If you click a link on this page, then go on to make a purchase, we may receive a commission but at no extra cost to you. Learn More

Fire Eel: Everything You Need To Know About These Creatures!

The fire eel (mastacembelus erythrotaenia) is an exotic-looking freshwater fish that is worth keeping in your fish tank. This spiny eel is very popular in the aquarium trade and is a native in Southeast Asia including Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Indonesia.

The fire eel is a bit shy at first but an intellectual creature, learning to ask for food from owners and can familiarize their owner. This bottom feeder is known to have spines along its back.

Although they are called eels because of their elongated appearance and body movement, fire eels are freshwater fishes that dwell in muddy low leveled bodies of water. With their muddy brown appearance and fiery red stripes that run along their backs, this freshwater is surely a sight to be seen.

What do you need to know?

The fire eel is not suggested for those who are new in fish collecting or have never kept eels before. Even though its name is “fire eels” this species is definitely not on fire and not as hot as what they are named for. This article would definitely help every fish collector the proper way of taking care of this species including the first-timers.


Fire eel's appearance
Fire eel’s appearance

In terms of shape and movement, this species resembles the shape of an eel, but it is not a true eel. The fire eel is a freshwater fish that belongs to the same family as tire track eels and peacock eels.

The Fire Eel’s long, snake-like body is dark brown/grey with four lateral stripes covered in scales. Depending on the age of the eel and the state of your tank, these stripes are either red or orange, with spots that fluctuate.

The Fire Eel has a fully formed tail and a dorsal fin that is separated into two halves. Near the end of the caudal fin are the dorsal and anal fins, which are long and slender. Fire Eels, on the other hand, have no abdominal fins.

Expert Tip: Its body length can exceed 1 m (3.3 ft) in the wild, yet it is only 0.5 m (20 in) long when living in a tank.

It has a life expectancy of 10 years or more. It’s possible to tell the difference between male and female Fire Eels. The male is a little slimmer and has a brighter color than the female.

The female fire eel, on the other hand, is larger and darker than the male. While a male’s color gets even brighter during breeding, the differences are simpler to distinguish.

Habitat In The Wild

Fire eels are known to live in South-East Asia
Fire eels are known to live in South-East Asia

Fire eels are known to live in South-East Asia, and to be more specific, in Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Burma, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, and other countries in the area. These spiny creatures can often be found in large freshwater lakes or rivers that have abundant vegetation.

With their steadily growing size, they are most often found in big spaces with muddy areas. Their elongated body allows them to burrow themselves in muddy waters to be able to hunt for food or be away from lurking predators. This omnivorous eel is most comfortable in big spaces with many spaces to hide or substances to burrow into.

Difficulties In Keeping

Each pet has its difficulties in raising them it’s up to you to determine if the risks are worth taking. Since it is a big predator it is best to put them in spacious tanks with bigger rooms for them to explore even though bigger tanks surely aren’t cheap.

These not-so-little rascals are also escaped artists themselves almost like Houdini has turned themselves into this creature, being natural predators in the wild they are known to escape open lidded tanks, thus it is advised to those that may want to take care of them, to keep their tanks closed and in a monitored area.

With their slimes being considered toxic it is recommended not to touch the fire eel, if bitten by a fire eel chances are you will be poisoned since the toxins in their body are considered harmful and should be sent to the hospital.

If you want to place this pet along with other fishes it should be considered that the other creatures it is neighbors with are bigger or the same size to avoid being eaten by the eel.

Keeping In A Tank

Keeping in a tank
Keeping in a tank

Thus being said these creatures can stretch up to a meter therefore you have to provide a tank that is at least 80 gallons or more. Since these are burrowing eels it’s best to keep them in a tank that is abundant of places for them to hide, a soft sandy bottom at least 2-3 inches high so that they have something to dig themselves into.

One must consider the quality of the products they are purchasing because the wrong items might cause injuries to your fire eel. You should avoid containing them with rooted plants because they are known to uproot them, floating plants are recommended for their style of living.

Expert Tip: It is not recommended to have the eel’s tank lid be loose or not available because of the escapist behavior one might try to fling themselves out of the tank.

Since they are nocturnal they should provide them with hiding spots such as stones that they can fit themselves into, big logs, or driftwood for them to have a place to hide in the daytime or when the room is well lit. Keeping them in dimly lit rooms can coerce them to come out in the daytime even if they are night dwellers.

With this type of fish, certain temperatures and ph levels should be achieved for them to live a long and fulfilling life. Using a thermometer you need to determine the current water temperature to know what you should do to keep the temperature steady for your eel.

Keeping the temperature undeviating to copy the bodies of waters in most Southeast Asian countries for the eels to be comfortable in their habitat, a temperature of 75-82 degrees Fahrenheit. To avoid stressing your pet the pH level should be at least 6.8-7.2 to avoid sickness.

If you are truly set to have this eel one must have all of the qualifications checked that are listed above.


Fire eel tankmates
Fire eel tankmates

Everyone needs a friend, right? Well not this type of eel, although peaceful to other marine life it is quite hostile to its fellow species, it is not recommended to have many in one tank.

This type of eel can be quite aggressive to their fellow fire eel, resulting in a harmful environment not just to themselves but to other marine life that surrounds them. These spiny creatures despite their menacing name, are peaceful animals, it is a carnivore it is quite calm around other bigger fishes, thus can be a good pet if you are up for it.

Yes, it can coexist with other fishes although preferably the bigger types of fish because even though they are peaceful to other sea life a fire eel is still a predator and might snatch up smaller fishes for a meal.

Fishes such as Arowana, angelfish, Oscar fish, and a lot more are approved to be living with our spiny creature, as long as the fishes that you are housing are bigger than the eel’s mouth.

Diet And Feeding

This type of marine life feasts on insects, snails, and even small soft-shelled crabs. You are allowed to hand feed a young eel with food such as chopped fish, snail, bloodworms, tubifex, small fishes, or mussels.

Once these eels grow their diet also changes into larger foods, it’s suggested that at this stage you feed them larger portions of worms, freeze-dried fish food, or other types of prepared meats. To be healthy this type of fish needs a balanced diet.

You must consider that fire eels need to be fed sufficient food. To be healthy this type of fish needs a balanced diet.


Even though a fire eel is not as high maintenance as other sea life, it is still a life that is worth taking care of, with its size and nature, it can be prone to be neglected. As a pet owner, you should be aware of the duties of having certain creatures as pets. This creature with its long lifespan could be your lifelong pet or companion.

Putting them in their preferred artificial habitats and feeding them the right type of content results in a happy beautiful eel.

About Rencel Leyran