This month's featured inhabitants of the Children's Services aquariums are the zebra moray eels. We have two of these beautiful fish in our rescue tank. Yes, they are fish, not snakes like so many of our younger visitors like to call them. Moray eels are actually not true eels because they do not have fins along their bodies (think Flotsam and Jetsam from The Little Mermaid animated film). Moray eels are considered eel-shaped fish. They are also one of the few types of fish that can swim backwards. This is a very handy skill for a fish that prefers to hide.
Because they are so adept at squeezing into tight spaces, they have been found in the wild working in tandem with grouper fish. Zebra morays are enlisted by groupers to flush out crustaceans, sea urchins, and mollusks from small spaces and then both species will share the food. This is a rare example of cooperative hunting among different species of fish.
Zebra moray eels have some pretty serious teeth, too. Once an eel bites down on something with its jaws, it can be a little tricky to get them to release whatever it is they caught. If you are lucky enough to be around during feeding time (which is also the best time to really see our eels swimming about), you will notice that they are always fed with a feeding stick. It's a clever device that allows us to bring the food right to the eel without worrying about getting bitten.
Don't worry our eels are not trapped! They like to rearrange the tank to make better hiding spots. Zebra morays are shy creatures. They feel much more comfortable when they have a good place to hide. So don’t be alarmed if you notice some of their tank decorations tipped over, they have done it on purpose.
My book recommendation this month, Going for a Sea Bath by Andree Poulin, features true eels (you will notice they have fins along their sides) instead of zebra moray eels. It is a quirky counting story that features all kinds of interesting sea creatures! Little ones will have fun trying to find and count all of the animals as they get added to the bathtub.