Zebra Moray Eel Fact File

Gymnomuraena zebra

Credit: George Berninger Jr., CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 10 years

Captive 10 years




Conservation Status


Least Concern

Right There in Black and White!

The zebra moray eel is named for the black and white striped patterning found along the length of their body. At its end the body is flattened to help propel them through the water.

This species is associated with reefs where they will hide among crevices and wait for prey to pass them by.

They are adapted for crushing their prey such as crustaceans with their teeth being rounded to help with this.

Small amounts of harvesting are undertaken to supply the aquarium trade but it is not thought that this poses a major threat to the species at present.

Read on to learn more about these fintastic fish.


What does the Zebra Moray Eel look like?

The zebra moray eel is named for the alternating pattern of white and black bands which runs down the length of their body.

As an eel they have a long, slender body similar to that of snake. They are covered by a smooth coating of skin with no scales. This body is highly muscular to help them push through the water.

At the end of the body it flattens out in to a paddle shape which can also help with propoulsion through the water.

Their mouth is large and helps them with capturing and crushing their prey items.

These animals have a second set of teeth known as the pharyngeal jaws near the throat. This is brought forward to grasp prey once it is captured.

They will reach an average length around 90cm but some extraordinary large individuals have reached up to 150cm (59in) long. An average weight for the species is up to 10kg (22lbs).


How does the Zebra Moray Eel survive in its habitat?

The teeth of the zebra moray eel are rounded rather than short. These are an adaptation which help them to crush through the shells of their prey. Their teeth point backwards making it difficult for prey to escape once caught.

As these animals lack scales to protect their skin they will produce a mucus. This is secreted across their body to provide protection.

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What does the Zebra Moray Eel eat?

As a carnivore the zebra moray eel will feed on crabs and other crustaceans with their strong jaw helping to crush the hard shell of these species.

These animals are primarily sit-and-wait predators spending their time at the entrance of a crevice waiting for prey to pass by.

Zebra moray eels are often seen associating with groupers. The groupers follow the morays who can squeeze in to crevices and flush out crustaceans with the groupers then feeding on some of these.

Learn more about the Zebra Moray Eel in this video from Super Sea Monkey on YouTube


Where do you find the Zebra Moray Eel?

Zebra moray eels are found in the world's oceans. They live through the Indo-Pacific region including in the red sea and along the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

They are found at depths of between 3 and 50m (10-164ft).


Where can the Zebra Moray Eel survive?

This species is associated with reefs where they will hide among crevices.

Zebra Moray Eel (Gymnomuraena zebra)

Credit: Public Domain


How does the Zebra Moray Eel produce its young?

Breeding takes place during spring and summer.

Their courtship process begins with them opening their mouth towards one another. In the next stage the pair begin to wrap around one another.

Their eggs are laid free-floating in the water. Each litter may include up to 10,000 eggs. These are fertilized after being laid. After this occurs the male leaves and has no further association with the female.

At hatching these animals are 7.6cm (3in) long and transparent. These young are known as elvers.

The first eight months of their life are spent floating in the open ocean. Following this they grow strong enough to defend themselves. At this time they will make their way down to the reef.


What does the Zebra Moray Eel do during its day?

Much of their time is spent hiding in a crevice. On occasion they will leave this space and come out to feed. This primarily occurs at night.

This fish are highly defensive of their territory and will work to defend it against any intruders.

These animals have been recorded at depths of up to 39.6m (130ft).

Often this species will be seen sitting among rocks while opening and closing their mouth repeatedly. This helps them to breathe.

This species is solitary and will only associate with other zebra moray eels to mate.

Zebra Moray Eel (Gymnomuraena zebra)

Credit: Philippe Bourjon, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What stops the Zebra Moray Eel from surviving and thriving?

This species is considered common across its range but a formal estimate of their population has not been made.

They are a popular species within the aquarium trade. Harvesting occurs, mainly from populations within the Indian Ocean. This harvesting is not occurring in large enough numbers to threaten their survival.

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Quick facts

The species was first described for modern science during 1797.

This species is the only member of its genus, Gymnomuraena.

Zebra Moray Eel (Gymnomuraena zebra)

Credit: Bernd, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons


Smith, D.G., McCosker, J. & Tighe, K. 2019. Gymnomuraena zebraThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T195700A2404907. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T195700A2404907.en. Accessed on 02 March 2022.

Ntlabs.co.uk. 2022. Fish of The Week - Zebra Moray Eel by NT Labs. [online] Available at: <https://www.ntlabs.co.uk/knowledge-hub/fish-of-the-week-zebra-moray-eel/> [Accessed 2 March 2022].

Kidadl.com. 2022. 21 Zebra Moray Eel Facts You’ll Never Forget. [online] Available at: <https://kidadl.com/animal-facts/zebra-moray-eel-facts> [Accessed 2 March 2022].

Montereybayaquarium.org. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/animals-a-to-z/zebra-moray> [Accessed 2 March 2022].

Branson's Wild World. 2022. Zebra Moray. [online] Available at: <http://bransonswildworld.com/zebra-moray/> [Accessed 2 March 2022].

Niabi Zoo. 2022. Zebra Moray Eel - Niabi Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.niabizoo.com/animals-habitats-details/zebra-moray-eel/> [Accessed 2 March 2022].

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo | Indiana’s #1 Summer “Gotta-Do” Attraction. 2022. Zebra Moray Eel | Our Animals | Fort Wayne Children's Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://kidszoo.org/our-animals/zebra-moray-eel/> [Accessed 2 March 2022].

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