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Old 10/21/2010, 01:03 PM   #1
lordofthereef
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Rhinomuraena Quaesita (Black, Blue, Yellow Ribbon Eel) Care

I would like this thread to be a documentary of sorts of my back ribbon eel trials, tribulations, and hopefully LONG TERM successes.

As a bit of a preface, I am well aware these creatures are hard to keep and are often considered "best left in the ocean" by even advanced aquarists (and I consider myself somewhere between beginner and intermediate). I welcome ALL feedback, unless the only feedback you have to give is something along the lines of "I read these things are impossible to keep. This project is doomed for failure." While I agree everyone may have their opinions, I would like to try and keep opinions out of this thread. I KNOW this is hard, since a lot of what we discuss here is partially weighed in by opinion, but please let this be more of a learning experience. Also, please realize that at one point everything was impossible until someone took the time to perfect it and become successful at it. I am not saying that person is me, but hey, it could be! That said, let's move right along!

I got a juevenile pair of these eels (for now I will abstain from mentioning where, since my goal is not to have a rash of people buying up these creatures thinking they will be an easy addition, because THEY ARE NOT) about seven weeks ago. They both shipped phenomenally well (came to me in 2 bags with around 1-1.5 liters of water a piece). They were acclimated first completely for temperature (~ 2 hours) then on a ~ 4 hour drip. This may have been overkill, but the water they shipped in looked/smelled clean and tested 0 ammonia, so I didn't feel too nervous about letting them stay in that water a little while longer. Upon acclimation, they were released into my 150g tank with around 225 pounds of rock (80% of which was man made and seeded with live sand and rock). The man made rock has plenty of "tunnels" and flat nooks, under which they can hide and feel comfortable. They have both taken residence on the bottom left of the rock work. Although I toyed with a PVC structure, they were able to fully hide themselves in the rock, and seem very comfortable where they are, so I figured I would avoid the potential extreme dead spots of a buried PVC structure. With all that out of the way, the easy part was over!

I went to the local Asian market with pie in the sky dreams of buying the uncooked seafood medley (shrimp, squid, clams, octopus, mussels) and trying to feed bits of that to the eels. I simply thawed chunks out and tossed them in. I figured I may as well give it a shot, right? I think we know how the eels felt about this, so I won't even go there. The hermits and snails cleaned up the mess, so at least I didn't need to go fishing.

From there, I tried a similar technique, but used a bamboo skewer to place the meaty bites in from of the eel and wiggled them about. While they do "check out" what the hell I was doing, they didn't really show any feeding response, and actually got a little annoyed with me and retreated into their homes after a few minutes of my harassment. I tried the same thing with some thawed silversides to no avail. This is the point at which I began to worry. I had a sinking feeling in my gut that everything I had read about these guys was true... that they wouldn't eat and they would be dead within the week. Why on earth did I think I would be the guy to have success where the fast majority of others simply failed?

At this point, I tried what I knew was taboo in the carnivorous marine fish feeding sector, and I bought some rosy reds from the local Wal-Mart (here is where you all get out the and start slaying me. Keep reading. You made it this far, just hear me out). To be honest, I wasn't terribly hopeful, but I plopped the fish in, and SNAP, it was gone. Dropped another one in and it was gone in about the same amount of time, this time taken by the other eel. Now I am feeling both excited and dismayed. On one hand, the eels do want to eat. On the other hand, they only want to eat live, and the affordable live food is unacceptable long term. My background in animal husbandry, although not overly exceptional as I am in the medical field did give me an idea.

I ordered a pair of JBJ aquarium tongs online and was eager for them to get here. Once they arrived, I took fish that I knew the eels would take (again, rosy reds) and I clamped down on their tails with the tongs (this is actually a little difficult and some of the fish got their fins torn off or simply slipped out and swam away) and offered them to the eels. They weren't quite as excited with the new tong feeding method as they were with just dropped the live fish in there, but they eventually went for it. While the eel was latched on, I kept a hold of the fish with the tongs for a couple more seconds. After a couple every other day feeding of the smallest rosy reds I could find, I started offering them killed rosy reds off of the tongs. They both immediately stuck their noses up, so I offered another live fish in the tongs, but before the eel could grab it I pulled it away. I then offered another killed fish, but the eels wanted nothing to do with it. I repeated this method morning and night (and if I had time a few times around noon), letting them each take one very small live fish every other day. Finally, after two weeks of this two to three times a day dance, one of them willingly took the dead rosy red. My heart skipped a beat! I thought it was too good to be true. The other was a little more stubborn, but picked up on it after another couple of days.

Now here is where I admit that I have no idea what is considered "long term" for feeding freshwater fish to saltwater predators, but from what I read, it was frequent feedings for years that eventually led to the liver disease issues that have been documented. Even so, I was happy that the eels were accepting dead feed, but didn't really want to continue so heavily with the fresh water species, so I started again with the silversides.

