Peacock Eel: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

If you are looking for unique freshwater fish for your aquarium, you will be enthralled to learn about the Peacock Eel. In fact, they still remain a mystery to a handful of aquatic experts across the world.

If you are already intrigued and want to learn more about how to care for them, this guide is specially designed for you.

We will take you through all the details you need to know in order to care properly for the Peacock Eel, and also find out more about their habitat, water requirements, diet, tank mates, breeding process, and much more!

Species Overview

The Peacock Eel isn’t actually an eel, but a fish that has a similar appearance to eels. They belong to the Mastacembelidae family and have the scientific name Macrognathus siamensis.

They are also known as the Siamese Spiny Eel, Spot-Finned Spiny Eel, and Striped Peacock Eel.

Life Span8 to 18 Years
Color FormLight brown with pale yellow strip
Care LevelIntermediate
Size11.8 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater: rocky and vegetative
Minimum Tank Size35 Gallons

These fish are found in the stagnant waters of Southeast Asia, particularly in the Mekong, Chao Phraya, and Maeklong River Basins.

Among the aquarium community, they are considered to be a dream fish for many, and although they are considered mysterious, there isn’t a lot that you have to do in order to care for them.


The best thing about the Peacock Eel is that they have a longer lifespan, and you can expect them to live anywhere between 8 and 18 years.

If you want them to live as long as possible, you should maintain optimal water and tank conditions, and also provide them with a well-balanced and healthy diet.

You should be careful about the water conditions, otherwise you may risk them getting ill and dying earlier than their lifespan.

Generally, the level of care you provide to these fish will determine how long and healthy they live.


As mentioned above, these aren’t actually eels but a species of freshwater fish. However, they look similar to eels due to their elongated and slim body, as well as their pointed snout.

The difference lies in their dorsal, caudal, and anal fins, which are slightly separated. At first glance, you won’t be able to tell them apart from actual eels.

Their dorsal fin also has sharp spines on it, which can be dangerous if your hand is in the tank, or you are moving the fish with a net.

The Peacock Eel usually have a yellow-green or tan-colored body, with a thick yellow line running along their bodies, all the way from the snout to the caudal fin.

At the rear of their body, there are 3-6 eyespots, which are dark-colored and circled with yellow or white. These eyespots confuse predators and keep them away in their natural habitat.


Peacock Eel are quite large in size as compared to other tropical freshwater species of fish. Their average length is around 12 inches, but they will only grow this length if they have adequate space.

If you keep them in a smaller tank, they will only grow up to 9 inches in length.

Peacock Eel Care

Due to all the hype around Peacock Eels, many aquarium owners and experts believe that they can be quite difficult to take care of. On the contrary, it is easy to care for them, albeit there are a few challenges that you should navigate around.

With that said, let’s have a look at the care instructions that you need to follow.

Tank Size

Ideally, you should get a 40-gallon tank if you want to keep Peacock Eel in your home aquarium setup. Although some aquarium owners have also kept and bred them in tanks that are half the size, they won’t grow to their full size.

When you get a larger tank, you give these fish more space to move around comfortably and also facilitate their growth and enrichment.

Water Parameters

As is the case with other tropical freshwater species, Peacock Eel also need perfect water conditions in order to thrive and stay healthy.

Ideally, you should replicate their natural habitat. Since they are native to Southeast Asia, these fish are used to slow-moving freshwater with dense vegetation and an abundance of animal life.

Firstly, the ideal water temperature is between 73°F to 82°F, and they need water that is neither too acidic nor alkaline. Therefore, you should keep the pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5. Lastly, the water hardness should be kept between 6 to 25 DH.

It is crucial to monitor the water conditions regularly, so make use of an efficient water testing kit. This way, you will be able to partially change the water whenever the conditions aren’t optimal.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Since you should replicate their natural habitat, Peacock Eel require something that they can call home and suit their unusual quirks.

Firstly, you should place a thick sandy substrate in the tank that is at least four inches deep. They are burrowers, so they dig into the substrate and hide their bodies in it. Therefore, you should avoid using rocks, pebbles, or even gravel.

Once you have done this, add numerous hiding spots to the tank, and use decorative accessories that these fish can crawl into, such as driftwood, PVC pipes, or even artificial caves. One thing to consider is that none of this equipment should have sharp edges.

