My Blue Ribbon Eel eats! (pics and videos)

Discussion in 'General Reef Aquarium Discussion' started by SantaMonica, Feb 19, 2007.

  1. SantaMonica

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    My Blue Ribbon Eel eats! (pics and video)

    Well I wanted to wait to write this until I was sure that my blue ribbon would live. It's been about eight months now, so I think it's time to tell my experiences so other will have the best chance with their blue ribbons. First the pics and videos, and then the story. The links below are to the hi-res pics and videos that are stored on my site; in another post I'll put the same pics that you do not have to link to, and I'll also put the videos on Google Video, YouTube, and Putfile (just search for "blue ribbon eel"). All pics and video were taken after six months in the tank...



    PICS:

    The "eel tubes" that were placed into the bottom of the tank:

    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelTubes.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelTubesTank.jpg

    Completed tank:

    http://radio-media.com/fish/TankStand.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/TankNight.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/TankFlash.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/TankFlashBig.jpg

    Eel:

    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelCloseup.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelBothStars.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFeed1.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFeed2.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFront1.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFront2.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFront3.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelSwimHigh.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelHang.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelSnowflake.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelSnowflake2.jpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelTangRedStar.jpg

    VIDEO (some are .mpg's, and some are .avi's)

    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelOut.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelOut2.avi
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelOut3.avi
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelOut4.avi

    Preparing eel to eat:

    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelPlay.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelPlay2.avi

    Feeding eel:

    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFeed1.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFeed2.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFeed3.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFeed3.avi

    The one and only video ever taken of the eel swallowing:

    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelSwallow.avi

    Misc eel:

    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelAndBag.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelAndCoralCats.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelAndLookdown.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelAndOrangePlate.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelAndStar.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelCloseup.mpg
    http://radio-media.com/fish/EelFarBack.mpg


    In January 2006, long before I got him, I started reading all the forums (for about six months) about how impossible they are to keep. Every story was about having tried one, but then it died. Or about a friend's friend who maybe had one. There were almost no cases of a currently-living one, much less any pics, and absolutely zero videos. So I held off on getting one, and got a snowflake eel instead.

    Well at the end of particularly long Friday, I decided to go to the LFS. This particular store carries mostly staple items... nothing too exciting. I wandered the four isles and found nothing worth getting, so I figured I'd leave. That's when I saw two BR eels (!) on the way out the door. First time seeing them in real life.

    So I asked the guy the question that I already knew the answer to: "Were they eating?". The answer was not just no, but nothing at all in the whole week that they've had them. Well I realized it was now or never, so I got one.

    Now, my tank is a 90 bow front (30 inches high) reef located in our office. We do not have a (gasp!) quarantine, hospital, refugium, or any other kind of separate tank for me to put the eel in. I say this because in most forum posts I read, they say to try to get the BR eating by putting him in a tank by himself first. Well, the only thing I had to put him in was the... sump! So I covered all the escape holes (effectively making it an isolation tank), and put him in.

    I learned a few things from this. First, the BR will INDEED find every nook and cranny and hole, and try to go through it. Intake pipes, pump inlets, skimmer tubes, and my favorite... a crack between the filter frame and the sump case (the only dark place, about 1/2 inch wide.) He managed to get himself into this dark spot several times and stay there. This told me he felt safer there, and this was the first contradiction to what I had read in the forums ("put him in a small tank by himself", etc.)

    Another thing he would do is keep his head in water streams, such as the ultraviolet or chiller return pipe. Of all the relatively calm places in the sump where he could go, he goes and sticks his head in front of a water outlet and gets blown around. This told me he reacted to water currents, but I was not quite sure how/why. I don't recall of reading anything about this.

    Last of the sump lessons was the BR's wall climbing ability. This is a mature 3 foot long eel, and I found out three times that he will only climb out if the water is four inches or less from the top. This is because he will only stick his head above water for an inch or two; if he can't see over the top, he does not try further. Interesting, considering if he wanted to he could stretch out twelve inches out of the water.

    Now as for eating: In the week that I had him in the sump, I fed everything to him at one time or another: Guppies, live ghost shrimp, flakes, live damsels, frozen mysis, etc. Never, not even once, did he pay any attention to anything moving about him; he just stayed transfixed on the water flow, and getting to the dark place.

    Then I remembered the one thing that probably saved the BR's life: A few days earlier I had been talking with Jeff at ExoticFish.com, telling him I just got the BR, and he said something totally contradicting the forums. He said that the eel should not be by himself... he should instead be with other fish so that a "feeding frenzy" would develop, and the eel would get excited and eat. At the time, his advice just seemed like another opinion that probably would not work, but after observing the BR in the sump for a week, it did indeed seem like the eel was in some sort of trance or dream state; he was not aware that food was floating all around him. Thus he did not eat, and maybe he really did need to see others eating around him.