This proved a bigger challenge than I anticipated. The eels would bite onto the fish, but almost immediately release it again. I suspect the reason behind this was relatively large size difference in the fish. The silversides were about five times the size of the rosy reds that the eels were documented to be eating. Cutting them up into smaller bites showed limited results (one of the eels was willing to wolf down a head and nothing more). I plucked out all of the smaller silversides and started offering them in a way where I would pinch the tails with the tongs and let the heads float towards the eels. This showed some marginally better results, but I quickly ran out of small enough fish.

In the mean time I had ordered some selcon, which I was planning to supplement my meaty fish food mix with. I figured I would give a couple drops to one of the bigger silversides and see what would happen. Almost immediately, the eels popped their haeds in my direction, I assume because of the smell. They each wolfed down a silverside after about 30 seconds of "inspecting" their meal. They have done this every two to three days for the past few weeks now, and I am really pleased.

I am aware that drawing too great of conclusions would still be premature, however, I am aware that I have beat the statistic that says these animals should have been dead weeks ago. The amount of work that went into this already was far more than I bargained for. On paper it probably seems like a few minutes a day for a couple weeks did the trick. In reality I probably poured a cumulative couple dozen hours to get these guys eating this way. They still don't quickly snap up anything put in front of them (I am determined to get them going on the ultra inexpensive seafood mixes), but they are a thousand times better than they were when I got them.

The biggest challenge I currently face is escape. I have an acrylic tank with acrylic lids, but they were able to get through the teeth of the overflow. They have made it into the overflow half a dozen times and into the sump twice. The way My sump is, they would have o go out the water vertically about a foot to actually make it to dry land, but I can't say I am still not worried. I have gutter guarded the living hell out of the overflow area, but one of the eels still succeeded in making it over on two separate occasions. I have developed a pretty good strategy for getting them out of the overflow safely, but it is still more stress than I really want to impose on these guys. When I am able to get some help from a friend, I will probably re-gutterguard the area and actually use a single piece and try to mold it.

I would like to conclude with saying I will plan on getting some videos going where I will show a step by step process of how I got these guys to eat. The two things working against me (one of which I have not yet even mentioned!) is the fact that these guys really like to eat when it is darker (can be light in the room, but lights off in the tank). I discovered this when my timer bugged out on me and I had to feed at a time when the lights were still off. It is also quite difficult to video tape while dangling a dead fish in front of an eel's mouth. On one occasion, my girlfriend was there to tape, but of course neither of these guys felt like eating at that time!

Thanks for sticking it through. I know this was a long read. Hopefully this thread can grow and become a resource for both myself and other in the weeks, months and (fingers crossed) years to come!


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Old 10/21/2010, 03:20 PM   #2
stan zemanek
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I read somewhere on RC about a year or 2 ago about a guy who had a ribbon that would not eat no matter what he tried. That was until he simulated a feeding frenzy in his tank amongst all his fish. I can't remember the specifics but I think he may have not fed his fish for about a week. He then did a large feeding with frozen and live food. It was only at that point his ribbon eel started eating like crazy. He theorized that the chaos in the tank may have triggered an instinctive feeding desire in the eels brain.
I think he also stated that he never had any luck keeping ribbons long term in his tank until he placed a long narrow piece of PVC pipe in his tank for the eel to hide in. Again he theorized that perhaps eels in the wild do not just pick any type of cave, instead they may look for something more narrow to hide in.


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Old 10/21/2010, 03:48 PM   #3
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That is some good input. Do you remember where you read this? I would love to take a read. I hadn't seen anything aside from failure in my readings (aside from the occasional person claiming to have had one for months/years with no real input on caring for it), so it would be nice to get in touch with this person. I may still consider the pvc, although the way I have my rock work, there is essentially a 4 foot tunnel in the center of the tank that they like to spend their time in. I might just chuck in a piece as sort of a test to see if they decide to go in it or not. I don't imagine it really needs to be buried just for a test run. If they like it, I may reconsider, I am just leery about a place with virtually no water flow.


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Old 10/21/2010, 05:12 PM   #4
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Sorry I don't have the link it may not of even been on RC. I can tell ya that it was a very interesting read. It almost convinced me to go to the LFS and get a ribbon myself to try. But then I thought better of it. Try doing a search on RC.


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Old 10/21/2010, 05:40 PM   #5
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I had looked. Like I said I have read nothing positive on RC about them
The only positive things I had found online were anecdotal random pages that were filled more with ads than anything else!


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Old 10/21/2010, 07:37 PM   #6
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Here it is... I was just reading it the other day..

Fascinating animals.. I'd LOVE to have an eel in my reef..

http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/...cs-videos.html


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Old 10/21/2010, 11:24 PM   #7
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my lfs actually has had one for 4 months now in their dt and it would eat frozen mysis!! awesome fish i wish i could get one eating mysis. i would love one too but don't want them eating all my smaller expensive fish lol


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Old 10/22/2010, 06:58 AM   #8
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My LFS has had one for over 5 years and it eats off of a feeding stick, i think clams and table shrimp.


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Old 10/22/2010, 09:27 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunil6784 View Post
Here it is... I was just reading it the other day..