It is also wise to add floating plants to the tank, since live plants will be uprooted by the fish. Moreover, make sure you use a proper filtration system in the tank, and also control its flow. This is because they like slow-moving waters.

Last but not least, you should also add a secure lid to the aquarium, because Peacock Eels are known to escape the tank. Their thin bodies allow them to jump out of the water.

Common Diseases

Peacock Eel are susceptible to diseases like other tropical freshwater fish. So, they can easily get infected with these diseases.

One of the common diseases that they suffer from is Ich, which is also known as white spot disease. It is highly contagious, meaning that other fish in the tank will also most likely be affected by it.

Ich causes the formation of white spots all over the fish’s body. It can be quite lethal for them, particularly if not treated on time. If you’ve noticed white spots on any of the fish, you should separate them from the tank and also administer specialized medication.

Apart from this, these fish also suffer from fungal infections, which appear as thick spots that look like wool on the fish’s skin, mouth, and gills. These infections can also spread if you don’t treat them on time.

The most important thing to prevent your Peacock Eels from getting ill is to monitor and maintain the water conditions regularly.

Ideally, you should change the water partially after every 2-4 weeks. Changing the water by 25% will help reduce ammonia and nitrate levels in the tank.

What Do Peacock Eel Eat?

Peacock Eel tend to be picky eaters, and this is one of the more difficult aspects of their care regimen. Unlike other species of fish, they aren’t very eager to eat much.

In their natural habitat, they come out at night and look for high-protein foods. So you should aim to give them a similar diet when they are in the tank.

You should feed them bloodworms, brine shrimp, insect larvae, nightcrawlers, and other small creatures. Apart from this, you can also give them live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods.

When feeding these species of fish, you should use a pipette or syringe to do so, especially if there are other species in the tank. This ensures that they get the required amount of nutrition.

Since they are picky eaters, these fish may only eat two or three times per week. You might have to go through trial and error to find the right feeding schedule for them.

Behavior & Temperament

Although they might look aggressive and intimidating, Peacock Eels are passive and friendly. You would normally find them laying back in hiding spots or burrowing in the substrate.

They are used to burying their entire body under the sand, leaving only their head to explore the tank.

Although they like burrowing, these fish shouldn’t do it all the time. If this is the case, this means you haven’t added a sufficient number of hiding spots for them.

Moreover, they are nocturnal species and are more active at night. While they get along with most species of fish, they are a unique species that don’t get along with their own kind.

Peacock Eel Tank Mates

As mentioned in the previous section, Peacock Eels don’t get along with the same species, which means you should only keep one of them.

However, you can add them to multi-species tanks easily. Since they are larger in size, you should avoid placing them with small fish.

Although they are gentle, they can’t help but devour smaller creatures. Therefore, you can’t place them with invertebrates like crabs, snails, and certain species of fish.

Some suitable tank mates for Peacock Eel include:


Breeding Peacock Eels can be quite difficult in an aquarium, because they are used to breeding in the wild, particularly during the rainy season.

If a male and female fish decide to spawn, they will court each other in the wild. When they mate, the females lay their sticky eggs on the floating plants. The eggs hatch within 3-4 days.

Although there hasn’t been a successful method for breeding Peacock Eels, some experts have come forward with a theory that if you maintain a closed environment and pump fresh water into it, it would replicate the perfect conditions for these fish to breed.

However, it is impossible to maintain these breeding conditions in a home aquarium, which is why you shouldn’t think about breeding Peacock Eels if you plan on keeping them.

Another reason why you might not have any success in breeding Peacock Eel in captivity is because they don’t get along with their kind very well, which is why you shouldn’t keep more than one in your tank.

Until scientists and aquatic experts come up with a method to breed these fish, you will have to raise one Peacock Eel per home aquarium.

Final Thoughts

Peacock Eel are beautiful and captivating tropical freshwater fish that not only have long bodies, but also a pretty long lifespan.

Caring for them is quite easy and doesn’t involve any complications. As long as you replicate their natural habitat and maintain the quality, temperature, and pH levels of the water, you won’t have any trouble raising them in your home aquarium.

You can always come back to this guide and refer to the care instructions that we have outlined for you if you forget something along the way!