    So I combined Jeff's "frenzy" advice with the eel's desire-for-darkness that I observed, and concluded that I should put the BR in the main tank even though he is not eating yet. The main tank has other fish already eating, and, has a 2 inch pipe (see the pics) that we already put in the sand for him to hide in (I knew I'd be getting some kind of eel, and for now the snowflake had been using it.) As for the eel's affinity for water flow across his head, I was not sure what to do about it, so I did nothing. The underground pipes were already positioned, and the fish were already in the tank and eating, so... in went the BR.

    Within five minutes he found the pipe and went inside. The pipe comes up through the sand in four different places in the tank, and he would check each one out... sticking his head out of it a few inches. Then at night he would go completely inside and hide. He is REALLY scared of having his body seen. And although I never figured out how water flow affected him, I will say that the only time he came out of the pipe is when the pumps were all turned off (lights still on, however). Only then would he come completely out and swim around, and stick his head out of the water a tiny bit.

    Well, the feeding attempts continued for TWO MORE WEEKS, with no luck. As far as I could tell, it had been at least a month since he's eaten (one week at LFS, one week in sump, two weeks in tank.) His bright blue and yellow colors were starting to fade, and he was losing energy too. But when I fed the tank any kind of live or frozen food, he would just watch it drift by. Many times I would turn the pumps off, thinking he might feel better and eat when he comes out. But nothing.

    So I thought, if a frenzy is what he wants, then he'll get it. I held off feeding the whole tank for a day (to make the other fish hungry), and then all at once dumped everything in: flakes, mysis, nori, krill, brine, blood worms, along with THIRTY live guppies and TWENTY live ghost shrimp. And then I stuck a long-armed grabber tool (which when open, kind of looks like a BR with his mouth open), and pretended it was chasing and eating the food too.
     
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  2. SantaMonica

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    My Blue Ribbon Eel eats! (2)

    Continued...

    Well, WHAT DO YOU KNOW!... he started getting ancy with everybody rushing by him... a few fish and guppies even hit him in on head as they swam by... so the BR grabs one of the guppies very lightly, and looks around almost seeming to see if he is doing the right thing, and then drags the guppy slowly into the pipe!

    He came out a minute later (guppy gone), seeming a bit more excited. He did not eat any more, but I had at last seen the impossible with my own eyes. The next day, I confined my "frenzy" feeding to just guppies, and again dumped 30 in and used the grabber tool to chase them and guide them to the BR (and pretend the grabber was an eel too). Wow! He grabs another and drags it in. So I sit back now and watch the other 29 guppies swim right by his head. But now he just looks at them. So I stick the grabber tool back in and chase them around some more, and AGAIN he grabs one!

    Huge realization: The BR is possibly in a dream state (after being caught by whatever method from the ocean)... and only the instict of "beating others out for the food" wakes him up enough to realize that there is food in front of him. I then also realized that it was not the quantity of guppies I put in that mattered, or even how many swam by his head. It was IF THE GUPPIES WERE BEING CHASED BY ANOTHER EEL (the eel-looking grabber tool). So, I reduced my guppy feeding to just 4 or 5, and just chased them near the eel with the grabber a few times a day. BAM! He would eat one usually once a day, athough a few times he at four or five.

    Now the BR was starting to associate the grabber tool with "another eel", and as soon as he saw the grabber coming in, he would start coming out of the pipe to meet it. Then, my tank-maintenance man Bill Purcella (wpurcella@socal.rr.com) at Coral Reef Creations came up with the idea of grabbing a guppy by the tail (using the grabber tool) and feeding it to the eel. Well we tried it, and the eel came up to the grabber like normal and SNAP!... got the guppy and draged him into the pipe. Wow! So now it started to be a routine... feed a guppy with the grabber, and if the guppy gets away, chase him around so he'll swim by the eel's head.

    Then I got cocky and would try to feed the eel before feeding anyone else (instead of after, like I had learned to do), and he became non-interested. So I'd remove the guppy from the grabber (so now the grabber arms would be open like the BR's mouth), and play with the eel a bit. This got him excited, and then I'd put the guppy back on, and POP! This started to work every time. The trick really seemed to be to get the BR excited first by using a grabber with open-pinchers so that it looked like another BR eel. Then put the guppy on the grabber and feed him.

    Then the first setback occured. He stopped eating, no matter what I did. I played with him, fed everthing, and still nothing. This went on for a WHOLE WEEK. Then, for no reason, he began eating again. Incredible.

