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May 20, 2018
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Title Starry Night Eel (Mastacembelus frenatus)

Sara Waller

Last Updated



A brief description of the starry night eel.

The starry night eel is a medium sized freshwater eel like fish found in Africa from Lake Victoria through Lake Tanganyika and their associated catchment basins to the Upper Zambezi and Okavango Rivers.  Starry night eels are  also found in the upper Congo River basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia, in the Zambezi in Zimbabwe and in eastward flowing rivers of Tanzania. The starry night eel is primarily a riverine species, but it also occurs in lakes near river mouths, in vegetated fringes and swamps and in rapids where it hides among rocks.  The starry night eel grows up to 15 inches in length and has extremely variable color.  Its ground color is brown with a variable reticulated and blotched pattern.  

Starry night eels prefer a water temperature of 73°F to 80°F, a pH of 7.8 to 8.4 and a hardness of 7 to 30°H.

Juvenile starry night eels may be maintained in a 30 gallon or larger aquarium, but should be housed in a 55 to 75 gallon aquarium for long term care.  The tank should be well planted with a soft sand substrate (CS7581).  Plenty of hiding places such as driftwood (ZM2000), rock caves and lengths of PVC should be included in the decor.  Dim lighting and sluggish water flow will encourage these shy fish to venture out of their hiding places more frequently.  A tight fitting lid is a must as these fish often exit the aquarium through any small gap.  

In the wild, starry night eels are essentially sedentary omnivores and consume a wide variety of small fish, aquatic invertebrates, plant matter and detritus, waiting for it to drift by in the water.  In the aquarium adults prefer meaty foods such as frozen krill (SF7136) and night crawlers.  Juveniles will do well on frozen blood worms (SF4791)and mysis shrimp.  Some specimens may learn to accept dry foods including sinking pellets as well.

Starry night eels are generally considered a peaceful community fish, however, any tank mates must be too large to be easily eaten.  Larger fish such as rainbows, peaceful cichlids and larger peaceful catfish make good tank mate choices.  

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