News / Species Spotlight / Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis) (04/03/19)

Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis)

Species Spotlight - Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis)
With the final season of Game of Thrones about to premier, now is a good time to get excited about dragons. But its always a good time to be excited about Enchelycore pardalis, the Dragon Moray. This colorful, charismatic eel is an absolutely iconic aquarium fish, but its scarcity in the wild makes it a rare offering. Lets find out why.

The remarkable thing about the Dragon Moray is that at first glance it appears to be found all over. Populations are known from parts of East Africa. Youll find it in abundance around Japan. You can say aloha to it in Hawaii. And then head down to Tahiti to find them slithering about the South Pacific. And, yet, despite this broad Indo-Pacific distribution, few ever make their way into the aquarium trade.

Theres good reason for this. E. pardalis is a species that favors the clear, cool waters of outer reefs the same sort of habitats where one might encounter Xanthichthys triggerfishes of Thompsons Surgeonfish (Acanthurus thompsoni), for example. Often, these are areas that experience cool upwellings, which is why most records for the Dragon Moray occur in places situated away from the equator. Japan and Hawaii seem to have especially robust populations (and this is where most aquarium specimens will originate), while the Coral Triangle is largely devoid of any, with the only confirmed sightings from the peripheries, like at Christmas Island and the Santa Cruz Islands (on the outskirts of the Solomon Islands).

The great thing about the Dragon Moray is that it combines its striking good looks with a relatively small size (3 feet when fully grown) and a fairly peaceful disposition. Of course, this is still a ferocious predator, so peaceful is a relative term. Specimens have been reported to tear apart larger species when they couldnt be swallowed whole, so care must be taken when choosing tankmates. Tall-bodied fishes like surgeonfishes, angelfishes, and butterflyfishes work well, as do venomous lionfishes, larger groupers, etc. Other eels are best avoided, as territoriality is a concern in all but the largest of systems. And, unless a mated pair is acquired (good luck), youll only have a single specimen per tank.

Newly introduced Dragons can be surprisingly timid at first and, despite their menacing appearance, rather reticent to feed. Live feeder fishes (such as damselfishes or mollies avoid goldfishes and minnows!) may be necessary to initiate a feeding response. This might best be accomplished in a dedicated quarantine tank to avoid competition and stress). Eventually, specimens will learn to accept non-living prey from a feeding stick, at which point its recommended to offer a wide variety of prey items to round out the diet. Feed sparingly to satiation, perhaps once or twice a week. Overfeeding is common and will result in a tubby, unhealthy muraenid.

Lastly, its vital to note that Dragon Morays do NOT breathe fire and are NOT an effective defense against White Walkers.