    Well now the BR was starting to get his bright yellow and blue colors back. He also had gotten a somewhat "dirty" face, which I think might be from rubbing the algea in the pipe. I also by this time had noticed that not once, not ever, did he eat while he was out of the pipe. I have 100 pounds of LR, and three inches of sand, but he never uses them; it's the pipe or nothing. This means that when the pumps (water flow) are off and he comes out and swims around, he never eats. He ONLY would eat when in the pipe (with his head sticking out maybe three inches.) Matter of fact, when he swims around he has that same dream-state appearance that he had in the sump. He notices NO FOOD when swiming around. This might explain why LFS's, as well as everybody online, could not get their BR to eat... they keep/kept them in clear, open tanks with bright light. My BR would never eat in one of those tanks, even if it had a few rocks or a small pipe in it for hiding. My BR only eats when his whole 3-foot body is covered by the pipe. And when he grabs the food outside the pipe, he STILL drags it inside the pipe to eat it.

    I began to notice that he had less interest in tiny guppies (half inch), and more interest in big ones. So I tried some live goldfish... 3/4, 1, and even 1 1/2 inch. BAM!... he really went for these. This seemed to increase his whole desire for food. He came at the grabber faster now, and when it had a goldfish, he would go right at it. So I switched from guppies to goldfish. He's eaten as many as two a day, but I try to limit him to one. The fish are so big that he's got a lump in his body for quite a few hours... like a snake. But the bigger the goldfish are, the more he likes them. He once also swallowed a ghost shrimp, but never tried one again.

    Then another non-eating week actually happend two more times, a few months later, but each time he'd just start back on his own again. I now realize what caused it... he ate one of my regular fish (a 4-inch long blue gudgeon goby). I'd seen the BR try to grab them before, but they always got away. I guess he got one. It filled him up for a week. Then he did it again. I have one of those gobies left, and he stays very far away.

    Next minor setback... I watched as the snowflake eel grabbed the BR on the head, and tried to pull him out of the pipe. So the snowflake got donated to the nearest LFS right away.

    Six months later, the BR has great energy, actively chasing and poking at everything in the tank that moves and doesn't move. He coils up like a python more, as he sticks out of the pipe. He's even done a few 360's, where he rotates himself upside down and back upright. He's fascinated with the lookdown fish (shiny-ness?), and the one remaining blue gudgeon (dinner?). He now goes absolutely crazy when the pumps are off... he shoots around every part of the tank, weaves in and out of the coral, twists around things, and all the time racing through the water with his mouth wide open (NEVER eating while doing this, however). He now even comes out of the pipes for short periods when the pumps are on, or the lights are off.

    Update: A few months later, I'm almost through converting the BR from live to frozen. I started by realizing how he would only eat the live goldfish if I wiggled it a bit (or if it was wiggling itself, of course). So I tried a dead one, and wiggled it a bit, and it worked. Then I tried some frozen silversides (with the big ones cut in half), and he would sometimes take one, but sometimes not. Seems he likes bright red fish much better. The silversides, when they are eaten, seem to fill up the BR for a few days, whereas a goldfish only fills him up for a day or less. Nevertheless, I want to convert him to all frozen, so what I'm doing is getting live goldfish and freezing them, and then feeding him one of those one day, and a silversides the next.

    Update: He is now totally converted to frozen silversides. The silversides are sometimes too big (2 inches), so I'll cut those in half and just feed one per day. He still has days that he does not eat, but he's back on track the next day. I've noticed that he's always more hungry in the evening, instead of the morning when the lights first come on. And he finally caught the last blue gudgeon and dragged him into the pipe, but the fish got away and hid again in the rocks. The eel's nose is now totally dark... it completely lost the yellow it came with. It can't be because of the algae in the tube, because the rest of his yellow stripe is bright as can be, and it rubs the tube too. Lastly, I also have thought a bit about the sump; it may be possible that the constant vibrations from the pump helped to "wake up" the eel into the real world.


    So in closing, here are my recommendations:

    1. Have a 2-inch thick pipe, at least three feet long. Curved ok.
    2. Have lots of other fish
    3. Wait until the eel is IN the pipe.
    4. Play with the eel with an eel-looking grabber tool (pinchers are open).
    4. Feed the other fish first, then try feeding the eel a goldfish from the grabber.
    5. Put some goldfish in the water and chase them with the grabber (pinchers open).

    I hope this help some of you. I would like to see other successes.

    Bryan
     
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  3. SantaMonica

    SantaMonica RS Sponsor
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    My Blue Ribbon Eel eats! (non-linked pics)

    (non-linked pics)


    The "eel tubes" that were placed into the bottom of the tank.


