Peacock Eel Care Guide: Aquarium Setup & Maintenance

peacock spiny eel hiding in substrate
Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: June 18, 2024
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Peacock eels, known for their **stunning beauty**, stand out in many aquariums. Keeping them healthy takes careful attention. This guide makes taking care of peacock eels easier. Discover their favorite foods and ideal tank buddies. Embark on a journey that brings the calm of underwater life right into your living room.

Article Summary

  • Peacock eels are adaptable and can thrive in various water conditions, including stagnant and flowing waters.
  • They are primarily nocturnal and spend their days hiding in vegetation or burrowing into sandy substrates.
  • They have unique adaptations, including a labyrinth organ for extracting oxygen from the air and eyespots for camouflage.

Species Overview

The peacock eel, scientifically known as Macrognathus siamensis, is a fascinating member of the Mastacembelidae family. Native to Southeast Asia, the peacock eel can be found thriving in rivers, streams, and swamps throughout the region.

Peacock eels have successfully made themselves at home in both stagnant and flowing waters within their natural habitat. This adaptability allows them to explore a wide range of habitats and ensures their survival even in challenging conditions.

Peacock eels are primarily nocturnal creatures. They spend most of their days hiding among vegetation or burrowing into sandy substrates.

As night falls, they become more active, venturing out in search of food. Their diet consists mainly of small crustaceans, insects, worms, and other small aquatic organisms.


The peacock eel can grow up to 16 inches in length. Their slender bodies are covered in small scales, giving them a smooth and sleek texture that adds to their allure.

Peacock eels showcase a stunning array of hues, ranging from earthy shades of brown and black to vibrant blues and greens. These mesmerizing colors blend harmoniously across their skin, creating an exquisite display reminiscent of the majestic peacock after which these freshwater fish are named.


With a pointed snout and small eyes positioned on top of its head, the peacock eel possesses an intriguing visage that sets it apart from other aquatic species. The positioning of the peacock eel’s eyes allows it to hide beneath sand or gravel while keeping watch for potential prey or predators.

They have a specialized organ called a labyrinth organ located above their gills which allows the peacock eel to extract oxygen from the air directly. This adaptation proves useful when water conditions deteriorate or when they need to survive in low-oxygen environments.

Another notable feature is the presence of eyespots on the peacock eel’s body. These dark spots resemble large eyes and serve as a form of camouflage against would-be attackers.

When threatened, these ingenious markings create an illusion that confuses predators by diverting attention away from the eel’s true vulnerable spots.

peacock spiny eel on display

Tank and Water Requirements

Adequate tank size is crucial for the well-being of the peacock eel. These fascinating creatures require ample space to swim freely, so it is recommended to provide them with a minimum tank size of 30 gallons. A larger tank will offer even more room for exploration and reduce stress levels.

To create a comfortable environment for your peacock eel, it’s important to incorporate hiding spots within the aquarium. Caves or PVC pipes make excellent options for these secretive creatures to retreat into when they feel the need. These hiding spots not only provide security but also mimic their natural habitat, making them feel right at home.

Water Parameters

Maintaining optimal water conditions is vital for the health of your peacock eel. To ensure their well-being, it is essential to monitor and regulate water temperature within the range of 75°F – 82°F (24°C – 28°C) using a reliable heater. This temperature range closely resembles their native tropical environments and promotes their overall vitality.

In addition to temperature control, maintaining suitable water quality is imperative. Peacock eels thrive in slightly acidic water with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5. Regularly testing the pH level using appropriate kits will help you ensure that the conditions remain optimal for your eel’s health.

To maintain pristine water conditions in your peacock eel’s tank, regular partial water changes are necessary. Aim for changing approximately 25% of the tank’s water every two weeks or as needed based on ammonia or nitrate levels detected through routine testing.


Peacock eels, with their beautiful yellow bodies and distinctive markings, are generally hardy creatures that can thrive in a well-maintained aquarium. However, like any other fish, they are susceptible to common diseases such as ich or fin rot if the water conditions deteriorate. Ensuring the peacock eel’s good health requires proper care and attention.