Fascinating animals.. I'd LOVE to have an eel in my reef..

http://www.reefsanctuary.com/forums/...cs-videos.html
Thanks for that link. I will read/view when I get home.


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Old 10/22/2010, 09:29 AM   #10
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my lfs actually has had one for 4 months now in their dt and it would eat frozen mysis!! awesome fish i wish i could get one eating mysis. i would love one too but don't want them eating all my smaller expensive fish lol
They are fascinating little guys and are easily the center piece of the tank. My girlfriend was pretty peeved when I told her there were certain fish we can't have since these guys would eat them. Once she saw these guys though she fell in love. I was never an eel person before trying these guys, but they are so beautiful that it is hard not to fall in love.


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Old 10/22/2010, 09:30 AM   #11
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My LFS has had one for over 5 years and it eats off of a feeding stick, i think clams and table shrimp.
I am definitely going to try to move on to something like this for many reasons, the top two being availability (supermarket versus an LFS nearly an hour away) and of course cost. With the leaps and bounds these eels have made since I acquired them, I don't doubt they will eventually be feeding on anything meaty they are offered.


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Old 10/22/2010, 09:43 AM   #12
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A bunch of those pics don't seem to load, but enough of them do to get a good idea of what this person did (along with the wall of text much like mine LOL!) I am really considering a pvc tunnel system now. It would have to be slightly modified since my rockwork is already in place, but I think I could make it work.


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Old 10/22/2010, 08:05 PM   #13
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I got a chance to read through the aforementioned thread and decided to build a little tunnel system. After much cursing of hanging nearly upside down trying to burying plumbing under the sand and creating a sand storm so bad that I couldn't see my own hand in the tank I got it done. I must admit I was a little skeptical, but by the time I got home I was greeted by two eels popping their heads out of the pipes. It was worth the work. I will need to blow the rocks off tomorrow and clean the glass, but I hope to get some pics up. Maybe I can show some feeding as well!


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Old 10/23/2010, 08:07 AM   #14
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Really cool. Good luck and keep up the success.


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Old 10/23/2010, 01:58 PM   #15
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Finally got some video up. Not the best, but at least you can see they are taking foods from the tongs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGlpzLHK0ak


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Old 10/23/2010, 06:48 PM   #16
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Thought you all might enjoy a couple pics. Not the greatest, I am no photographer, plus all I really have is the cell phone to take pics with.

First pic is one of the eels under its favorite rock. They both seem to hang out here around lights out. The second is how one of the eels are using the pvc tubing I recently added. I am probably going to get a bit more sand to cover things up. Right now I am just happy the tank cleared up for me.

In an attempt not to flood your page with giant pics I have made these clickable thumbnails. ENJOY!





EDIT: Just snapped this. Thought it was a good pic



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Old 10/24/2010, 10:34 AM   #17
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A quick update: These guys spend almost all of their time in the plumbing now. They no longer go hand out in the rockwork. I am very pleased with this addition so far. Wish I had done it from the getgo!


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Old 10/25/2010, 08:01 AM   #18
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What about this person: http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/sh....php?t=1050101 It was started in 2007 and continued into this year. No updates in quite awhile, but I'm sure if you sent them a PM they woudl have tons of info.


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Old 10/25/2010, 08:07 AM   #19
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That actually looks to be the same info someone else linked pasted into a different forum


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Old 10/25/2010, 11:42 AM   #20
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Oops, sorry. With my firewall I can't access that site so I can't see what it is.


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Old 11/14/2010, 11:32 AM   #21
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So I ran out of silversides and forgot to pick some up when I was in town near the LFS (it's about a 45 minute drive). Anyhow, I still had that frozen medley in the freezer and figured "oh what the hell". I thawed up some octopus and grabbed it with the tongs. Both eels ate right away. Fed them each two good sized chunks of octopus tentacle! I couldn't be happier!!!


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Old 11/14/2010, 02:08 PM   #22
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it seems your eels really got into eating anything you offer,good job


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Old 11/15/2010, 12:52 PM   #23
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Today I tried some shucked oysters. Even though they were two HUGE bites, both eels happily ate them. I am thinking that anything meaty that goes in will get eaten.

On a side note, I no longer think the goby that I mentioned some posts back was too large for these eels to handle. I hate dropping in a fish, only to be doomed by predation. Lesson learned. These guys are like snakes. They will eat things many times larger than their head!


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Old 11/15/2010, 01:10 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rogersb View Post
What about this person: http://www.reefcentral.com/forums/sh....php?t=1050101 It was started in 2007 and continued into this year. No updates in quite awhile, but I'm sure if you sent them a PM they woudl have tons of info.
I forgot to mention that I actually found this guy on YouTube (channel is SantaMonicaMale) and he has updated as of a few weeks ago. Eels still seems to be doing well and is actually a little spitfire. He has some vids of playing with the eels using tongs similar to what I used in my vid to feed them with.


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Old 11/18/2010, 11:37 PM   #25
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Shot some video of these guys eating some octopus. They get excited when you come near the tank now!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5xCC6f1XOI


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