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]




    Completed tank:


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]




    Eel:


    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  4. flyforfood99

    flyforfood99 New Member

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    That's one crazy awesome animal. Nice job getting him in great shape!! Best of luck with it!
     
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  5. lcstorc

    lcstorc New Member

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    What a great success story.
    Beautiful animal and a gorgeous reef. Your colors are spectacular.
    Thanks so much for sharing.
     
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  6. Witfull

    Witfull New Member

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    now that is a hard critter to keep. my best to you and it~

    i love the tubing, where did you dream that up?
     
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  7. jg2269jg

    jg2269jg New Member

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    do you have a closed top tank and does it go after any thing else in your tank like your shrimp or other stuff. i see them everyonce and a while in my local fish tank thanks jeff
     
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  8. aquaman3680

    aquaman3680 New Member

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    That is sweet! I love the idea of the eel tubes! The ribbon is awesome as well!

    Matt
     
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  9. SantaMonica

    SantaMonica RS Sponsor
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    flyforfood99: Thanks much.

    lcstorc: Yes the colors were important; I waited thirty years before I attempted a tank, so I could have exactly what I wanted. We put it in the office, so it's also a functioning decoration for everyone else.

    Witfull: I had read in the forums about using tubing, so I asked my tank maintenance man Bill Purcella (wpurcella@socal.rr.com) to install it for me. He then asked his wholesaler, and the recommendation was to use a gray pipe because it will not show the algea as much.

    jg2269jg: Yes the top is closed, and the overflow vents are covered with mesh. No, the BR has no interest in inverts.

    aquaman3680: Thanks. The tubes I think are one reason he is alive.
     
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  10. Dentoid

    Dentoid Smile Maker
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    Awesome reef. Very innovative with the undergravel tubing. Now all you need is a Lion Fish! Karma to you my friend!
     
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  11. Woodstock

    Woodstock The Wand Geek was here. ;)
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    Wowser!!! Awesome!! Thank you for sharing that valuable information and beautiful pics!! Karma to you!
     
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  12. rDr4g0n

    rDr4g0n New Member

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    geez dude, this is inspiring. amazing work.
     
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  13. Mr Bojangles

    Mr Bojangles New Member

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    LOVE the eel! I wanted one for the wife's tank but she said no, I like you eel tubes!
     
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  14. SantaMonica

    SantaMonica RS Sponsor
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    Dentoid: I came very close to getting a dwarf lion, but I just don't want to lose my smaller fish.

    Woodstock, rDr4g0n: Glad you dig it as much as we in the office do.

    Mr Bojangles: Yes the tubes seem to have saved him. Wish the LFS's would start using tubes, to get the BR's eating while in the stores.
     
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  15. SantaMonicaHelp

    SantaMonicaHelp RS Sponsor

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    5 years with our Blue Ribbon Eel

    Here are some pics and vids of our Blue Ribbon Eel in our office. We got him in summer of 2006, and uploaded the pics and vids in 2007...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Vid:
    Blue Ribbon Eel swimming around 1 - YouTube



    Here he is today...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Vid:
    Blue Ribbon Eel update - 5 years in tank - YouTube


    He was bright blue for several years, then turned darker and spotted. He does not really like to eat anymore, but will. He does still eat small fish that come near his pipe. At first it took a while to get him eating, and he ate regularly for about 4 years. The trick is to always have a pvc pipe for him to hide in... he will not eat unless he is in a pipe because he knows he is long and can be seen easily. We feed him one frozen silverside per week, because they are shaped like his favorite food... firefish. There are a lot of ideas about getting one to eat if you google "my blue ribbon eel eats!" (too long to post here). But give yourself 2 weeks of daily dedicated time to do it.

    Here is a pic of the pipe before it went in....

    [​IMG]


    If you are going to use a pipe, don't do the turned-up ends like we did. It collects waste inside, and it rots and can't get out. Instead, raise the pipe off the bottom a bit and keep it straight so waste can flow out. Or better, angle it slightly down on both ends, like a roof.
    .
    .
    .
     
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  16. BLADEYAMAHA

    BLADEYAMAHA New Member

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    What size is the tank? Sorry if I missed that information.
     
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  17. Blue Space

    Blue Space Well-Known Member

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    That's some great stuff Kaia! Thank you very much for posting on this interesting topic. :)
     
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  18. SantaMonica

    SantaMonica RS Sponsor
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  19. dmatt88

    dmatt88 Has been struck by the ban stick

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    What an awesome idea. Nothing compares to thinking ahead huh

    Matt's DROIDX using Forum Runner since idiots hacked thru tapatalk.
     
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  20. BLADEYAMAHA

    BLADEYAMAHA New Member

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    Great thread, love the Blue Ribbon Eel!
     
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