Peacock eels have an average lifespan of 5-10 years, but with proper care and a suitable environment, they can live even longer. It is important to note that the peacock eel’s life expectancy can be influenced by factors such as genetics, water quality, and overall husbandry practices.

Tank Maintenance

Regular water changes play a crucial role in maintaining optimal water quality for peacock eels. By replacing a portion of the tank water every week, you can prevent the buildup of harmful substances and maintain a stable pH level. This simple maintenance task goes a long way in keeping your eel healthy and happy.

In their natural habitat, peacock eels live in freshwater environments with specific conditions that mimic those found in their wild homes will contribute to their overall well-being. Maintaining suitable temperature levels between 75-82°F (24-28°C), providing adequate hiding spots like rocks or caves for them to feel secure and reducing stressors such as sudden loud noises are all key factors in promoting their health.

Observation is Key

Observing your peacock eel for any signs of abnormal behavior or physical changes is essential. These can be indicators of underlying health issues that need attention.

Keep an eye out for lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, or visible injuries on your peacock eel’s body. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to act promptly to address the problem before it worsens.

Quarantine New Fish

When introducing new fish to your aquarium, it is crucial to quarantine them first. This step helps prevent potential diseases from spreading among the existing inhabitants.

Quarantining involves setting up a separate tank where you can closely monitor the health of the new arrivals for several weeks before introducing them to the main tank. This precautionary measure significantly reduces the risk of infections and ensures that your peacock eels remain in good health.


As carnivorous creatures, the peacock eel primarily feeds on small invertebrates such as worms, insects, and crustaceans. These delicious treats provide the necessary nutrients to keep the peacock eel healthy and thriving.

Live or frozen options are ideal for these finicky eaters. Consider including bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia in their meals. These options will not only satisfy the peacock eel’s taste buds but also provide essential proteins for growth.

In addition to live or frozen foods, supplement their diet with high-quality sinking pellets or flakes formulated specifically for carnivorous fish. These commercially available options are packed with all the necessary nutrients to support their overall health.

While peacock eels thrive on a meat-based diet, some owners may wonder if they need any plant matter in their meals. Unlike herbivorous fish species that heavily rely on plants for nutrition, peacock eels do not require plant-based foods as part of their regular diet. However, offering occasional vegetable matter like blanched spinach or zucchini can be beneficial as an occasional treat.

It’s worth noting that frozen foods should be thawed before feeding them to your peacock eel. This ensures easier digestion and prevents any potential harm from consuming food straight from the freezer.

Feeding Frequency

It’s recommended to offer food once or twice a day to your peacock eel. Provide an amount that they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to health issues and water quality problems in your aquarium.

Timing is crucial. They are most active during dusk and dawn periods; therefore, it’s best to schedule feedings around those times of the day when they are more likely to be hungry and actively searching for food.

Creating a suitable feeding environment is essential for the well-being of your peacock eel. These creatures prefer to eat in solitude, so it’s important to provide them with enough space and hiding spots during feeding time. This will help reduce stress and ensure your peacock eels can comfortably enjoy their meals without any disturbances from other tank mates.

Temperament and Tankmates

Peacock eels, known for their vibrant colors and unique patterns, are generally peaceful creatures. However, they can become territorial towards their own species. If you plan on keeping multiple peacock eels in the same tank, make sure you have a large enough space to accommodate them comfortably.

Peacock Eel Tank Mates

Opting for peaceful community fish is highly recommended for your peacock eel. Here are some great tank mates that can coexist peacefully with peacock eels:

  1. Tetras: Neon tetras or other small tetra species can create a beautiful display alongside the peacock eel. These tropical freshwater fish are known for their stunning colors and active behavior.
  2. Gouramis: With their vibrant hues and elegant fins, gouramis make excellent companions for the peacock eel. They come in various species such as dwarf gouramis or pearl gouramis, each adding its unique charm to the aquarium.
  3. Corydoras Catfish: These bottom-dwelling catfish not only add diversity to your tank but also help with cleaning up leftover food and debris. Their peaceful fish nature makes them ideal tankmates for the peacock eel.

