There are some fish that simply amaze me. If they appeared in that much-loved animated cartoon about the adventures of a clownfish, we’d consider them just too crazy to be inspired by real life. For me, the ribbon eel is one such creature.
This is the first ribbon eel I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t believe how colorful it was when I spotted it against an algae rich reef in the Indian Ocean. Not that it was hard to see of course, in the shallow water and tropical sun.
Ribbon eels (Rhinomuraena quaesita) are a type of moray, though they sit in a genus all of their own. At one time the black ribbon eel was considered to be a separate species (R. amboinensis), though fishbase.org is clear that the black ones are simply juvenile R. quaesita.
Pictured above is an all-black youngster. Females are generally yellow overall, and can reach over a meter, with males a little less.
Ribbon eels exhibit protandry, with young animals starting life as male. This is not seen in other morays.
I’m given to understand that their typical ‘mouth agape’ pose is a reaction to having some eejut sticking a camera in their face and is not a normal feature. I showed my mother these images and she asked: “What’s that screaming blue tube?” It’s an apt description I suppose.
Whilst they do enter the trade on occasion they do not fare well in captivity.