eating for several months.
Providing this eel with live feeder fish may help to stimulate its natural feeding instincts, and once adjusted to tank life it may begin to accept strips of fish flesh, such as smelt, haddock, orange roughy, as well as squid.
As with most all eels, foods are best offered directly to this eel on a feeding stick, and it should only be fed when it wants to eat. In all likelihood this will be a couple of times a week, or even up to several weeks in between feedings, and then only feed the eel as much as it will consume at one time.
From time to time it is not uncommon for the Dragon Moray Eel, as do most all other eels, to go into a "hybernation" period, at which time it will usually hide and not eat for several weeks, or longer.
Guide Care Rating: 3 Stars