Tankmates to Avoid

While there are several suitable options available, it’s equally important to know which fish to avoid when considering tankmates for your peacock eel:

  • Aggressive Fish: Any aggressive species or fin-nipping fish should be avoided as they may stress the delicate peacock eel.
  • Betta Fish: Despite their popularity among aquarists, bettas have a reputation for being territorial and may engage in conflicts with the peaceful nature of the peacock eel.
  • Angelfish: While angelfish can be visually striking additions to an aquarium, they have been known to exhibit aggressive behavior towards smaller tankmates like the peacock eel.

When introducing new fish to the tank, it’s essential to monitor their interactions closely. If any signs of aggression or stress are observed, it may be necessary to separate the incompatible tankmates.

Creating a peaceful and thriving community aquarium requires careful consideration of each species’ temperament and compatibility. By selecting suitable peacock eel tank mates such as tetras, gouramis, or corydoras catfish, you can ensure a harmonious environment for your peacock eel.

Remember to avoid aggressive species like betta fish or angelfish that could disrupt the tranquility of your aquatic ecosystem.


Peacock eels, also known as spiny eels or finned spiny eels, possess unique characteristics that make breeding them a fascinating endeavor. Their elongated bodies, pointed snouts, and intricate coloration add to their allure.

However, due to the challenges associated with their complex reproductive behavior and specialized care requirements for fry rearing, successful breeding of peacock eels in captivity requires dedication and attention to detail.

Breeding Requirements

In the wild, peacock eels are known to migrate during the breeding season. They seek out suitable habitats with ample vegetation and burrowing opportunities.

To simulate these natural conditions in captivity, it is crucial to provide an environment that closely resembles the peacock eel’s native habitat. This includes creating a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spots and soft substrate for them to burrow into.

To trigger breeding behavior in captive peacock eels, it is important to replicate the changes in water parameters and temperature that occur during their natural breeding season. Gradually lowering the water temperature by a few degrees can help mimic this seasonal change and encourage breeding activity.

Ensuring proper filtration and maintaining excellent water quality is essential for successful reproduction of the peacock eel.

Breeding Process

Once breeding occurs, the female peacock eel will lay her eggs on various surfaces within the aquarium, such as rocks or plants. The peacock eel eggs are small and sticky, allowing them to adhere securely until they hatch. It’s important to note that male peacock eels do not participate in parental care after spawning.

Fry Care

After approximately one week of incubation, tiny peacock eel larvae will emerge from the eggs. At this stage, they require specialized care as they are extremely delicate and susceptible to stressors in the environment. Feeding your baby peacock eels live foods such as brine shrimp or insect larvae is crucial for their survival and growth.

As the peacock eel fry grow larger, their diet can be expanded to include other small organisms like bloodworms or daphnia. It’s essential to ensure that all food provided is appropriately sized for their consumption.

Regular monitoring of water parameters is necessary throughout this process to maintain optimal conditions for the fry’s development.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do peacock eels eat fish?

Peacock eels are generally peaceful fish and not known to be aggressive fish-eaters. They primarily feed on small invertebrates, worms, insect larvae, and crustaceans. However, they might nip at very small fish or fry if the opportunity arises.

What does peacock eel eat?

The peacock eel has a carnivorous diet and typically consume small invertebrates, including live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, and other similar protein-rich options. Providing a varied diet is essential for their health and well-being.

Can peacock eels live in freshwater?

Yes, peacock eels are freshwater fish. They thrive in freshwater aquariums and should not be kept in saltwater or brackish conditions. Maintaining good water quality and appropriate tank conditions is crucial for their health.

Can peacock eels live with goldfish?

It’s generally not recommended to keep the peacock eel with goldfish. Goldfish are coldwater fish, while peacock eels prefer warmer tropical water. Additionally, peacock eels may be seen as potential prey by larger goldfish. Compatibility between these two species is challenging to achieve.

Are peacock eels aggressive?

Peacock eels are typically not aggressive toward other fish, but their behavior can vary. They are known for their shy and secretive nature, preferring to hide among plants or in caves. However, they may become territorial if their space is invaded or if they feel threatened, so providing hiding places and suitable peacock eel tank mates is essential for their well-being.

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