If you think moray eels, you’re probably thinking of big fish for even bigger aquariums. But did you know there’s one exception? The golden dwarf moray eel, a species that’s still relatively rare in the hobby, reaches a maximum of only around 12”, although that still doesn’t mean it’s a fish for everyone.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about golden dwarf moray eel care!
|Name (Common, Scientific)||Golden dwarf moray eel, dwarf moray eel, puhi, blackspot moray, dirty yellow moray, pencil moray, Gymnothorax melatremus|
|Minimum tank size||55 gallons|
|Minimum group size||1|
Golden dwarf moray eel description & natural habitat
Although some sources state that this species won’t grow larger than 10”, aquarists report their golden dwarf morays actually maxing out at about 12”. Still very small for a moray eel! After all, with a maximum size of 2 ft, the banana eel is considered a small species. At 5 ft, zebra eels are pretty average.
Despite its size, this fish is still very much a moray. You’ll know it when you see one sticking its head out of its lair with its mouth open, just like its larger cousins.
The species ranges from pale to deep yellow in color, with some sporting brown spots along the side of the body. The eyes are pale blue and characterized by striking, vertical pupils, almost like a cat. Because they’re mostly nocturnal, don’t expect to see yours about much during the day.
The golden dwarf moray eel is naturally found in the Indo-Pacific, where it has a pretty wide range. It can be found all the way from eastern Africa to the Pitcairn Islands, and as far north as Japan. The species is apparently particularly frequently seen in Hawaii, and can easily be spotted here while diving. It’s usually solitary.
As it’s a reef species, the golden moray eel is usually found in waters that are under 200 ft deep, usually even shallower. It inhabits crevices and overhangs, sometimes sharing them with cleaner shrimp and appearing to defend the lair in return for cleaning services.
The IUCN lists Gymnothorax melatremus as a species of Least Concern, noting it’s common throughout much of its natural range.
Golden dwarf moray eel aquarium
Although the golden dwarf moray eel stays small, it’s generally not recommended to try to keep one in a very small aquarium. 55 gallons or up is a better idea, as these guys are messy eaters that can be too much of a strain on the system in smaller set-ups. You should also use a strong filter to help deal with the moray’s high bioload, as well as a protein skimmer.
Provide plenty of hiding places for a happy moray: live rock works fine, but if you don’t have any on hand, standard PVC pipes are also great. A sandy substrate will probably be appreciated.
Tip: Although all moray eels (and many other marine fish species) are known for their escape artistry, golden dwarf moray eels appear to take the concept to the extreme. If you don’t want to lose yours, make absolutely sure even the tiniest holes in the tank hood are covered.
Golden dwarf moray eel compatibility
If you’d like to keep a golden dwarf moray eel, keep in mind that although they’re small, they’re still morays. This means they sport an impressive double set of teeth. Your hand shouldn’t come anywhere near it (a bite can cause infection), and it’s important to remember that adding one to your tank does put your other livestock at risk.
Aquarists’ reports vary and some golden dwarf morays are apparently pretty peaceful, but crustaceans and even small bottom-feeding fish might be in the danger zone. If you do want to keep yours in a mixed aquarium, choosing quick, larger tankmates is probably the way to go. Avoid shrimp, crabs and vulnerable species like firefish and jawfish.
The golden dwarf moray eel is considered reef safe, so it can be kept in reef aquariums. Unless you have a very large system at your disposal, it’s usually best to keep only one. After all, as mentioned earlier, they’re naturally solitary fish.
Golden dwarf moray eel diet
Like other moray eels, Gymnothorax melatremus is carnivorous. In the wild, it feeds on any crustaceans and small fish it can catch.
In the aquarium, morays are usually not too difficult to get to eat, although it can help to target feed them to avoid their tankmates from getting to the food first. Use long forceps or a feeder stick – not your hands, as the species doesn’t exactly have great aim when it comes to taking food. Their eyesight is apparently pretty bad, which means they can easily mistake your fingers for a tasty chunk of food!
You can feed your golden dwarf moray eel using meaty foods like silversides, chopped squid, ghost shrimp and more. They don’t need food often, so you can feed yours a few chunks once or twice a week.
If you see your moray being unusually active and spending more time outside its lair during the day, that’s a good indication it’s hungry and ready to have a bite.
A beautiful aquarium with a spectacular golden dwarf moray eel is quite a sight to see, but it does require some specialist knowledge to make sure your moray thrives. After all, they’re quite rare and can be rather expensive, so you shouldn’t try to keep one until you’re sure you have the necessary aquarium experience.
No time to become an aquarium expert? No worries, we already did the work, so we can design, set up and maintain your aquarium for you. Contact us here with your ideas!
PS: Love morays? Don’t forget to have a look at the list of our 6 favorite moray eels for the aquarium to discover more fascinating species.
Chen, J., & Huang, H. (2012). A cleaning station composed of cleaner shrimp and high fish diversity in a coral reef in Kenting, Southern Taiwan. Collect. Res, 25, 41-51.
Mundy, B. C. (2005). Checklist of the fishes of the Hawaiian Archipelago. Bishop Mus. Bull. Zool., 6, 1-704.