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Snowflake Eel, Echidna nebulosa

Snowflake EelIntroduction The Snowflake Eel has a very large range and occurs from Hawaii southward to Australia, westward through the islands of the Indo-Pacific to the East Indies, and across the Indian Ocean to the coast of Africa. It is a medium size eel and reaches a maximum size of 3 feet. They are primarily nocturnal; feeding mostly on small fish and crustaceans.

The Aquarium As you decide on the size aquarium you will purchase, you must keep in mind that larger volumes of water are more stable than smaller bodies. For that reason, we recommend using a 55 gallon tank. It will be best to attain a large tank from the beginning. This will keep you from needing to purchase and set up another tank as your fish grow. It will also alleviate stress on the inhabitants as they would otherwise get moved from tank A to tank B to tank C. Snowflake Eels can grow to a descent size in their first year.

Decorating the tank is personal preference. We recommend using fine sand such as aragonite instead of crushed coral as fine sand provides better denitrification and aragonite has more trace elements in it. The substrate bed should be 1-2 inches deep. For the most part, one pound per gallon will give you a substrate depth of one inch. Any live rock that is used should be placed directly on the bottom of the tank and not on the top of the sand to avoid it toppling over. Make certain that any structure is sturdy and secure, either using putty or cable ties to fasten them if necessary. However you decide to decorate your aquarium, your goal is to provide shelter and security for the fish while keeping the tank easy to maintain and visually pleasing.

Filtration Keeping in mind that eels are carnivorous animals and consume a lot of food, they naturally will produce a large amount of nitrogenous waste. Your aquariums filtration should be designed with this in mind. Depending on the size of the tank, a hang on the back filter may be efficient enough but we recommend using a sump design with wet/dry filtration. Sumps are capable of moving water through the filter media at rapid rates, ensuring that the tank's water is turned over several times an hour. By incorporating wet/dry or trickle filtration into your sump, you will be increasing the efficiency of breaking down nitrites. It will also increase the total amount of dissolved oxygen in the water which is vital to keeping large fish alive. Chemical filtration is also very important in the long term keeping of large fish. This is easily accomplished by placing a bag of aquarium carbon in an area of high water flow within the sump. Carbon will aid in removing impurities from the water such as fats, acids, proteins and dissolved wastes as well as giving the water a polished look by removing discoloration.

In your filtration, it is strongly recommended that you invest in a quality protein skimmer as they will be the single most important piece of equipment in your aquarium's design and can dictate how successful you are at keeping your eels for any period of time. A protein skimmer, for all intensive purposes, is a cylinder that has water pumped into it. At the same time, micro bubbles are also injected into that water column. As the bubbles rise to the collection cup at the top of the skimmer they collect fats, acids, proteins, mucus and a number of other wastes. Ideally, you want to adjust your skimmer to collect a liquid that has the hue of green tea. By doing so, you will keep your nitrites and phosphates lower and remove wastes more rapidly than by collecting a dry foam.

Other types of filtration that you may choose to utilize in your filtration system are fluidized sand beds, diatom filters and U.V sterilization. Fluidized sand beds are no more than an enclosed cylinder filled with fine sand in which water is pumped through the bottom and flows up though the sand and back out. As the water flows through the sand, it keeps the sand suspended and fluidized, therefore allowing beneficial bacteria to colonize each and every grain of sand, greatly increasing the surface area for nitrification to occur. Diatom filters are not as popular as they once were and have been replaced with micron filters. The function is still the same while the design differs. For diatom filters, diatomaceous earth is used to cover a filter bag creating a mechanical filter that allows only the absolute smallest of particles to pass through it. These filters are not intended for prolonged use, as they quickly become clogged and backed up and need constant maintenance. Instead they are normally used for short increments of time, such as one day a week for example. The benefit of these filters is providing crystal clear water. They also filter such small particles that they may be useful in eradicating parasites such as ich from the water column. U.V sterilizers are normally, as are the previously mentioned filters, used in conjunction with a main filter. U.V sterilizers pump water though a cylinder and by a light that emits strong U.V radiation. This dose of U.V will kill a number of organisms ranging from various parasites to types of algae. They are very useful in preventing green water in your aquarium.

Heating and Lighting Ideally, your eel's aquarium should be kept between 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping your aquarium's temperature as constant as possible is absolutely essential to the well being of your eel. A standard aquarium heater of appropriate wattage (approximately 2-3 watts per gallon) placed either in the tank itself or in the sump/refugium should be sufficient. Since eels are very inquisitive animals, and like to take "sample bites", we strongly advise placing your heater in the sump.

Your aquarium can be illuminated with standard T-12 fluorescent lights, compact fluorescents or T-5's. They can be set on a timer to be on for about 14 hours a day and off at night for 10 hours.

Feeding Snowflakes will thrive on a diet that is well varied and containing whole food items. Whole food items are animals which have not been prepared, processed, cleaned, gutted etc. but rather are offered to your eel as they were in life; whole. Readily available whole food items include fish, crustaceans, squid, octopus and mussels. For the fish portion of the diet, you should not offer common feeder goldfish, rosy reds, guppies and mollies often, as they are fresh water fish and not a natural food; rather you should use silversides and sand eels. Shrimp, krill, prawn and plankton can all be offered to your eels as well. Any food that you offer should be of bite size portions. Ocean Nutrition produces several packaged diets that are good for eels such as silversides, sand eels, krill, squid, octopus and several other frozen foods. All frozen food should be soaked in a quality vitamin supplement prior to use.